The breakdown of traditional family values has contributed to this decline in the two-parent household. According to Pew, nearly half of all fathers, 46 percent, now have at least one child born out of wedlock and 31 percent report all of their children born out of wedlock. About 17 percent of men with biological children have fathered their children with more than one woman. The statistics, unfortunately, are even more grim for minorities and people living in poverty.
Gregory Slayton, the author of a new book titled “Be a Better Dad Today,” told Catholic News Service that children who grow up without a dad are three to six times more likely to spend time in prison, become addicted to drugs, drop out of school and have children out of wedlock.
In response to the growing absence of fathers in America, the National Fatherhood Initiative was founded in 1994. The group works with community organizations to promote training and skill-building resources for fathers. It also lobbies for legislation that promotes and supports family programs. The National Fatherhood Initiative has online resources available at www.fatherhood.org.
Another key to successful fatherhood is faith. According to author Slayton, reclaiming Father’s Day as an occasion of joy for all children begins with prayer.
“Faith is an absolutely critical tool in being a good father,” he told Catholic News Service. “… having a long-term relationship with God means you think in the long term for your family.”
Fathers also need inspiration and the model of modern manhood, according to Blessed John Paul II, is St. Joseph.
“The church deeply venerates this (Holy Family), and proposes it as the model of all families,” wrote John Paul in his 1989 apostolic exhortation, Redemptoris Custos. “In this family, Joseph is the father: His fatherhood is not one that derives from begetting offspring; but neither is it an ‘apparent’ or merely ‘substitute’ fatherhood. Rather, it is one that fully shares in authentic human fatherhood and the mission of a father in the family.”
These words are also encouraging for men who are stepfathers, adoptive fathers and surrogate fathers, such as Big Brothers, all of whom welcome with loving arms children in need of fathers.
To help Catholic men become better fathers, the Knights of Columbus created “Fathers for Good,” a website with many resources to help men live out their vocation as faithful dads. Check it out at www.fathersforgood.org.
This Father’s Day, in addition to honoring your father, offer a prayer for fatherhood. Seek St. Joseph’s intercession, that all fathers be present in the lives of children. Men need as much help as they can get to realize the awesome responsibility they have in nurturing our youth.