A Theology of Fatherhood

Fatherhood takes us to the heart of our faith. At the source of all things, we find the Father. From him the Son is begotten as his image. From him also proceeds the Spirit through the Son.

Fatherhood takes us to the heart of our faith. At the source of all things, we find the Father. From him the Son is begotten as his image. From him also proceeds the Spirit through the Son. God is a communion of persons coming forth from the Father and ordered back to him in love. Because God is Father, generating life within himself, in his one essence, we also see life coming forth outside of him, creating us in love to participate in his life. 

It may be tempting to think that we apply the name Father to God based on our human experience of fatherhood. St. Paul tells us, however, that it is the opposite. Our understanding of fatherhood and the family comes forth from God. We are meant to share in his life, based on the way he has made us in his image and likeness and ordered to share in his own fruitful love:

“For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened by his Spirit with might unto the inward man, that Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts; that being rooted and founded in charity, you may be able to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth: To know also the charity of Christ, which surpasseth all knowledge, that you may be filled unto all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).

This passage could be seen as expressing the whole mission of the Son. He came into the world to make the Father known, and, even more so, that he might become our Father too. God could be considered Father in a general way toward his creation, because it came forth from his Word. But, through the mission of Christ, he becomes our Father in a direct and personal way by adopting us as sons in the Son. Jesus wants to share his relationship with the Father with us as well.

We can take this reality for granted but it should overwhelm us with awe and gratitude. God does not simply want us to live alongside of him for eternity. He invites us to enter into his divine life, sharing the love of Father and Son for eternity. Jesus prayed to the Father: “The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me” (John 17:22-23). Just as God is love and fruitful in himself, through the communion of the Holy Trinity, so he wants us to share in this life. God holds nothing back from us but offers everything to us, even the hidden mysteries of the love of Father and Son, which we receive in the Spirit. 

As men, we should show this divine love to our family and all those in our care. We are meant to love as the Father loves and with his own love. We are meant to give to others what we receive from him so that others may have life and love. The Father does not hold anything back; he does not remain isolated in himself. He is gift. He is love. This is the basis of all Fatherhood and our call as Catholic men.

Dr. Staudt serves as Director of Content for Exodus and as an Instructor for the Lay Division of St. John Vianney Seminary. He is the author of How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization (TAN), Restoring Humanity: Essays on the Evangelization of Culture (Divine Providence Press) and The Beer Option: Brewing a Catholic Culture Yesterday & Today (Angelico Press). He holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Ave Maria University and B.A. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN). He and wife, Anne, have six children and he is a Benedictine oblate.

The What a Dad Series highlights the best of true Christian fatherhood and the generational impact of men rising up and taking their Vocation as fathers seriously.

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