Father’s Day should be about so much more than grilling and buying dad yet another tie.
Men don’t become good fathers by accident. And there’s no doubt in my mind that fatherhood is simultaneously one of the most misunderstood and one of the most important things in the world. This discrepancy is likely due to a combination of factors ranging from misguided social norms to the mysterious nature of God‘s Fatherhood. But regardless of why we can struggle to comprehend fatherhood, the struggle is very real. And it’s important that we challenge ourselves to understand and experience fatherhood in a deeper way.
So here are just a few suggestions for how to take your Father’s Day to a deeper level.
Take some time to connect with your Heavenly Father
Everything should start with God (this is Christianity 101). And the fatherhood that people are usually most familiar with (human fatherhood) is a reflection of Divine fatherhood. So spend a little extra time in prayer. Try to pray in a way that you haven’t before. Or simply get back to the basics by thanking God for all he has done, telling him what you’re struggling with, and letting him know what your needs are. Trust me, as a loving father myself, I can tell you that your Heavenly Father wants to hear these things.
If possible, spend some time with your earthly father
There’s no cookie-cutter way to do this. But if you can spend some time with your earthly father, do so. I recognize that many fathers like to take this as an opportunity to treat themselves to a round of golf or some quiet time without the kids. There’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to spend every second of the day with your dad, but if it’s possible try to spend some time with him.
For many of us, that’s simply not possible. People have fathers who are deceased, overseas serving in the military, absent from the lives of their children, or any number of other situations. And if you don’t have a relationship or a good relationship with your earthly father, they can make Father’s Day very difficult. But it doesn’t mean that you have to sit this holiday out. You can also choose to spend time with a husband (or if you’re a father, with your wife and kids). If you have a son or close friend who is a father, maybe try to spend some time with him.
Show appreciation for spiritual fatherhood
Our priests put up with so much. And while many of them make mistakes or struggle in a particular role, they are only human. And yet we are often so quick to criticize them and so slow to forgive. We need to stop thinking of priests, especially parish priests, as simple administrators. These servants and shepherds do more for us than most people realize.
So thank your priests, wish them a Happy Father’s Day, pray for them, and maybe even get them a card or have a Mass celebrated for them.
Acknowledge Any Wounds
The “dad wound” can cut deep. And this wound could be from the dad who raised you, the dad who was absent, or even a current or former parish priest. As the saying goes, there’s no hurt quite like Church hurt. So take the time to be honest with yourself and acknowledge these wounds.
After acknowledging the wounds, take the next step. Try to start the healing process and possibly repair damaged relationships. Don’t try to race to the finish line. Relationships aren’t usually healed in a ten minute conversation. And depending on the circumstances, it might not be possible, safe, or healthy to speak directly with a father or father figure who has hurt you. But don’t let that stop you. Talk to someone, write your feelings down, or even begin counseling. And no matter what else you do, bring your hurt to God.
Reflect on the impact that a father figure has had on your life (and possibly share that with others).
A lot of dads are unsung heroes. And as a father myself, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t need credit or admiration for raising my kids. But as a son who has lost his father, I know how important it is to reflect on all the things my dad did. And not just to remember what he did but why he did it.
In a world that often seems to lack strong father figures, a lot of us need help identifying what a good one looks like or even the reminder that good fathers do exist. And by talking more about good fathers, we will help make the healthy, loving father-figure will begin to seem normal.
Learn about fathers who are Saints
We have many great Saints in the Church who are fathers: Saint Joseph, St. Louis Martin, St. Joachim, St. Thomas More, St. Hilary of Poitiers, St. Louis IX, St. Stephen I of Hungary, Blessed Charles of Austria, and many more. And that doesn’t include the seemingly unending list of Saints who are spiritual fathers.
We should also consider some of the great men who have not yet been canonized. Saint John Paul II’s father Karol is known for having been a very holy man and an amazing father, but he has not been declared a Saint. Although, that may change as the cause for his canonization was opened in May of 2020.
Make a commitment to do some of these things regularly throughout the year
The contemplation of fatherhood and the celebration of fathers is far too important to relegate to one day. Now I’m not suggesting that you set aside hours every day to study up on fatherhood like you’re preparing for your master’s thesis. But maybe you add all spiritual fathers to your daily prayer. Or perhaps you make a commitment to take the first steps in healing your relationship with your earthly father. Whatever it may be, lets each commit to working toward a better understanding of fatherhood.