by Anthony Lim
I would like to share my experience about the one day retreat for young men at Schoenstatt Shrine. The topic of the retreat is to understand the relationship between fathers and sons and our image of God the Father. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect, however, looking back, it definitely was worth it!
At the start, Sister Rebecca (retreat facilitator) asked us to hand over our phones. For most of us, it was surprising and felt a bit awkward at first. This is because most of us are used to having our phones throughout our daily routine. However as the day went by, we found out that there are no distractions, and helps us to focus in on what dwelling inside each and every one of us, and focus on the topic at hand.
We watched a moving documentary which discussed and demonstrated how, without a father figure, a child’s life is affected. What surprised me the most was the effects of a “fatherless” family and how strongly it correlates with the increase in rates of suicide, depression, a feeling of loss or a lack of purpose, which lead some of the children to live a very difficult life. However, it is not all doom and gloom, because if there isn’t a father figure to look up to, some of the interviewees found good male role models somewhere else, which helped them filled a void and showed them down the right path.
For us Christians, there is a special role model that we all can look up to, and that is God our Father himself. This statement got me thinking because we can always search for someone to fill the void, however, I myself never realized that there is someone, so close to all of us, that could do just that.
So what can we, as men, do to be a good role model for others and if fatherhood is our calling, what qualities make a good father figure? Maybe, all we have to do as is to look towards God, our father in heaven? So what characteristic does God have and we as men should imitate?
God is lasting and exists forever without end and so is our relationship to Him. This means that God is a source of stability and doesn’t degrade over time. Therefore, the relationship and role as a father should be eternal responsibility. In other words: once you become a father, you will always be a father and as a father, you can’t just give up when things go sour, because you should be the rock on which the family is built upon, offering everlasting stability for the wife, and the child/children. As Psalm 9:7 puts it, “The Lord reigns forever.”
God is present everywhere at the same time. Without you realizing it, He is always looking out for you. As a father, you can be there to support your child, stay connected and spend quality time with them. When your child is away, do call them up and make sure that they know there is someone they can lean on in times of need. Be there at milestones and be reliable in all aspects of spiritually, physically and emotionally. As Psalm (139: 8) puts it: “If I go up to the heavens, you are there, if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”
God is all knowing and all wise, and fathers should strive to be the same. Strive to know about your child and know when something is not right. If you do spot something that is not right, don’t be afraid to address mistakes by engaging with the child one on one. Know about the happenings in the world and use this knowledge to assist his child/children and guide them on the right path. The decisions you make for the best of the family. As stated in Psalm 139:1, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.” and Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
God is holy and the father’s actions should reflect this. For example actions such as self-sacrifice, leading in prayer, practising the faith regularly and exercising Catholic values and beliefs throughout his daily life. Meanwhile, the father should also be humble enough to make himself small before God. In Revelations 4:8, “Day and night they never stop saying, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”
God is merciful in ways such as giving forgiveness for those who sin, offer patience and showing love. However, to keep everyone on the right path, God must also be just in ways such as administering justice and disciplining those who do not listen to His words. Therefore, being merciful and being just are two sides of the same coin. This is because as a father, if you are all merciful but not just, then the child may not be guided in the right path. If you are all just but not merciful, the child may resent you from all the disciplining administered to him/her.
It is challenging to know when to be merciful and to be just, however the most important is to do it out of love. As it is written, “The Lord is known for his acts of justice” Psalm 9:16 and “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” Luke 6:36. Most of all, “The lord is good to all, he has compassion on all he has made” Psalm 145:9.
So yes, being a father is not an easy role. However, if it is done correctly and through faith, then the reward of seeing your child grow up to be a good man/women is the greatest gift of all and brings everlasting joy. And if you yourself were placed in a situation living without a good father figure, then be the start of the change so that the next generation can bring up in a ‘father rich’ environment.
I would highly recommend this retreat to all young men out there, not only does this give us an opportunity to remove ourselves from the busy routine of our lives and give our phones a break, but gives us a chance to reflect on ourselves, our fathers, and also think about how to be a father (if it’s your vocation) for the future to come. As John 14:9 puts it nicely: “Whoever sees me, sees the father.”