10 Ways for You to Honor Your Father Every Day
It’s a great thing to have special days to honor our fathers and mothers, but loving our parents is mandated by the fourth commandment, not by a holiday. For such important figures as our fathers, children should honor them year round. Our fathers play a crucial role in our lives. It’s an incredible responsibility—which has ripple effects on their wife, their children, and society at large. For many, Father’s Day is a fun day for kids to be with their dad; for many others, Father’s Day is a reminder of pain. No matter where the dad in your life lands on the spectrum from scoundrel to saint, he deserves honor. Why? First, as a result of the Incarnation of Jesus, “all that is human, and especially the family—as the first dimension of man's existence in the world—is also taken up in Christ” (John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos #21). Second, all fatherhood originates from God’s divine Fatherhood (Eph 3:15). It’s a tremendous gift that He allows men to share in it.
Think on this, too: God could have sent Jesus to be incarnated in any number of ways. God deliberately willed that Jesus grow up with a father and a mother. And this even damaged Jesus’ credentials as the messiah! In Jerusalem for the Festival of Booths, Jesus taught in the Temple; the crowd marveled at His wisdom and authority. Yet they objected to the idea that Jesus was the messiah, for “we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” (John 7:27)
Here are some ways to honor our fathers and the vocation of fatherhood.
1. Share in a hobby/interest
Father’s Day is a great day to do something special with your dad, whether it’s camping, grilling, watching a game, or just hanging around together as a family. Many of those interests don’t have to wait until Father’s Day and can build your relationship all year long. Is there something special you remember doing with your dad as a kid? Like going to a baseball game? Playing a board game? Watching a show or movie? Or something that adult children couldn’t share in as kids (hunting, fishing, etc.)? The point of this suggestion is not just to encourage a hobby, but to provide a means to spending time with your dad.
2. Ask for his memories
Recently, I discovered a cassette tape that had a recording of my grandfather’s retirement dinner. His boss talked about the different projects my grandfather worked on, and then I got to hear my grandfather talk for a few minutes. I hadn’t heard his voice in over 30 years. What a treasure! Not only could I hear his voice again, but I learned about the different things he worked on (and how smart he must’ve been). Our family history is just as much part of us as our DNA. Explore that part of your family by trying to learn about your father’s childhood, his family, and his life story. The experiences that helped form him formed you.
3. Pursue healing
This is primarily for those that have difficult relationships with their fathers—or even worse, no relationship at all. There will be a “dad-shaped” hole in your heart for the rest of your days; if your biological dad doesn’t fill it, make sure it gets filled with something other than anger and resentment. Develop a relationship with an uncle, grandfather, or other family member. Recognize the male mentors in your life and spend time with them. Pray to St. Joseph for help—the father who had the hardest job in the history of the world. Entrusted with the Son of God! Most importantly, and ask God the Father for healing. Filling any hole in our lives with resentment poisons our heart over time and it’s human nature to compensate in healthy and unhealthy ways. Don’t let the bad actions of another turn your heart into a wreck too!
4. Pray for him
As a kid, I looked up to my dad and figured he had everything together. Only when I became a father myself did I realize how difficult the vocation is. Support your father in prayer! He’s not perfect, nor will he always say/do the correct thing. And who knows what burdens he carries from his family/work/childhood/etc. that he doesn’t share with his kids? Raising children is a heavy responsibility, however much joy accompanies it. Offer a Mass for him (you don’t have to wait until someone is dead to do that); offer prayers and sacrifices. Ask your Heavenly Father and your earthly father will greatly benefit.
5. Make something for him
It used to be that the stereotypical Father’s Day gift was a necktie. Now with the ability to print a photo on just about anything (coffee mug, mouse pad, t-shirt, blanket, and more), mementos for dads are easier to come by. But who doesn’t like receiving a “just because” gift anytime during the year? Little gifts from children can melt a father’s heart. In addition, is there some way you could help your dad’s work day improve? Something for his desk or the dashboard of his truck? One of my favorites is getting a recorded video on my smart phone. Whenever I have a hard day at work, I ask my wife for a video of her & the kids. All they have to do is say “hi, Daddy” and my day gets instantly better.
6. Pray with him
Some men aren’t comfortable praying in public, and prayer in families has any number of dynamics. If you haven’t prayed with your father in a while, try to start a habit. Perhaps the habit would start small, but small starts can always be built upon. Sit with him at Mass if you live in the same city, even if he goes to the 7 a.m. Sunday morning Mass. Don’t let sickness or the possibility of death be the first time that you pray with him.
7. Learn his communication style and then engage him
Some of us are chatty, others are reserved, others are loud and outspoken. For some dads, lots of talking pales in comparison to a silent day in a fishing boat. Adult children shouldn’t make the mistake of never changing how you communicate with your parents. Get fresh eyes on how your father likes to communicate, even if you think you have him figured out. Establishing a new ground could
8. Forgive, or work toward forgiveness
Letting go and letting God, as the saying goes, has to be one of the hardest things in the spiritual life. God wills that all men be saved (1 Tim 2:4) but for some, it takes an entire lifetime, lots of wrong turns, and the prospect of death for the heart to turn toward faith. Fr. Dwight Longenecker wrote an account of a deathbed conversion that’s worth reading. The figure in the story alienated his children and wife to the point where he was dying alone. How sad for him, and it’s heartbreaking to picture the wounds his wife & children had likely carried for years!
Sometimes the most that can be done is to gain an inch even if you know you have a mile left to go. Jesus preached forgiveness not only because it was the right thing to do; He knew how destructive anger and resentment can be in the human heart. Don’t wait for your father to make the first move.
9. Help with chores
This applies both for kids at home and adult children living outside of home. For decades, our parents lost sleep, changed innumerable diapers, worked to feed us, took care of us, drove us around everywhere, and gave of themselves for the sake of their kids. Parents can err on the side of using this as a guilt trip, but there is truth behind it. Actively find a way to help with chores around the house. This isn’t just in a reciprocal way, but to follow in their footsteps and exercising a self-giving love.
10. Never underestimate the value of your presence
This goes for the dads of little kids, who might be in the process of going crazy. This goes for the dads of grownup kids who have long since left the home. All fathers have a unique connection to their children. This can connect to the communication point above—sometimes the best times with dads and kids is an ordinary day of being together. Take whatever chances to be with your dad, for our time on this earth is short. If you have a hard time expressing your feelings, or if your relationship with your dad is strained, the action of being with him communicates your love. Or, in the latter case, your attempt to heal.
If not for our fathers, we would not have life. God worked through them to make a unique, unrepeatable soul: you.