The positive and decisive aspect of the father figure was the theme chosen by Pope Francis for the catechesis of Wednesday’s general audience, held in the Paul VI Hall.
“Every family needs a father”, he began, “and I would like to talk about this role starting from several phrases we find in the Book of Proverbs, words that a father addresses to his son: ‘My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad indeed. My inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right’”.
“One could not better express the pride and emotion of a father who acknowledges that he has transmitted to his son what truly counts in life, a wise heart”, he affirmed, explaining that the phrase in the Book of Proverbs is that of father who says, “This is what I wanted to leave to you, so that it might become yours: feeling, acting, speaking and judging with wisdom and rectitude. And in order for you to be able to do this, I taught you things you did not know, I corrected errors you did not see. … I myself, first of all, had to test the wisdom of my heart, and monitor my excesses of sentiment and resentment, to bear the weight of the inevitable misunderstandings, and to find the right words to make myself understood”.
“A father knows well how to transmit this legacy: with closeness, gentleness and firmness. However, what consolation and compensation he receives, when his children honor his legacy! It is a joy that repays every hardship; that overcomes every misunderstanding and heals every wound”.
To be a good father, the first requirement is “to be present in the family. To be close to his wife, to share in everything, joy and pain, burdens and hopes. And to be close to the children as they grow: when they play and when they make efforts, when they are carefree and when they are distressed, when they dare and when they are afraid, when they make missteps and when they return to the right path. A father must always be present, but” – the Holy Father warned – “being present is not the same as controlling. Fathers who seek to control end up stifling their children; they do not let them grow”.
“The Gospel provides us with the example of the Father in heaven – the only one, Jesus says, who can truly be described as a ‘good Father’. Everyone knows the extraordinary parable of the prodigal son, or better of the merciful father in the Gospel according to Luke. How much dignity and tenderness we find in the father who stays at the door of his house awaiting the return of his son! Fathers need to be patient. Sometimes you can do nothing other than wait; pray and wait with patience, gentleness, magnanimity, and mercy. A good father knows how to wait and how to forgive, from the bottom of his heart. He certainly also knows how to correct firmly. … A father who knows how to correct without humiliating is the same as he who knows how to protect unstintingly”.
“If there is anyone who knows how to explain in depth the Lord’s Prayer, taught by Jesus, it is precisely he who experiences paternity in the first person”, continued the Pope. “Without the grace that comes from the Father in heaven, fathers lose courage, and abandon the field. But children need to find a father who awaits them when they return home after their failures. They will do everything to avoid admitting or showing this, but they need him, and not finding him opens up wounds that are difficult to heal”.
“The Church, our mother, is committed to supporting with all her power the good and generous presence of fathers in families”, Pope Francis concluded, “as, like St. Joseph, they are the indispensable guardians and mediators of the faith for new generations, in goodness, justice and God’s protection”.