Exercising Spiritual Fatherhood in the Home

Sara and Justin Kraft

Exercising Spiritual Fatherhood in the Home

The role of the father has been greatly devalued. Sitcoms portray dads as loveable goofs. Other genres portray them as absent or, even worse, as abusive. Our modern culture often even refers to masculinity as “toxic.”

Yet the role of the father is essential. 

“… in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1: 27). 

Men have an essential role. They reflect the fatherhood of God. In his recent book, Priestly Fatherhood: Treasures in Earthen Vessels, Fr. Jacques Philippe reflects on spiritual fatherhood. While written to priests the work presents a beautiful reflection on the characteristics of spiritual fatherhood and provides practical principles that can be applied by all men. 

I want to highlight three characteristics presented by Father Philippe for greater consideration because of their practical application within family life. 


Every child requires blessing. Blessing bestows upon them freedom, mission, and identity. Scripture emphasizes the importance of passing this blessing from father to first born son. There are countless examples, but perhaps the most prominent occurs in Genesis 27 as Jacob actually steals his brother Esau’s blessing. The important point is that fathers are in a position of bestowal. The fatherly blessing bestows the knowledge of unconditional love within the child. They have the power to free and empower their children. Moreover, their children need this blessing.  

“Esau exclaimed, “He is well named Jacob, is he not! He has supplanted me twice! First he took away my right as firstborn, and now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not saved a blessing for me?”” (Genesis 27: 36)


Intercession is another great role of the father. The father places his children above himself. He will step into the breach imploring God on behalf of his children. Again, scripture presents many examples. Abraham asks God to spare Sodom if only 10 righteous people can be found within the city. Likewise, Moses’ actions on Mount Sinai following the Golden Calf incident provide another great example. 

“So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Ah, this people has committed a grave sin in making a god of gold for themselves! Now if you would only forgive their sin! But if you will not, then blot me out of the book that you have written.”” (Genesis 32: 31-32)


The reduction of fatherhood in the modern world has led to a reduction of mercy. While discussing the parable of the prodigal son, Fr. Philippe notes that it is the action of the father that makes the story so striking. Fr. Philippe sums it up in the following manner, 

“Without the presence of the merciful Father, we are delivered up to our faults, without any possible remedy. There would be no forgiveness of error or sin. No place for weakness, frailty, or failure, all of which are nonetheless part of our lives. We would be, in a way, condemned to succeed at life, something that really would be terrible. It would mean putting a terrible weight on our shoulders, an obligation to be superhuman, going from success to success without any possibility of failure…Today we’re living through the paradox of a society that, on one hand, is very lax and permissive, and on the other hand, without mercy for those who make mistakes! In the Kingdom of God, it is exactly the reverse: There are both strong requirements that show us the correct path for life, as well as great mercy…” (Priestly Fatherhood: Treasures in Earthen Vessels, page 16).

Practical Actions

So where should I start if I have not been making an intentional effort to set the spiritual tone within my household? Well, I believe the easiest place to start is with a nightly blessing of the children. First, it takes only a moment. Secondly, you will see your children light up in a way that makes you want to do it again. 

It is never too early to start. I have been giving my 3 older children a nightly blessing while tracing the sign of the cross on their forehead for a long time. It is part of their bedtime routine and it is the last thing I say to them before they run down the hallway to bed. However, about a month ago my 2-year-old walked over while I was blessing the older children and pointed at his forehead. At the same time, he said “bless.” It was at that point I realized that I had not been blessing him each night because he was usually playing while I read stories and gave blessings to the other children. However, even at two he knew something important was taking place. 

The next thing I would consider adding is intercessory prayer. This can be part of a daily silent prayer time, but perhaps just as important is vocalized prayer for one another in the home. This can feel a little awkward for many Catholics as we are often not used to this kind of prayer. If you need a little help to get started, you can begin by offering an Our Father or Hail Mary for the intention of whichever family member you for whom you are praying. However, as the practice becomes more natural, I would encourage each family member to take turns vocalizing prayers in their own words. 

Third, I would encourage the practice of praying a family rosary each day. If the rosary is too long you can pray just one decade. You could also substitute the chaplet of divine mercy (which only requires 5-7 minutes). These prayers might at times be a little difficult with children, but they will learn to participate in their own way. In our house, each child has a different mystery of the rosary which is “their mystery.” Each time we pray one of their mysteries, we raise our hands over our head in honor of that child. This is a practice our daughter started when she was about 3 or 4 years old. 

Finally, I would encourage you to invite your children for a visit to the Blessed Sacrament on a regular basis. I try to regularly take my children with me when I visit the church to pray. Sure, they can all pray to varying degrees. Some just walk around the church and look at the statues. But each prays in their own way. They are developing a habit of silence and observing that we value time spent in prayer within our home.