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Society Without Fathers?

In the fifth chapter of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the subject of the father in Western culture is discussed, in which, as we know, a negative image has prevailed: it is an intrusive presence or an irresponsible absence. The first has to do with a detrimental way of being a father, expressed in authoritarian and imposing behaviors that easily lead to abuse and mistreatment. The absent father refers to a fading of the paternal role, either by obvious escape or by disarray in its priorities. At the present time, according to the exhortation, the problem is not so much the intrusive presence of the father, but rather his absence, which is manifested in an excessive concentration on himself and his work, in devoting more time to the distractions presented by both media and technology, and in the loss of credibility for incoherent behavior. All this points to the fact of not being present; that is why it is said that ours is a “society without fathers.”

Now, this fact is seen in the document as a challenge, not just as a problem. Parents are called to be the first and foremost caretakers and trainers of their sons and daughters. The paternal figure, on the other hand, helps to perceive the limits of reality and is characterized more by the orientation, the departure to the wider and more challenging world, and the invitation to the effort and the struggle.

It is well known that in the most excellent prayer of Christianity the expression “Father” is used to refer to God (“Our Father”). It has been questioned if a non-anthropomorphic name, such as “Spirit,” “Creator” or simply “God,” had not been better; and that if an anthropomorphic treatment is desired, why not call it “Mother” instead of “Father” or “Father-Mother” instead of choosing one of the two. The biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan delves deeper into the sense of the term, which, in his view, departs and transcends the influences proper to the traditional and patriarchal society in which it was used. He asserts that in biblical thinking a well-managed home supposes the existence of a good householder; and how to recognize one? Well, by looking around and checking if the fields are well prepared; if there is sufficient food, clothing, and shelter for the inhabitants; if the vulnerable are cared for; if there is no inequality or injustice.

This essential domestic model of the good household head is applied to God. Four are the main features that stand out from this image of “Father”: (pro)creator, protector, provider, and model to follow. The father creates, supports and cares for life. The father protects, saves, and liberates. The father provides for the weak and vulnerable in the house. The father becomes a model to emulate. The children will learn to be head of the family through the implicit learning of the exercise of this function by their parents; the heads of family, man or woman, are their models. From the archetype of biblical head of family we can return to a fresh and renewed presence in the way of being a father that surpasses the absent, deviant or vanished image prevalent.

Source: Nuestra Parroquia