More thoughts on a father in the shadows:
When fathers refuse to live the lives of their children for them, new and unexpected vistas open up. Every child is the bearer of a unique mystery that can only be brought to light with the help of a father who respects that child’s freedom. A father who realizes that he is most a father and educator at the point when he becomes “useless”, when he sees that his child has become independent and can walk the paths of life unaccompanied. When he becomes like Joseph, who always knew that his child was not his own but had merely been entrusted to his care. In the end, this is what Jesus would have us understand when he says: “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9).
Before we adopted, I remember doing some reading on the psychology of fatherhood. After the young miss arrived, I noted that many women who were oldest in a family, or only children, benefitted from fathers instilling independence, confidence, and other qualities that equipped them for a lifestyle of personal assertion and self-image. Fathers providing that balance between care and concern and offering the experience of independence, the freedom to make errors and correct them. I hope I took that to heart.
In every exercise of our fatherhood, we should always keep in mind that it has nothing to do with possession, but is rather a “sign” pointing to a greater fatherhood. In a way, we are all like Joseph: a shadow of the heavenly Father, who “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). And a shadow that follows his Son.
Agreed with the critique of possession. Too many parents think in terms of their “rights” which has the whiff of seeing their children as possessions, heirs, and images of themselves. What Pope Francis gets at here in the last titled section of his document is that fathers recognize responsibility to their children and to their daughters’ and sons’ future as adults on their own.