Fatherhood as Salvific

Fatherhood is a ‘saving’ reality to the degree that a man fulfills his role as ‘savior’ of the mutable world of daily life, the one who redeems the humdrum and exalts the lowly. Because he is not related to his children with emotional or physiological ties of the same intensity as a mother’s, the father is in an extremely ambivalent position: either he can shirk his responsibilities as ruler and teacher of his children, or he can all the better live up to them precisely due to his distance from the hearth. His position is one of danger and promise. One might say that the very qualities which render a man fit to be a good ruler and teacher – his natural distance from much of what constitutes the bearing and rearing of children, his ability to look upon his own offspring as basically ‘other’ than himself (more present to him through their mother) – these and other male conditions open up the possibility of failure, even of treachery. “For reasons which I do not think have been fully elucidated, fatherhood nearly always presents the character of a more or less hazardous conquest, which is achieved step by step over difficult country full of ambushes” (Gabriel Marcel, “The Creative Vow as Essence of Fatherhood,” Homo Viator: Introduction to a Metaphysic of Hope, Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1951, p. 110). Fatherhood thus presents, in a twofold way, the paradox spoken by Christ: “He who would gain his life must lose it for my sake.” To bring life, that is, purposefulness and inner joy, to his family, a man must learn to lose himself. This is another way of saying that responsibility and suffering are inseparable in the living out of any love that deserves the name. “It behooves the man to place himself at life’s disposal and not to dispose of life for his own purposes” (Ibid. p. 114).

In losing himself for the sake of his wife and children, he wins back, over time and not without steady struggle, a self purified of egotism and false liberty. In this way, the Divine principle of creation, God’s love, is engrafted onto the family, or even better, becomes its lifeblood.

Peter A. Kwasnieswski
Fatherhood and the Being of the Home


  1. Anonymous says

    Lower your voice an octave, furrow your brow in the best Gregory Peckish sort of way, and then pretend you know what your doing. It is an office, like being pope, and at times it fits about as good as papal vestments.

  2. Herb A. LeSens says

    Hear, hear! They won’t know better until it’s too late anyway. Confidence (real or not) instills confidence, instills trust, instills…etc.

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