Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Work of Dad

Pope Francis has been focusing on families in his Wednesday Audiences recently, and for the last two weeks he has been focusing on the role of the father. So, an interesting note and a reflection on yesterday's (Feb 4) address, in which he reflected on the positive role of fathers in the lives of children and families.

First the interesting note: His whole address focused on the positive role of fathers as loving, firm, and indispensable role models for their children. At one point he said "One time, I heard a father, in a meeting with married couples, say: 'I, sometimes, must hit my child a little, but never in the face, to not degrade him.' How beautiful! He knows the sense of dignity! He must punish but does it justly and moves forward." Ummm... yeah. I have not dug into the original Italian of the address, maybe he was referring to spanking, but that does not read nicely in English. Comparison: when Pope Francis spoke about the redemption of all creation, the media reported that "Pope Francis declares all dogs go to heaven." So will this one get translated as "Pope Francis approves of child abuse"? No! Because this awkward story, which I'm sure made the Vatican spokesman cringe yet again, doesn't fit the media's view of Francis, so I predict it'll be ignored.

And a reflection: Aside from the awkward "I hit my children but not in the face" thing, it was a beautiful reflection that made me reflect on my own dad. Dads have one of the toughest jobs in the world because since Eden the devil has put them at a fundamental disadvantage. The devil introduced discord between our Heavenly Father and us, his children. He basically said, "Your Father doesn't really love you or care for you, you can't really trust your Father in Heaven, you need to ignore him and take care of yourself." And he's been whispering that in our ear ever since, basically making a mess of things. And dads, the bravest men out there, wade right into the middle of that ancient, cosmic mess and say, "No, I'm going to show you the truth, I'm going to image for you how your Father loves you by how I love you." Dads show us the love of the Father by the way they love us! Whatever the moment calls for, providing for our physical needs, a gentle hug in our pain, correcting us in our errors, or protecting us from the world's dangers, we see how our Father loves us from how our dad loves us.

My parents and me
Long before I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up, I knew I wanted to be like my dad. I got a little teary-eyed reading the Pope's address (I'm kinda sappy sometimes) because I saw my own dad in a lot of what Pope Francis said. My dad was strong, he was successful, he was happy and well liked, and he was good at everything he did. As a kid, dad was perfect. As a teenager of course, I thought dad was a bit out of touch (turns out I was the one who had lost my mind, not him) but I always knew he loved me. As an adult(ish) now, I can see how my dad's character is not perfect, but that makes his virtue shine through all the brighter. Despite his weaknesses or flaws, he is still the man that I want to be, because he has loved his wife and family for over 35 years and he continues to love them, work for them, and pray for them.

I've heard it said that we should pray for our priests because they have the most important job in the world and the greatest enemy working against them, and that is very true. The same could be said of our dads in many respects. Our dads are tasked with showing us by their very lives the love of the Father and they have an ancient enemy to contend with. Let us pray for our dads.

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