Eight Habits of Highly Effective Fathers.
Chris Erickson, June 2000 Lay Witness Magazine
1. Educate yourself in the Faith.
Read a chapter or a passage
or two from Sacred Scripture and the Catechism each
day. St. Jerome tells us that ignorance of Scripture
is ignorance of Christ. Pope John Paul II encourages
"to use the Catechism
of the Catholic Church to learn about the faith and
to answer the questions that come up, especially
the moral questions which confront everyone
to God's Word to us as revealed through Scripture
and Tradition. In addition to the Bible and the Catechism,
there are many other worthwhile books and Church
documents, such as Pope John Paul II 's 1981 apostolic
exhortation Familiaris Consortio (on marriage and
family issues). We cannot pass on to our children
what we ourselves have never taken the time to learn.
2. Put what you learn into practice by
forming good habits.
Satan knows the Scriptures
better than Scripture scholars do, Knowing God's
instructions won't benefit us if we don't live them.
A father's primary responsibility is to be a Christian
witness to his children.
Our homes can be a haven
of moral virtue if we foster it through our own example.
We preach in vain if we do not practice what
3. Teach Christ's Truths through your
Jesus asks: "For what
will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world
and forfeits his life?" (Mt. 16:26). The Holy
Father reminds us that parents are the first and
most important educators of their own children.
Teach your children about God through your own experience.
There is a great difference between "knowing
about God" and "knowing God." Share
with them simple stories of faith that reveal how
you relate to God in your everyday situations. Tell
them about your discernment, your trust, your
prayer, your dependence on God, and your love for
Him. It doesn't need to be anything weighty. God
ought to be as real to them as you are. Avoid the
attitude that says,
"My child can learn
about religion at Sunday school."
If religion is a
subject set aside for an hour on Sundays, your child
most likely will be a "Sunday Christian",
if he keeps his faith at all. Wouldn't you protest
if your child were instructed only one hour each
week in literature, mathematics, or some other subject?
Mass, Confession, cerebrating
feast days, reading the Bible or a book on a saint
and, above all, daily prayer can all be done together.
This bonds a family in the faith, and every strengthening
of family bonds is a victory for society. Our Holy
Father affirms that
"prayer needs to become
a regular habit in the daily life of each family."
Even if you only have five
minutes of nightly prayer with your children, do
not underestimate its value. A child into his adult
life those memories — those "seeds
of faith." Think of the abundant harvest if
a father devoted more time to family prayer! Some
pray the Rosary each evening with their children.
If that sounds like too much, don't let it discourage
you from saying other simple prayers together. If
they are sincere and from the heart, they will reap
a great reward.
time with your children.
Don't let the pursuit of success
or wealth cause you to miss your child's fundamental
need to know you as a father. We can teach our children
a great deal about Our Lord and ourselves simply
by spending time with them. The great truths of our
faith and how we personally relate to those truths
can be taught through ordinary conversation, fixing
cars, collecting bugs, camping, fishing, hiking,
gardening, or sports: Any type of hobby allows wonderful
opportunities to intimately know each other and to
6. Guard the windows to the soul!
Keep a careful check over
media influences that can lead your family astray.
What if, in place of TV and videos, dad invited two
strangers to come into his home to entertain his
family? The family sits down with their usual bowl
of popcorn, and this time they're entertained by
strangers in their home groping one another, and
engaging in sexual innuendo in their word, dress,
and conduct. Shocking? Unacceptable? Yet we often
allow the same sorts of things into our house through
the media. These are insidious poisons that strike
at our fundamental religious beliefs and actions.
Fathers, don't dull your family's sense of sin! The
world is already hard at work doing it. With a little
diligence you can find wholesome alternatives. It
is critically important to inculcate strong moral
values into your children at the earliest years
so as they mature, they will freely choose to apply
these same rules of prudence when viewing videos
in other homes.
7. Be vigilant over your children's
Get to know your children's
friends, or at least try to determine whether their
influence is good or bad. No kid is going to be perfect,
so avoid being over scrupulous. If you find a particular
friend to be a thistle in the growth of your child's
faith, talk about it with your child and permit your
child the opportunity to be a witness and to
set an example for his friend. If that fails to correct
the behavior, step in and speak directly to his friend,
letting him know what you expect if he wants the
relationship to continue. Obviously it isn't so simple
with teenagers. In these situations, I believe you
will achieve better results by appealing to your
child's values and concepts of right and wrong. Teach
your teenagers to accept responsibility for their
spiritual welfare. The best aid a father can
have in teaching his teenager is a good memory!
Be sympathetic, honest, and remember that "more
flies are caught with honey than with vinegar." top
your home a place of tranquility and peace — beginning
with loving your wife
Love your wife as Christ
loves the Church (Eph. 5:25). That's a tall order,
but your sons will relate to women in much the same
way you relate to your wife; and your daughters will
learn from your example what to desire and expect
from men. St. John Chrysostom said the home should
be a "little church," a miniature kingdom
of God. Is your home too stern, too demanding on
the children? Is dad too busy and mom often irritable?
Does the mood reflect a menacing storm? If so,
each will seek their freedom and go their own way.
Value honesty and hard work, offer great love, admit
mistakes, ask forgiveness, and laugh much. Adorn
your home with constant reminders of your Christian
faith: A crucifix reminds us of the precious price
Christ paid for us; sacred pictures or statues bring
to mind events in the life of Our Lord; a favorite
Scripture verse or two or an open Bible remind us
of what is most important in life. Avoid making others
uncomfortable by either exaggerated asceticism or
Fathering is undoubtedly a
challenge, and it has been so since antiquity. But
the Lord has given fathers the responsibility and
the grace to meet the challenge. Probably the most
important attributes a father can have for the welfare
of his family today are courage and a quiet confidence
in God. An exceptional example of courage and
quiet confidence, as well as quiet obedience, is
the "guardian of the Redeemer," St. Joseph,
the preeminent model of "true fatherhood."
We should look to him as our
About the Author
Chris Erickson works in the editorial and marketing departments of Emmaus Road Publishing, the publishing arm of Catholics United for the Faith in Steubenville, Ohio