Reflections on Fathers Day

Padre Jonczyk

Chaplain’s Corner

Padre Zibby Jonczyk

The third Sunday of June is a special day. A day dedicated to our fathers, a day when we are asked to remember with love and gratitude that special man in our lives. For many, this is a happy day: a celebration of a special bond with someone we love deeply. But for some the date brings difficult memories. How do you feel gratitude or celebrate if your father was mostly absent or abusive?

I had a good relationship with my father, and although he died 25 years ago I still miss him. Sadly, for many children the memories of their fathers bring them grief instead of joy. Because of this, many go through life struggling to find a healthy balance between freedom and discipline, between being too hard or too easy on themselves. An absent or abusive father may be why some people go through life unconsciously seeking something that has been withheld from them, namely, their father’s approval. This leaves them withdrawn, often angry, and longing for something they can hardly define. This negative experience might even affect our relationship with God, the Father.

The need for the approval of our father or someone who represents him is perhaps the deepest need, especially among men. Not enough people have been approved and blessed by their own fathers. Blessing a child seems to be a thing of the past. When I left home I asked my father to bless me. It was an experience I will never forget and his blessing will never leave me.

What is a father? According to Wikipedia, “A father is the male parent of a child. Besides the paternal bonds of a father to his children, the father may have a parental, legal, and social relationship with the child that carries with it certain rights and obligations.” Renowned authors and marriage therapists Gary and Joy Lundberg list nine qualities of a good father: provider, protector, teacher, friend, exemplar, patriarch, disciplinarian, spiritual leader, and someone who treats his wife like a queen.

But what does this involve?

First of all, he is meant to embody a principle of order. A good father lives in such a way that his family feels safe and secure when he’s around. A bad father, through absence, unreliability, or abusive behaviour, makes the family feel unsafe. We see how a father can be a bringer of disorder in a situation where he is unfaithful, or an alcoholic, or nursing some other addiction. His behaviour then will be unpredictable and his children will be left guessing whether he will come home or not – and what kind of mood he will be in. The unpredictability will wear on his children to the point where they will feel their father brings disorder and chaos to the family. Conversely, a good father, even if his family considers him boring and unexciting, will make his family feel safe and secure.

Next, a good father is an adult, an elder, not a fellow-sibling or a child (in his behaviour). A good father does not make his own problems and concerns the centre of family’s attention. Rather he relates beyond his own tiredness and problems and focuses his attention on the concerns of his family.

A good father brings meaning, satisfaction and happiness to the lives of his children. A good father affirms and admires his children. He expresses to his children his pride in them as opposed to being threatened by their talents and achievements. He doesn’t demand that his children express their pride in him. So when your children run faster, play baseball better than you, speak French better than you and even do their times tables faster than you, be proud of them, and don’t be shy to acknowledge it.

Jesuit priest and author Daniel Berrigan, in his autobiography To Dwell in Peace shares how he had to struggle with various issues his entire life, particularly with authority, because of the absence of a blessing from his own father. He shares, for example, how he would be afraid to share with his father the good news that he had just published a book because he feared his father’s jealousy. After sharing this, he asks his readers: is it any wonder he has been leery and suspicious of every authority figure during his entire adult life?
The absence of a father’s blessing leaves us with an aching heart. Parents are meant to provide for their families, keep them safe, help the family members grow and develop, show them kindness and interest, show them by example what the family stands for, honour them through their moral character and actions, help children to learn proper boundaries and consequences, help them develop their faith and teach them about values and principles. A father shows love and respect and lives totally faithful to his wife. He shares the workload as a partner with his wife. No father does all this perfectly, but if your father did it even half-adequately, express your gratitude and count your blessings!

If you are a father or on your way to become one, remember that you are never too old to learn and to change when needed. Being a father is a journey, and every journey begins with a single step.

Happy Father’s Day!