Last weekend I attended an outdoor wedding reception in Madison and spotted a young father playing on the grass with his infant son. The glow of the setting sun on the father’s face, coupled with the dark green foliage in the background, made for an iconic image — one that seemed to capture the love and bond between father and son.
I was fortunate to have my camera and caught the image, which I’m sharing on this page.
In an apostolic letter written last December, Pope Francis wrote about the role fathers play in their children’s lives. Released on the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as patron of the universal church, a paragraph from the letter, “Patris Corde,” put into words what I saw at Marshall Park last weekend:
“Fathers are not born, but made. A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child. Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person.”
This Sunday, June 20, we celebrate Father’s Day. While it’s a time to give our fathers, alive or deceased, a word or prayer of thanks, we know that not all fatherly relationships bring positive thoughts.
According to a 2018 Pew Research Center study, one in four fathers of children 17 or younger live apart from at least one of their children. Many factors, including the breakdown of traditional family values, have contributed to this decline in the two-parent household.
According to the Pew study, nearly half of all fathers, 46%, have at least one child born out of wedlock. About 17% of men with biological children have fathered their children with more than one woman. These statistics bear out the observation of Pope Francis that fathers are not born, but made.
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 fatherhood.org.
On this Father’s Day, in addition to honoring fathers, let us offer a prayer for fatherhood. In this Year of St. Joseph, let us seek his intercession, asking 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.