Reclaiming Authentic Fatherhood

When many see objective values as relative relics, fatherhood is a target of ridicule. But if fatherhood loses its taste, it impacts every fabric of society. Today’s reflection draws from the life of Saint Thérèse (Theresa) of Lisieux. It refocuses attention on the role of strong and loving fathers in shaping the life of the family and society. 

Saintly Parents, Saintly Offspring

Thousands of pilgrims gathered at Saint Peter’s Square in Rome on Sunday, October 18, 2015. They were witnesses to Pope Francis’ canonization of Marie-Azelie and Louis Martin, the parents of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus. During the sermon, the Holy Father extolled the role of parenting in fostering family spirituality: “The holy spouses, Louis Martin and Marie-Azelie Guerin, practiced Christian service in the family, creating day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters, among whom was Saint Therese of the Child Jesus.”  

People make history. The Martins did, and in a big way—the way of sanctity—the first married couple with children canonized in the same ceremony. In this context, I look at the story of Saint Theresa (January 2, 1873 – September 30, 1897), popularly known as The Little Flower. Today is her feast day. Her appreciation and practice of virtue started in the home, the church of the home. Modeling the way for the child, as Proverbs 22:6 admonishes, is rewarding. Her father, Louis, led the way. His strong and compassionate leadership shaped Saint Theresa and her sisters’ lives.

The role of fatherhood in shaping children’s spirituality refers to the profound way that a father’s love and example can help a child grow in their relationship with God. A loving and present father in his children’s life can help foster a sense of trust and security that will stay with them throughout their lives. In addition, a father who provides a solid moral foundation for his children will help to guide them on their spiritual journey.

Strong Fatherhood Shaping a Child

Saint Theresa of Lisieux is a perfect example of the power of a father’s love in shaping a child’s spirituality. From Saint Theresa’s early age, Louis created a positive image of fatherhood that shaped the little girl. It is caring, loving fatherhood and the anchor of his wife and children. Louis worked hard to take care of his family; he did not seek and promote rights without commensurate passion for one’s responsibilities. His was a balanced sense of responsibility and rights. He lived in his bones the gospel value of humility (from Latin humus_of the earth). The Blessed Lord speaks of this kind of humble service as the way to the heights (Matthew 18:4). Louis’ children grew up seeking what to do with and for others, not just what others will do for them.

Louis wasn’t sitting around like a loafer seeking gossip partners in the community. He wasn’t staying all day in the living room watching television and playing video games, waiting to be served by his wife and children who came back from work. He wasn’t abusive or high on drugs. Instead, he was a leader in word and action, with a strong commitment to discipline, responsibility, and hard work. His presence brought calm, not anxiety and fear. These qualities shaped Theresa’s understanding of God the Father, who she saw as a loving, provident father. Her deep connection with God was partly due to the strong foundation that her father provided for her.

Strong Fatherhood is What We Need

Saint Theresa’s story is just one example of how a father’s love can shape a child’s spirituality. Throughout history, there are countless examples of children whose lives were profoundly affected by the love and model of their fathers. Fathers’ love and guidance can have a lasting impact on their children’s lives. I’m a living witness, blessed with a father (rest in peace) who led in many ways by the example of hard work, care, and responsibility. 

Ultimately, fathers play a significant role in helping their children to grow in their faith. A loving and present father can provide his child with a solid foundation to build their spiritual life.

Our society needs strong fathers, not babysitters. Strong fathers impact the lives of their children. In turn, society reaps the bounteous fruits.

Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, pray for us. God bless the world with strong fathers. Amen.

God love you. God bless you.  

[Readings, October 1, Memorial of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus: Is 66:10-14c; Mt 18:1-4]

Fr. Maurice Emelu

Father Maurice Emelu, Ph.D., is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Orlu in Nigeria and the Founder of Gratia Vobis Ministries. An assistant professor of communication (digital media) at John Carroll University, USA, Father Maurice is also a theologian, media strategist, and digital media academic whose numerous works appear on television networks such as EWTN. As he likes to describe himself; “I am an African priest passionately in love with Christ and his Church.”


  1. Paul Stommel on October 1, 2022 at 1:35 pm

    You are a true blessing to this world, I can appreciate your accomplishments but the greatest of them all is your true love for the lord… may God continue to bless you, we need more people like you to help turn this world around. I will keep you in my daily prayers.

    • Fr. Maurice Emelu on October 1, 2022 at 1:43 pm

      Thanks Paul for prayers and kind words, all glory to God for undeserved favors—grace. Amen.

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