In the lead-up to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to the U.S., we are launching #FrancisontheFamily, a Diocesan-wide campaign that focuses on the catechesis of #PopeFrancis pertaining to family life. We have chosen to highlight some of Francis’ most repeated challenges to us – encounter, accompany, witness, and welcome – as a way of sharing the joy of family life.
By: Frank Moncher, Ph.D., Guest Contributor
“Every family needs a father,” remarked Pope Francis during his Angelus on February 4. Amidst the noise of society, and a culture where temptations abound and questions arise about the purpose of all the sacrifice which fatherhood entails, I am grateful to hear it put forth so clearly.
The Church’s theology on this is clear, stipulating that the norm and ideal of family life is a father (and a mother). Saint Joseph is put forth as the quintessential model of fatherhood, demonstrating gentle strength, being ever-present to his family yet humbly quiet in the background. He is fully human and the terror of demons, loving fully while living chastely. In these ways and others he epitomizes the paradox of true fatherhood. Challenging? Yes. But a challenge with joy and a reward that surpasses human understanding for those of us privileged to be blessed in this way.
But, is this just a spiritual truth, disconnected from the reality of the world we live in? No. As is always the case, the Church’s conclusions on such issues are supported by the social sciences. Children whose fathers are a consistent and involved presence in their lives tend to fare better on a host of measures of positive development, such having less risk of: delinquency, suicide attempts, substance abuse, poor school performance, poverty, gender confusion and child abuse. Fathers matter and these statistics alone serve as motivation and encouragement when the going gets tough. As a father of three young children, I am grateful for this opportunity as a reminder of how it is all worth it.
For me, it ranges from the early morning awakenings, the late night illnesses, the inevitable sibling struggles of wills on the more challenging side, to the precious moments snuggling with a book, hearing about the first day of school, and seeing those same siblings giggle and hug. The challenges will only increase as the children grow into adolescence. Yet their need for a father will arguably grow. My daughters will need an example of manhood to form their choices, and my son will need to see an example of Saint Josephian’s gentle strength – which, with God’s Grace and my wife’s support, I pray I will do an adequate job of providing.
And while the challenges characterize why “every family needs a father,” the precious moments, for me, characterize why it can also be said that “every father needs a family.” And with children, if blessed so. This need of men can also be met through close relationships with friends, siblings, and extended family, all of whom need the “gentle strength” of the men in their lives, and whose gratitude makes it all worth it.
Dr. Frank Moncher is licensed as a clinical psychologist in Virginia and Washington, D.C. Since 2010, Dr. Moncher has worked for the Diocese of Arlington and Catholic Charities as a psychologist and consultant. Frank has published in journals and contributed to book chapters on topics related to children, families, and religion. Frank and his wife Elizabeth live in Alexandria, VA with their three children.
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