An amusing story is told by Father José Mendonça, a Portuguese priest and Biblical theologian and who preached the spiritual exercises of Pope Francis early this year, in his book entitled “Our Father who art on Earth.”
In a house for children, the teachers organized a game. They built a castle for the children to attack. At the moment of the siege, one of the children began crying and said that he could not because, “I’m afraid. I have no strength. I can’t fight a battle, my father is in Paris.”
Father José, from the boy’s fear, brings out a very interesting interpretation: “The image of my father is not yet sufficiently strong inside me for me to be able to fight without having him beside me. My father is a long way off, and for this reason I am much more fragile than the others, I do not feel able to take the risk…. What I need is for his presence to be sufficiently stable and luminous inside me.”
He adds that “the question of the father as an inner model is the question of the stability of our inner life.… The truth is that we are always searching for someone. We are ever on the lookout for a father. … There are people who believe that they are totally independent of an inner father, but in fact they are not.”
Father Mendonça concludes that “[our] drive to consume (goods, experiences, sentiments) may well be a disguised need for a “father.” The underlying reason is the inability to abide by Jesus’ rec ommendation: “But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt 6:6).”
As I read this, I thought of so many children today, who are immersed in so many wonderful experiences (e.g. internet, movies, sports, etc.) but perhaps never get a deeper installing and activation of mom and dad in their inner selves.
Could this be one of the reasons that many of the youth have crises of identity, security and vocation? We don’t need statistics to know how divorce or separation harm children in the short and long terms.
Parenthood, the modelling of fatherhood and motherhood in children, cannot be replaced by tablets, smartphones, video games or social media.
Constant, intense and intimate bonding moments –active and passive– have to be established. The family must constantly build sacred spaces for such partnerships, for example, during meals, walks, shopping, house maintenance, visiting old or sick relatives, etc. In this journey, the fingerprints of mom and dad will be left in their children’s hearts.
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