Pope Francis dedicated an excellent reflection to the beauty of fatherhood and the danger of absent fathers.
On two occasions, this past January 28 and February 4, he has spoken particularly eloquently, moved by the harm that so many families suffer.
"Do you play with your children? Do you visit your ill or elderly parents? Do you listen to teenagers and young adults when they speak to you? Or perhaps you are a father who is only dedicated to work, losing what is essential?"
But at the same time, the Pope masterfully shows the beauty of fatherhood reminding us that "St. Joseph was also tempted to leave Mary, when he found out she was pregnant."
Here are 7 tips from Pope Francis for being better fathers and for growing along with your children:
1. A father doesn’t want children just like himself, but wise and free ones:
"I will be happy every time I see you act with wisdom, and I will be moved every time that I hear you speak with rectitude."
"And that you might be like this, [wise,] I taught you the things you didn’t know, I corrected the errors you didn’t see. I made you feel a profound and at the same time discrete affection."
2. Rigor and steadfastness, rather than complicity and protection. Better to be a misunderstood father than a weak one.
"I gave you a testimony of rigour and steadfastness that perhaps you didn’t understand, when you would have liked only complicity and protection."
"A father knows all too well what it costs to hand down this heritage: how close, how gentle and how firm to be. But what consolation and what recompense he receives when the children honour this legacy! It is a joy that rewards all the toil, that overcomes every misunderstanding and heals every wound."
3. A father who is present in the family, close to his wife and children
A father who is present in the family should be "close to his wife, to share everything, joy and sorrow, hope and hardship. And … he [should] be close to his children as they grow…"
A father who is always present: "when they play and when they strive, when they are carefree and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, when they take a wrong step and when they find their path again."
4. A father who is present is not necessarily a controlling father
"To say ‘present’ is not to say ‘controlling’! Fathers who are too controlling cancel out their children, they don’t let them develop."
5. A good father is a patient father
The Pope brought to mind "that extraordinary parable of the ‘prodigal son’, or better yet of the ‘merciful father’, which we find in the Gospel of Luke in chapter 15 (cf. 15:11-32). What dignity and what tenderness there is in the expectation of that father, who stands at the door of the house waiting for his son to return! Fathers must be patient. Often there is nothing else to do but wait; pray and wait with patience, gentleness, magnanimity and mercy."
6. Know how to forgive and not humiliate, but without being weak or complacent
"A good father knows how to wait and knows how to forgive from the depths of his heart. Certainly, he also knows how to correct with firmness: he is not a weak father, submissive and sentimental. The father who knows how to correct without humiliating is the one who knows how to protect without sparing himself."
7. The Our Father is brought to life in fatherhood that is forgiving of failure
"Without the grace that comes from the Father who is in Heaven, fathers loose courage, and abandon camp. But children need to find a father waiting for them when they come home after failing. They will do everything not to admit it, not to show it, but they need it; and not to find it opens wounds in them that are difficult to heal."
Translated from the Spanish edition of Aleteia by Matthew Green.