Sunday, December 1, 2013

How to be a good father: Meditations on the Lord's Prayer

For November 2013 blogfest, the Filipinos for Life's theme is: "What the world needs: effective fatherhood." I think what effective fatherhood is can be understood by contemplating on the Lord's Prayer (Catechism of the Catholic Church Art. 2759; c.f. Mt 6: 9-13):
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

1. Our Father who art in heaven

Heaven connotes distance.  And the father is distant in two ways:
  • A father works outside the home to earn money to feed his family.  He only comes home during supper and leaves home during breakfast; the rest of the day he is nowhere to be found.  That is why, in traditional families, children are closer more to their mother, because the mother is present more at home than the father.
  • A father is not ruled by emotions but by reason.  If a child is wrong, he is wrong, regardless of whether he cries or not.  If a child needs discipline, then he imposes the discipline.  If a child is hurt at play, he encourages the child to get up and wipes his tears.  Pain is always there, but the father face increases the child's capacity to endure pain and suffering, for this is what heroes are made of, and a father is always his child's hero.
2. Hallowed be thy name

Fatherhood Principle
Fatherhood Principle
A child may call his father "Papa" or "Dad" or "Tatay".  But this is not an ordinary name: it is a name that defines the relationship between the father and the child, for what is a father without a child or a child without a father.  That is why a child must learn not only to love the father's name, but also to fear it.  In Philosophy, we refer to this as Mysterium Fascinosum and Mysterium Tremendum.  That is why it is grave sin for a child to disrespect his parents in general and his father in particular, because this is against the Fourth Commandment.  In the Old Testament, such a disrespectful child is put to death:
Anyone who curses father or mother shall be put to death; and having cursed father or mother, such a one will bear the bloodguilt. (Lv 20: 9)
Jesus, despite his divinity, obeyed his foster father, Joseph, as the episode in the Losing and Finding in the Temple teaches us:
And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.q 52 And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man. (Lk 2: 49-52)

3. Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know
The father's kingdom is his family: he is the king and his wife is the queen.  The father exercises sovereignty over his house and anyone who enters his property must abide by his laws, even if the person who enters is the President of the Philippines or the King of England. This is illustrated by the visit of Gandalf, Aragorn, Gmili, and Legolas in the halls of Theoden King:
Aragorn stood a while hesitating.  'It is not my will,' he said, 'to put aside my sword or to deliver Anduril to the hand of any other man.'
'It is the will of Theoden,' said Hama.
'It is not clear to me that the will of Theoden son of Thengel, even though he be lord of Mark, should prevail over the will of Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elendil's heir of Gondor.
'This is the house of Tehoden, not of Aragorn, even were he King of Gondor in the seat of Denethor,' said Hama, stepping swiftly before the doors and barring the way.  His sword was now in his hand and the point towards the strangers.
'This is idle talk,' said Gandalf. 'Needless is Theoden's demand, but it is useless to refuse.  A king will have his way in his own hall, be it folly or wisdom.' (The Lord of the Rings, The King of the Golden Hall, p. 511)
4. Give us this day our daily bread

Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge
A good father is a provider for his family, in the same way as God provides clothes for the lilies of the fields and food for the birds of the air.  It is the father's primary obligation to work to feed his family.  As God told Adam:
Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, You shall not eat from it, cursed is the ground* because of you! In toil you shall eat its yield all the days of your life.h 18 Thorns and thistles it shall bear for you, and you shall eat the grass of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Gen 3: 17-19)
Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, has provided his family's needs by working as a carpenter.  It is interesting that Joseph is also the name of the governor of Egypt who provided not only food for his brothers and his old father, Isaac, but also for the whole of Egypt as well:
"I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.5 But now do not be distressed, and do not be angry with yourselves for having sold me here. It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you.b 6 The famine has been in the land for two years now, and for five more years cultivation will yield no harvest. 7 God, therefore, sent me on ahead of you to ensure for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives in an extraordinary deliverance. 8 So it was not really you but God who had me come here; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh,* lord of all his household, and ruler over the whole land of Egypt."  (Gen 45: 4-8)
....Joseph settled his father and brothers and gave them a holding in Egypt on the pick of the land, in the region of Rameses,* as Pharaoh had ordered. 12 And Joseph provided food for his father and brothers and his father’s whole household, down to the youngest. (Gen 47: 11-12)
5. Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us

The Joy of Fatherhood: The First Twelve Months Expanded 2nd Edition
The Joy of Fatherhood: The First Twelve Months Expanded 2nd Edition
A good father forgives a repentant child, as the Parable of the Prodigal Son teaches us.  But there is a difference between forgiveness and the punishment due to sin, for a father may forgive the child and yet at the same time punish him by asking him to do penance.  The good father may say, "Ok, I will forgive you, but you will have no allowance for a day because that is the cost of the vase that you broke." Or perhaps, "Ok, I will forgive you, but you must also forgive your younger brother who destroyed your favorite toy."

The same thing happens in the Sacrament of Confession: God forgives us because we were sorry for our sins and we were sorry not because we fear hell nor lose heaven but because we fear to lose the love of God who is all good and deserving of all our love. But God's forgiveness requires reparation for the sin that we have done and this is called Penance: to return what we stole or to break off with our mistress. Since that were forgiven, but we haven't fully atoned here on earth, we shall atone in the next life in Purgatory.  If we are a man of unclean lips, then our sins will be purged similar to burning coals placed on our lips, as what happened to Isaiah.
Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed!* For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips,d and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 He touched my mouth with it. “See,” he said, “now that this has touched your lips,* your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”e (Is 6: 5-7)
But it is also possible that a father may withhold the punishment, because of the persons close to him, such as the mother.  The mother may say, "Pa, don't worry.  I'll fix this broken vase with glue. You may give back little Danny his allowance for tomorrow."  And the father will say to the child: "Thank your mother.  Had it not been for her, you will go hungry tomorrow at school."

The same is true with Indulgences.  Punishment due to sin may be removed from us in this life or in the next, because of the treasury of prayers and merits of the saints.

6. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Dude, You're Gonna Be a Dad!: How to Get (Both of You) Through the Next 9 Months
Dude, You're Gonna Be a Dad!: How to Get (Both of You) Through the Next 9 Months
A good father provides a climate in the home that is conducive for spiritual life.  No child is allowed to use the computer for pornography. Quarrels between siblings are settled.  And the good father leads the family prayers, such as in praying the rosary or going to the church.  And because his children does not only live inside the home, but goes out to play in the neighborhood and study in school, a good father must see to it that there are no occasions of sin in the neighborhood, in school, and in society in general.  Thus, a good father participates in social and political organizations to bring about effective changes in society that would help him raise a Catholic family.  For a good father believes what Edmund Burke said:
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. (Wikiquote)
7. Amen

May all of us be good fathers.  May it be so.