Fatherhoodand the Sacredness of Human Life
May 25, 2012
upcoming celebration of Father's Day is a fitting time to examine the irony
that in our current culture, fatherhood is rarely mentioned. When mentioned at
all, fathers are mocked or portrayed negatively. Some movies and stories
downplay the role of the father in a child's life, yet simultaneously portray
the child as suffering from the father's inability to live up to that role.
reality, the nobility and significance of fatherhood remain a powerful witness
in the lives of those who have had the opportunity to grow up with a present
and caring father. And there are, of course, profound stories and testimonies to
counter the culture's defeatist attitude towards fatherhood.
a mother's unique and nurturing role, the father also has a vital part to play
in safeguarding the sacredness of new human life and in forming the younger
generation. The father's special role in protecting and defending both mother
and child helps ensure the stability and healthy development of the whole
Paul II wrote of the importance of fatherhood in his Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio:
is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the
members of the family… by exercising generous responsibility for the life
conceived under the heart of the mother, by a more solicitous commitment to
education, a task he shares with his wife, by work which is never a cause of
division in the family but promotes its unity and stability, and by means of
the witness he gives of an adult Christian life which effectively introduces
the children into the living experience of Christ and the Church" (no. 25).
and commitment of husbands and fathers to their families needs to be affirmed
and supported if we are to build a culture of life.
also the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. How fitting is Christ's example of
sacrificial love when we recall how he gave his life for his bride, the Church.
The extent to which he pours out his heart for humanity shows the ultimate model
of a man of compassion and quiet strength. We can see concrete examples of this
in the Gospel, in the way he treated the Samaritan woman with dignity and in the
way he welcomed the little children who wanted to meet him.
baby is growing in the womb, the first vital organ that develops is the heart, which starts beating by about
21 days. What does this say about the human person? It is almost as if God
honors the capacity to love by giving the heart supremacy even in the physical development
of the human being. While not physically connected to newly developing life in
the same way as the mother, the father need not be excluded from this beautiful
mystery. During this month of June, may all hearts look to the Sacred Heart as
a source of inspiration, and may all husbands and fathers be renewed in their
calling to build up the culture of life, starting in their own families.
Baker is a staff assistant for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops. To
learn more about the bishops' efforts on religious freedom and rights of
conscience, visit www.usccb.org/conscience.