The arrival of Father’s Day in contemporary society raises what can be a challenging issue for passing on the Faith from one generation to the next. When a third of millennials don’t affiliate with any kind of religion — in effect foreswearing any kind of family belief — while a quarter of the generation had parents who were divorced or separated, one has to wonder whether God the Father has become an inadvertent stumbling block in people’s spiritual development.
On the one hand, we have a generation that has fallen victim to what Pope Francis calls the “throwaway culture.” Permanence is shirked, not always by choice. Young adults frozen out of the job market feel “crushed by the present,” the pope once noted. They cannot even lift their eyes to dream of a better future or take the practical steps necessary for starting out on their own in a lifelong commitment with a husband or wife.
Add to this the residual wounds that can so often accompany father figures — disappointments, betrayals, abandonment — and we can understand more clearly how family life has become another casualty of the throwaway mentality, as evidenced by declining rates of people seeking out the Sacrament of Matrimony.
On the other hand, the Church worships God the Father as the first person of the Trinity and the source of all creation, someone Jesus taught us to lovingly relate to as “abba” — daddy — to whom we entrust our needs, problems and desires.
It’s trusting in God the Father and fostering that deep relationship with our creator who adopts us as his own children upon our baptisms that allows us to grow as persons and respond to the call to be disciples. This is why the Church has put so much emphasis on the evangelizing nature of the family in recent years. In the 2014-15 Synods of Bishops, the issue emerged time and again that the family is where young people learn and receive the spark of faith.
Those gatherings, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, said last November, “were called to assure families that God is close to them in moments of joy and sorrow, and that the Church is near, accompanying them on this pilgrimage of faith, where each domestic church can show solidarity with and charity toward other families, especially struggling ones.”
The nuncio added that the fruits of the synod “show forth the merciful face of the Father to men and women, husbands and wives, to the elderly and to our children.”
Picking up on this important work of bringing people to the God the Father, the Vatican will hold another assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2018, looking specifically at young people and the challenges of discernment.
It’s an endeavor worth so much of the Church’s energy, time and focus — helping others to hear the call of God the Father in their lives and accompanying them as they unlock the mystery of God’s loving plan for them. We must make clear his desire for a deep, trusting and loving relationship with each of us. This is the power of a Church that goes to the peripheries and tends to the “field hospital.” It’s the merciful healing power of God the Father who lovingly creates us, reflected in the world.
Editorial Board: Greg Willits, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in-chief; Don Clemmer, managing editor