On Father’s Day:
To the Potential Fathers, the Young Men of Our Parish
Fatherhood, along with marriage, can (potentially at least) bring you more joy, happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction than anything else life has to offer. As Christians we have one main choice in life – whether to be married and live “in the world,” or to become a monastic and live in a monastery (living as an unmarried person in the world is not recommended. Everyone needs community, either the community of marriage, or the community of the monastery). For the vast majority of us, marriage, and if God blesses us with children, fatherhood, is the path we follow. What does it take to be a good father?
I’m going to suggest seven characteristics which are fundamental to the success of any man who wishes to be a good husband and father:
Courage. Courage first of all in trying to find a wife. It’s scary to try to cultivate a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, especially nowadays. Courage to swim against the current when the stream flows into a sewer. Courage to maintain high standards of moral conduct and discipline in your personal life, and not get sucked into behaviours or attitudes which are destructive or dangerous, hurtful to yourself or others.
And, when you are married and perhaps a father, courage in dealing with the ups and downs of life which will inevitably occur.
Respect. Always respect women. There’s a tendency in our society to objectify women, in other words, to treat women as objects, rather than people. AVOID OBJECTIFICATION AT ALL COSTS (and this doesn’t apply only to women. Before killing the Jews the Nazis objectified them. Before exiling or killing the kulaksthe Soviets objectified them. Racism is based upon the objectification of people who have a different skin colour, features, whatever. It never ends well). Remember that true beauty is not external. When looking for a wife look for a person of quality, a woman who will be a good mother, a good grandmother (Proverbs 31: 10-30 is a good place to start if you’re not sure what to look for in a woman). The ability and opportunity to nurture and bring forth life is the greatest gift God has given to women. Sadly, in our western society, there are many women who regard the privilege of childbearing as a burden, rather than as a gift. Look for a lady who understands and appreciates this gift.
By treating all women with respect, you’re much more likely to find a woman of quality who will make a good life-partner.
Love. Love, of course, is essential, not just in marriage, but in life. The marital love between a husband and a wife is, after our love for God, the highest form of love, it is a complete sharing of the self, it is an exclusive love which we share with no one else. The love of a father to his children is similar, it’s a unique love which he shares only with his children. What is love? A reasonable (though not comprehensive) definition might be “The commitment of the will to the true good of the other.” Real love cannot exist without commitment. . .
Commitment. Do not become a father unless you’re married to the girl. Every child needs and deserves both a father and a mother who are committed to each other. Once we marry, we marry for life. While we know that sometimes people must divorce, occasionally for serious reasons like abuse, often because of immaturity or even frivolity, as Christians our goal is to marry once and remain married to that same person in sickness or health, in joy or sorrow, no matter what, till one of us dies. We are committed in the same way to our children.
Sacrifice. Love without sacrifice is a non sequitur, it doesn’t make sense. The father sacrifices himself for his wife and children. Whether that means he goes off to war to fight so that his family can live in peace; whether he slaves away at a job he does not like for decades so that they have a roof over their heads and food on the table; whether it’s something as mundane as helping wash the dishes or fixing the fence, the father sacrifices his life for his family.
Our example for love, commitment, and sacrifice is, of course, our Lord, who sacrificed himself for us. In this sense every father who is truly trying to be the type of father God wants him to be lives a Christ-like life. A Christ-like life always includes the Cross, but as we sing in our paschal hymn, “Through the Cross joy has come into all the world.” The sacrifices we make for our wives and children are not burdensome, but bring joy to us as well as to them.
Faith. It has been said that “The best gift a father can give to his children is to love their mother,” but it is also true that the greatest gift a father can give to his children is faith, a living relationship with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Prayer. Once you reach the time of life where you are thinking of marriage pray every day that God will send you a woman who will be a help-mate for you on the path to salvation. Pray that He will help you to be a good father, that the Lord will give you the wisdom to raise your children in a Godly manner, that they will know right from wrong, good from evil, that they will be able to tell the difference between what is important and what is not, that they will learn from your words - but especially from your example - to love God and our neighbour. And pray for your wife and children every day.
Fatherhood, along with marriage, can (potentially at least) bring you more joy, happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction than anything else life has to offer. It is my most heartfelt wish that in the course of your life you will experience this joy, happiness, and fulfillment.
Fr. Bohdan Hladio
21 June 2020