Monday 8 July 2019

The Role of a Christian Father - Keith Chappell - CTS Family Matters Series

The Role of a Christian Father:
Fatherhood in the Modern World
CTS Family Matters Series
Keith Chappell
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860825149
eISBN 9781784692742
CTS Booklet PA11

I love the books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. I have read over 90 books from CTS in the last year and a half. Some over 100 years old, other just published this year. And to date there is not a bad one in the lot. This is my first book by Keith Chappell, and also my first in the Family Matters Series. I made the mistake of reading a book in another series from CTS. I have just added six other titles in this series to my wish list and I already have another half dozen series from CTS on the go. But back to this specific book. 

His is a short booklet. The text comes in at just under 60 pages. But it is a great little read. I stumbled across this title the week after father’s day and decided to give it a read. I have of course read several books about fatherhood and parenting. But I know there is always room for me to improve. Sometimes far more room that I want to admit. In the introduction Chappell states:

“This booklet cannot be, and would never seek to be, the “manual” for fathers, but perhaps it will lead you to reflect on your role as a father and to become aware of the huge internal resources each father has which are given by the grace of the one Father we all look to.”

 And also:

“There is, however, an important question raised by this insecurity of fathers: why has fatherhood become so devalued in society when historically it is portrayed as a central, if not the central, relationship in each person’s life?”

 I completely agree with both sentiments. The book is not a how to, but more of a blueprint. And the book does an excellent job looking at the role of fathers, how they have changed over time, and how ‘patriarch’ has become a bad word in our society today. The chapters in this volume are:

The Loving Father and the Prodigal Son
Shaping the Father
The Perfect Father
Fatherhood as Sacrament
Being a Hero
The Unchanging Father

The book is an easy book to read. It can be read over an afternoon sitting in a hammock. Or over a large mug of tea on a rainy day. But it is a book that has advice that will take a lifetime to implement and master. If in fact it ever can. I can only hope that 20 years form now I am striving to be a better father still, and if so blessed grandfather. I want to share with you a few of the passages I highlight my first time through this volume:

“The need to work away from home separated both parents, but especially fathers, from their children and disrupted family life. It was partly this disruption of family life that led Leo XIII to publish his encyclical Rerum novarum (The Condition of Labour) in 1891. In this encyclical Leo XIII argued for a living wage for workers in what was perhaps one of the first attempts to address the issue of ‘work/life balance’. Unfortunately this call was not heeded by wider society and men became increasingly seen as fulfilling their role as fathers through earning money.”

“This provided a great way to discuss the Incarnation but it also prompted me to look at images of St Joseph, patron of fathers and a model for all fathers, biological and adoptive. A quick search on the internet or through books of images reveals different images of St Joseph in his many patron roles such as worker, happy death and father. It is remarkable how many of them don’t have “the baby”. It turns out that this is something of a historical phenomenon. Early icons and statues rarely, if ever, show St Joseph without the Christ child but as we move through the Middle Ages towards modern times we find increasing images of St Joseph as worker, contemplative or dying a happy death.”

“Whether we agree or not, it is a reality that the notion of patriarch is no longer one that is valued in our culture. This is perhaps not surprising as the term has become increasingly abused over the centuries to the point where it is now virtually unrecognisable from the biblical notions seen in figures such as Abraham. In Abraham and the other Old Testament patriarchs we find men with whom God deals directly and who worship Him faithfully. The God they worship is not one tied to a particular place or time but one who walks with His people at all times; these were nomadic people after all. The God of the patriarchs is one that we can have a personal relationship with and that is not bound to formal religious structures such as shrines or holy mountains.”

“It is also important for fathers to remove themselves from the role of primary disciplinarians. Again, this is an area for joint responsibility. The days of “Wait ‘til your father gets home” should be as far behind us as the times when a man arrived home expecting his dinner on the table and all the housework done by his wife. For one parent to be identified with discipline risks making them less approachable, the other a ‘soft touch’ and means that discipline is something that children can associate with something outside themselves.”

“For a Catholic father today a recapturing of the image of the patriarchal father who helps his family to have a deep personal relationship with God, through His Church and all its gifts, is one that would be deeply helpful.”

“However, the father we are is shaped by many things and I would like to look at three of them: our parents, our own choices and personality, and our children.”

“Each child is unique. Sometimes you wish they weren’t, sometimes you are glad they are. Each is created in the image and likeness of God but bring with them an infinite variety of characteristics that require us to be a different type of father to each child. Sorry to say, but one size does not fit all.”

“So, our children and the reality of parenthood open us up to grace and looking beyond ourselves. Even more than this, in becoming fathers we are called back to the moment at the creation of humanity itself where we stood in original grace and walked with God. As parents we cooperate with God in His continuous act of creation and gain a glimpse of what we were created for and what we are called to.”

“At the heart of being a father in a Catholic family is the realisation that our children are God’s children. We are called not simply to love them as “ours” or “mine” but as His. There are few activities that give an insight to this as much as praying together as a family. We see our children building a relationship with their other, even more real, Father and can see that we are simply stewards called to make His love present to them.”

I hope those few quotes will give you a sample of how good this volume is. This is a great read, and it looks like it will be another great series from the Catholic Truth Society.  I look forward to reading more in the series and from Chappell.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books in the CTS Family Matters Series:
Facing Difficulties in the Christian Family Life - Peter Kahn
Passing on Faith to Your Children - Peter Kahn
Prayer in the Family – John Viatori & Beth Viatori
Sex Education A Parent’s Guide – John Timpson
The Family’s Mission to Love – Rod Isaacs & Peter Kahn
The Role of a Christian Father - Keith Chappell
The Role of Christian Grandparents – Keith Chappell
The Role of a Christian Mother – Anna Melchior
Work and the Christian Family – Peter Kahn
Nurturing the Young - J.B. Midgley

Other Books by Keith Chappell:
The Role of a Christian Father
Role of Christian Grandparents
Catholic Social Conscience: Reflection and Action on Catholic Social Teaching
A Teacher's Guide to Science and Religion in the Classroom (Editor)

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