What is Fathers’ Day? What can we Christians make of it, in this cynical, ultra-secular age?
The tradition of honouring fatherhood on a special day originated in Europe, as far back as the Middle Ages, when it was held on St. Joseph’s Day, 19th of March. It is said that the idea came from the Franciscans, and the understanding of Joseph as the Nurturer of Jesus. Joseph, the husband of Mary, was held up as an ideal of generous and selfless giving, remembered for his protection of Mary, and his adoption of Jesus as his own.
In America, the tradition of a date in June came about because of a young woman wishing to honour her father, who brought up all his six children single-handedly after his wife died tragically giving birth to the youngest. Her Baptist church congregation began the tradition
In Australia, the tradition of the first week in September began in about 1935. Once again, it was a Baptist church which promoted it – hoping that it would become as popular as Mother’s Day, and encourage men in their hopes to be good fathers.
Of course, we all know how much it has been commercialized since then, and many people don’t celebrate it, for that reason – or perhaps for others. Some people have not had a positive model of fatherhood in their lives.
In my family, we have always considered it a day to get together, and catch up with Dad, and all the Dads in the family. This year is the first year I have celebrated without my own Dad, so for me, it is rather sad. John always enjoys hearing from his boys on Father’s Day.
I think the concept of encouragement is a good one – to encourage the fathers in our families to be good ones – modelled on the inclusive, unconditional love of God. It’s interesting that it was the Christian Church which had a hand in its beginnings, in Europe, America and Australia.
For those of us who are not fathers, have no father, or have had an unhelpful experience of fatherhood, I would like to say that we must have a philosophical ideal – something which we can hold up as a possibility of good fathering – even though our lived experience may be full of pain.
I know I have been most fortunate – most blessed – because my earthly father was loving, gentle, humourous, playful, and had the sort of personal integrity one could look up to. I always felt loved by him, and I loved him more than I can express. Not everyone has had such a privilege, so I am very grateful.
Stay warm and well! God bless you all