On Tuesday evening, July 19, we had another gathering of the Men’s Adult Faith/Spirituality Formation group. This is a not-very-structured gathering of men that has met four times to share and discuss spiritual topics. In the past we discussed marketplace spirituality (faith at work issues) but on the 19th we changed focus and discussed “Fathering” (we don’t have any mandated agenda and so are free to follow our inclinations).
It was a very good discussion with 20+ men present, and everyone participated in the discussion. As you can imagine with a group of 20 men from this parish, it was a rather wide-ranging discussion. We touched on the difference of fathering to sons as opposed to daughters, of what we had received from our fathers and what we wished had had gotten, of negotiating parenting roles with spouses, of the differences of fathering little children, adolescents and adult children, and many other topics. Needless to say there were not a lot of solutions offered, but there was plenty of practical realization of our own limits and a lot of mutual support among the men in recognizing and accepting those realities.
On a more spiritual plane we also discussed how our experience of our own fathers influenced, for better or for ill, our image of God the Father. We reflected on the way our “doing fatherhood” revealed or concealed the image of God the Father for our own families.
I tried to point out that Jesus had a special name for God, “Abba,” which means Papa or Dad. The best expression Jesus had for the ineffable mystery that is God was “Abba,” and when Jesus taught us to pray He instructed us to begin “Our Father…” While there has been much theological work in recent years on the feminine in God, and some (in the attempt for gender neutrality) have spoken and even baptized in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sanctifier, the great majority of Catholic theologians, and the Church hierarchy, find that language inadequate. There still is something vital and significant about referring to God as “Father.”
This came out fairly clearly, I think, in our men’s discussion about fathering adult children and the need to relinquish control, but that the father still loves the adult son or daughter, and most importantly, is still there for the adult child. The father may disapprove, may disagree totally with the son or daughter, may warn strenuously against the action the adult child chooses to take, but the father still loves the child and is there, always there, for the adult son or daughter. We heard a couple of powerful stories about that, and I would argue that is what God the Father is for us. God the Father is always there for us.
It was a very worthwhile evening. The next gathering of the Adult Faith Formation for Men will be on Tuesday evening, August 16, at 7 p.m. in Newman Hall. The topic will be “Husbanding.” Watch the bulletin for more details. All men are welcome, married or not. It should be a stimulating discussion.