Pastor’s Corner for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, by Fr. Bruce Botha SJ

A reflection on Fatherhood, adapted from MARFAM



A father-wound.  Our present-day society can be said to be suffering from a father-wound.  But what does that mean and is that experience universal? Fathers play an important role in the life of families and in their children’s lives. Children need both male and female role models. Children need to see and experience a loving, committed relationship in their parents.  That is not always the case.


Sometimes fathers are absent.

Sometimes fathers are not committed, even abusive.

Sometimes fathers are alienated, lost, and don’t feel needed.


Fatherhood is perceived very differently in different cultures and even in different age groups. In an African culture any older person was addressed as “ntate” and given the respect due to a father.  In the typical extended family, the father-child relationship is more distant and not as intimate as in the smaller nuclear family. The African concept of family is still of the extended family but due to economic circumstances, migrant labour, and urbanisation the African family has become fragmented and now has several different forms. Smaller husband-wife-children families are more common, but also common is the unit of grandmothers, mothers and children. Another is grandparents or grandmother and children.


A father is often living elsewhere, sometimes with a woman other than his wife.  Women may not even choose to have a husband or want to live with the father of their children. Right across cultural lines there are now many woman-child family units with men living semi-bachelor lives. This may be due to divorce or as is often the case an unmarried teenage mother.  Divorced fathers do have children spending time with them, usually weekend and holiday time but this is unfortunately a rather unnatural setting.  The nuclear family with father, mother, and children which many of us consider the norm is in fact not the way that most children live.


Our image of God and of fatherhood are related.   If our image of a father is hard, God could be seen as hard. Not only children, but every human being has a longing for a father, one on whom we can depend, one whom we can trust, who will affirm us and build us up. As parents and as children of our own parents, maybe our memories are happy, or maybe they are painful.  We may need to heal our memories, forgive our fathers, become true fathers to our own children and future children, or support and encourage fathers to be there for their children.


God, our father, is our model of fatherhood, a loving, forgiving father who shows all human fathers the way.  One who loved all his children so passionately that he gave His own Son so that we, His children could have eternal life. The idea of God as Father is not a common Old Testament one, but one brought to us by Jesus who called God, Abba – loving father and shares his Father with us in giving us the prayer OUR FATHER.