But, lamentably, we have lost much of the faith of our fathers. And fatherhood itself has suffered loss from this loss of belief in a higher power. Twenty years ago David Blankenhorn pointed out in Fatherless America that never in American history have so many men abandoned their families. Without a father’s strong and loving hand, many children will simply not develop to their full potential. The infantile rage so embarrassingly obvious in public discussions, the adolescent violence increasingly manifest in our schools, the “failure to launch” so prevalent in adults are the sad consequences of fathers failing to form their children.
Do you ever wonder why Jesus describes God as a “father” and not as a mother? Perhaps it is because mothers rarely fail us, since motherhood is so naturally compelling. Fatherhood, on the other hand, is less “biologically obvious.” Men grapple more with fatherhood than women with motherhood. We thank our fathers, and we pray for them, both our earthly fathers and our spiritual fathers, the priests. Perhaps a major factor in the decline of fatherhood began with the confusion in so many priests in the 1960s. They began to dress, and to talk, and to behave like buddies rather than fathers. They said “call me Joe” and “I’m just a man like anyone else.” They lost faith in the divine authority with which God invested them at their Ordination Mass. Many priests lost a good deal of their identity when they became reluctant to receive the respect we all need to give our fathers. Without a firm conviction in their authority, it is quite difficult to spiritual fatherhood. Evil gets the upper hand when men, to whom God gives the authority to provide and protect, disbelieve in this authority. When earthly fatherhood falters, we must look to our Heavenly Father, and to pray: Our Father, who art in heaven … give us our bread … deliver us from evil!