Spiritual Role of Fathers
does the Catholic Church teach about the role of fathers in the family? This
seems to be a neglected area.
A: The Rite of Baptism for Children may say it best. After
the priest or deacon blesses the mother, he blesses the father, saying: "God
is the giver of all life, human and divine. May he bless the father of this
child. He and his wife will be the first teachers of their child in the ways
of faith. May they be also the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith
by what they say and do, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen."
All fathers have a natural duty to protect, provide for and educate
their daughters and sons while being loving and supportive husbands. Catholic
fathers have an added responsibility to be role models of faith and of virtue
as companions on the faith journeys of their children. That instructor/companion
role, which is influenced by their family and cultural upbringing, changes as
children age but never disappears.
The Bible offers many teachings, especially in the wisdom literature
of the Hebrew Scriptures, about the role of fathers. The New Testament letters
address this responsibility, especially in 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12, Ephesians
6:4, Colossians 3:21 and 1 John 2:13-14. Everything that Jesus says about being
a disciple applies to dads.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses the duties
of parents in Sections 2221-2231. The text advises parents to regard their sons
and daughters as children of God and to respect them as human persons (#2222).
In recent years, both single and married Catholic men have begun participating
in men's prayer groups, Scripture study and retreats on
male spirituality. The National Resource Center for Catholic
can offer local contacts.
Many books, tapes and CD's address the same issues. For
example, Richard Rohr has written The Wild Man's Journey:
Reflections on Male Spirituality (St. Anthony Messenger
Press) and Quest for the Grail (Crossroad Publishing
Company). In Signposts: How to Be a Catholic Man in the
World Today (Word Among Us), Bill Bawden and Tim Sullivan
present 52 topics, with Scripture and Catechism references,
plus a real-life story and reflection questions.
Also helpful are A Man's Guide to Prayer (Crossroad), by
Linus Mundy, and Two Voices: A Father and Son Discuss Family and Faith
(Liguori), by Jim Doyle and Brian Doyle.
May the Lord bless your own faith journey, with its challenge of
being a good, Catholic father!
Is Boxing a Sin?
am a 16-year-old guy and generally a spiritual person. I
read the Bible and try to follow what it teaches. But sometimes
its teachings and some of my own philosophies seem contradictory.
I hold a black belt in karate and am passionate about studying the martial
arts, which I often consider to be one of God's answers
to my prayers.
The principles that I learn from martial arts are ones
that I use in my everyday life. I have recently become interested
in boxing and like the training it involves.
Is competing in a boxing or karate competition wrong?
Am I sinning by training my body and mind to defeat my opponents?
By risking injury to myself?
When I look out at the world, I don't always like what
I see. That's what motivates me to become better and better.
I don't want to harm the world or anyone in it. I would
like to improve the world.
A: There is no sin in training
for boxing as long as you use those skills only in supervised,
amateur competitions or self-defense. Because of the number
of brain injuries and deaths that have occurred in professional
boxing, some moral theologians question the morality of
boxing at that level.
Training for supervised karate competitions is also fine. The skills
learned in karate and boxing can be used outside the ring in cases of genuine
self-defense or defending an innocent party.
More important, your karate and boxing training are teaching you
discipline. You will need that if you want to improve the world whose shortcomings
are quite obvious to you. The discipline you learn from sports will help you
order your life properly and can be very valuable if you engage in some community
service, some effort to go beyond self-improvement as a way of improving our
What's the Connection?
is the fish symbol associated with the Christian religion? Please explain the
how, when, where and why of this symbol.
A: It's actually quite simple. The Greek word for fish is
ichthus. Christians turned that into an acronym, using the first letters
of the Greek words for:
I - Jesus (Iesous)
CH - Christ (Christos)
TH - God's (Theou)
U - Son ('Uios)
S - Savior (Soter)
Since Jesus' multiplication of the loaves and fishes (John 6:1-14
and parallels in other Gospels) was seen as a symbol of the Eucharist, the fish
also reminded Christians of that gift from Jesus.
When the Romans were persecuting Christians (off and on between
64 A.D. and 313 A.D.), the fish symbol was meaningless to pagans but very significant
to Christians, almost like a secret code word.
Isn't There Something More?
joined the Catholic Church about five years ago. I go to Mass every weekend,
but that is about it. Nobody has ever asked me to become involved beyond that.
How can I learn more about the Church and where I could be useful, other than
taking up pew space?
A: Start by reading your parish's Sunday bulletin; it often
indicates parish ministries in need of assistance. Few parishes have too many
religious education teachers, readers at Mass, Communion distributors, ushers,
greeters or RCIA sponsors. Although some ministries require more training than
others, you could rather easily prepare yourself for other ministries.
Does your parish have a St. Vincent de Paul Society? Does it have
a group of people who help at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter? Is the
parish involved in building a Habitat for Humanity house? Does your parish have
athletic or Scouting programs?
Many Catholics have found the Cursillo to be a turning point for
their faith life. This is much more than a weekend retreat with follow-up meetings.
Your parish can put you in touch with your diocese's Cursillo program.
You did not indicate whether you are married or single. In some
places, Catholic singles groups socialize, help one another grow in faith and
become involved in some type of community service. If you are married, the Engaged
Encounter movement might enable you and your wife to help prepare other couples
for a Christ-based marriage.
The possibilities of involvement are practically endless. Once you
start, you will have many chances to serve!
Is Marriage Really a Sacrament?
Q: How can marriage possibly
be a sacrament? Yes, Jesus attended a wedding feast (John
4:46-54), spoke of the Kingdom of God in terms of a wedding
banquet (Matthew 22:1-14) and used the Genesis creation
story to support the idea of union (Matthew 19:1-9). But
that does not seem to make marriage a sacrament.
A: Jesus' teaching in Matthew 19:1-9 is much more than using the
first creation story in Genesis to "support the idea of union." Marriage is
the most basic of all purely human relationships and serves as the foundation
for healthy families.
That may not be everyone's experience, of course, but bad experiences
in marriage and family life usually result from the abuse of human freedom on
Marriage was the last of the seven sacraments to be formally defined
(11th century) but only because there was no serious challenge to its status
as a sacrament before then. Less than 30 years after Jesus died, St. Paul was
teaching Christians in Corinth about the sacredness of marriage for the followers
of Jesus (1 Corinthians 7:1-16).
Just as the prophet Hosea did not hesitate to compare God's love
for the Chosen People to the love of a faithful husband for his adulterous wife
(Hosea 2:1-25), so St. Paul uses Christ's love for the Church as a model for
the faithful, generous love between husband and wife (Ephesians 5:21-33).
If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here.
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