What is the role of the father in today’s family? Most of the people reading this will say “to provide for his wife and children and to ensure their financial future.” That statement is absolutely true. It is one of the roles of the father in the family, but is it the most important role?
According to the secular world, the father’s role is a fourfold plan: a provider, a protector, a leader, and a teacher. The questions I pose: what are we teaching our families? Where are we leading our families?
Let’s address the first question. What are we teaching our families? God the Father has given us our wives and children as gifts to us. We don’t own them or have control over them; they belong to God and He has blessed us with this beautiful treasure. Our first and foremost duties as a father is to raise our children in the faith. We start by teaching them morals and values according to what God has written on the human heart of every man, “The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man” (CCC 1954).
Since we are made in the image and likeness of God, we have a deep desire in us to teach our children the truths about the Trinitarian family. (1 Timothy 3:5) for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God’s Church?
According to St. Paul, a father must be able to be the head of the household and take control of his family and be the father that God has created him to be. Now, this does not mean that a woman has no role or say in all of this. What it means is that, we were created in a certain order with certain roles given to each parent. God created man and woman equal; He created woman from the rib of man, the center of his body to make her equal with him. Not above the rib, so she cannot say, “I will rule over you” and not beneath the rib so man cannot say “I will rule over you,” but from the center so they can say “let’s do this together as one flesh” (Gen 2:24) Therefore, a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.
The next question I asked: “where are we leading our families?” Before I answer this question, it is important that this role be done as parents; it cannot be done alone. The husband needs the support of his wife and the wife needs the support of her husband. How can the children see the love their parents have for the Trinity? The relationship with God the Father should be top priority; a true father should love his wife.
The love and friendship that he has with his wife should be indispensable. This love should not stagnate, or worse yet, fizzle out. On the contrary, his human love blessed supernaturally by the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony should blossom, grow, and flourish until the moment of death. The father should love his children and see them as a precious treasure that God has given to him with the primary purpose of bringing these little ones to their ultimate destiny, which is heaven. A child is a gift given to a father and mother but with the primary purpose of the parents being ladders by which the children can climb to heaven. Fathers must lead their families to Jesus Christ.
If a father does not know Jesus, how is he going to get his children to know Him? When your children grow up and have no clue who Jesus is or what he has done for them, don’t be disappointed with your children, be disappointed with yourself.
You must provide for the spiritual needs of your children. Teach them to pray as soon as possible. Children have brains like sponges. Whether they absorb dirty water or clean water, is up to you. The father should be a man of prayer and not be afraid to show it publicly. A man is at his greatest when he is on his knees in prayer!
He should pray with his family – the blessing of meals, family Rosaries and active participation in the Holy Mass. A father should pray frequently and fervently for his family for their protection from all evils— physical, moral, spiritual—and for his family’s sanctification and salvation. An authentic Christian father should have his eyes fixed on heaven at all times and stay aware of the world and the dangers that menace the flock (his wife and children) entrusted to him. The greatest desire of the father for his family should be the salvation of their immortal souls. Jesus said, “What would it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process? What can we offer in exchange for our immortal soul?”
Man must constantly be in a deep relationship with God. His wife must be cherished as the greatest gift on earth, and his children should be treasured as priceless gems. Saint Joseph was the greatest earthly father ever created; we should turn to him for his intercession and for his fatherly instincts. He is the patron of families, patron of fathers; he will help us and guide us to be the best fathers we can be.
St. Joseph foster father of Jesus, pray for us.
Jeff Kassab has a BA in Pastoral Theology and is on the board of the Eastern Catholic Re-evangelization Center (ECRC).