Four Critical Rules for Catholic Fathers

StJosephAndChristChild-BelmontAbbeyIt is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.—Pope St. John XXIII

I often feel completely lost and befuddled as a Catholic father in today’s world. How do I set the right example? How do I help my sons grow up with a strong Catholic faith? How do I prepare them for a culture that often teaches and rewards actions counter to what we believe and how we should live? One of my frequent daily prayers after I thank Jesus for my wife and children is to ask for help in living up to my vocation as a husband and father. Do you ever feel this way?

During my prayer time, I often reflect on the example of St. Joseph who is the patron saint of fathers and the best role model we can follow. What can I learn from this great saint? I’m not the expert, but it seems that if I follow the example of St. Joseph I have my priorities straight with Christ first, family second, and work third. A father who emulates St. Joseph spends quality time with his family, not just time. This man is a role model to his family in living out his Catholic faith and being the light of Christ to others. This father has joy in his heart and is a man of prayer. This Catholic dad honors and loves his wife and lifts up the Sacrament of Marriage in the eyes of his children as something special and sacred.

What sort of maxims might this Catholic father, who tries to emulate St. Joseph, follow to stay on the right path? If we consider what Scripture and the Church teach us, we can look to these four critical rules as our guide.

  1. Our vocation is to get our families to heaven.
  2. Our children are always watching us. They will likely model later in life what they learn at home.
  3. We are made for heaven, not this world. Let’s act accordingly.
  4. Our children are God’s gift to us. The love and care we show our children is our gift back to Him.

Feeling convicted? Me too.

Guess what dads? Sometimes, you and I simply have to try harder. We have to give our best, even when we don’t feel like it. We have to sacrifice some work time, fun time, down time, and me time for the sake of our families. It would be wise (although scary) for us to realize that our kids watch our every move and they will be like us one day. I pray that is a good thing.

Dads, I encourage all of us to take the four rules listed above to prayer. Let’s not allow our pride to keep us from asking for help. Seek the intercession of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. Let’s pray for each other, challenge each other, and encourage each other. Let’s live out our vocation to fatherhood with courage and honor, for as Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles said, “It’s a promise to be faithful to the vocation of being a father. Even after a long day of work, even if he’d rather be doing something else—instead he will smile and laugh and take delight in spending time and playing games with his kids. Because that’s what fathers do. They keep their promise to love.”

In the absence of us stepping up to our commitment as fathers, what are the alternatives? What can happen? After reflection and prayer, it seems obvious to me that most fathers likely face the same choices:

We can relinquish our fatherly responsibilities to others. We can allow peers, TV, the Internet, video games, and a godless materialistic culture to raise our children and just hope for the best.


We can live up to our responsibilities and our vocation as fathers. We are called to be holy and our clear vocation is to help our family get to heaven. That is a tall order and requires courage, hard work, difficult choices, and lots of prayer.

How often do we say we want the second choice, but lose focus, get busy, and allow the first option to occur? I am afraid it happens all too often if we are honest with ourselves.

What can we do to make the second option the automatic choice? None of us are perfect, but perhaps we can follow these five basic steps to stay on course.

  • Make the most of our time together. My younger son and I have been having great conversations on the way to lacrosse practice and when we throw the football in our front yard. My older son and I take long walks together for our best conversations. The important thing is to maximize every minute with our children as opportunities to share and guide them to good decisions in life. Making family dinner time a priority is one way to help make this happen. Know that efforts to get our attention are often potential cries for help. Our kids need us, but are we available?
  • Listen before lecturing. This is difficult for me! The fastest way to have my sons clam up is for me to cut them off with a “coaching moment.” I can coach later, but I need to hear them out first and encourage them to share their thoughts.
  • Be great Catholic role models. It doesn’t get more basic than this, but do we realize how often our children are watching our every move? They will love God, be excited about Mass, and have devotion to our Catholic faith if we do. They will likely pray faithfully if we do. They will be more likely to grow up following the magisterium and staying out of the “Catholic cafeteria line” if we do.
  • Honor the Sacrament of Marriage. Want to see our children get married and start great families some day? Love our spouses and model the kind of marriage we want them to enjoy. Show open affection, say “I love you,” and make sure the kids know how much we honor and respect the person we have married. We are dooming our kids to a marriageless future or possible divorce if they grow up in a home where the Sacrament of Marriage is not treasured and valued.
  • Tune out popular culture and “detach.” Guess what? If we are obsessed with American Idol, buying junk we don’t need, and trying to keep up with the neighbors, our kids are likely to grow up emulating our behavior. I am beginning to feel that every minute spent in front of the TV or the computer is wasted time and a missed opportunity to interact with the family. This may be the hardest thing on the list, but we can do a better job with our time and focus.

Guys, doesn’t being a better father feel like a wrestling match that never ends? This subject often comes up in my daily prayers as I seek discernment and courage to do the right things. The alternative to my daily struggle is to be apathetic, which will virtually guarantee that my children will grow up drifting without a good foundation of faith, values, and a sense of what is truly important in life. Kids are like clay looking to be formed and developed. In our absence, those who only see our children as consumers or who seek to do them harm will step into the vacuum.

Remember the fourth critical rule?

Children are God’s gift to us. Taking excellent care of His creation is our gift back to Him.

Take a look at Randy Hain’s fifth and newest book, Journey to Heaven: A Road Map for Catholic Men (Emmaus Road Publishing).  The book is available through,, Barnes&Noble or found in your local Catholic bookstore.  His sixth book, Joyful Witness: How to Be an Extraordinary Catholic (Servant Books) is available for pre-order on Amazon.

If you liked this article, please share it with your friends and family using the Recommend and Social Media buttons below and via email. We value your comments and encourage you to leave your thoughts below. Thank you! – The Editors

Print this entry


  1. Thank you very much for this article. Very clear about the role of Fathers and probably men. As a chairman of catholic men in our parish, I will definitely share this with men in our parish. The good thing about this article is that our group is called Men of St Joseph and am happy that this article is referring us to emulate this great Saint. Most of us are really struggling with what our role should be in church, outside church and at our homes. I would like to receive more of these articles especially those that try to awaken men to understand their role in the church , outside church and at our homes. Our committee is planning to have a retreat where we can invite an international speaker and having Randy Hain would be a blessing.

    Once again, thank you. This article is invaluable.

  2. As an educator, a firm believer in the Catholic faith, and a son, I want to emphasize how fathers should l-i-s-t-e-n. Let’s not forget that fathers were educated a long time ago. As a grad student in the fields of education, politics, and economics in this continuously changing world of ours, I have an endless list of bouts with my dad about morality, and even the fields I studied. I always cling to the fact that I studied these fields. I am the degree holder, not my dad. But my dad, being the ever-stubborn believer in the words “God gave me this responsibility, so I am correct or else” would still counter-act even my fields of study where I am the degree holder.

    As a solution, I believe it is best for the children such as myself to recognize the fact that in this stage of the family, we, the children must give way for the parents who are already aging and may settle bouts in favor of them, but the solutions need not be executed always as agreed upon. After all, the elderly need not be informed at all times. If that is unavoidable, then leeway must be given for the sake of their health.

    One thing I cannot understand nor fix is the belief I mentioned; the “God gave me this responsibility, so I am correct or else”. Why do parents always say this? That is why I am commenting. My dad was born in the 50s, so it is understandable that his morals and beliefs are as rigid as ever. Once his mind is made up, he will not change it. It is almost impossible to reason with him. After all, he is also a military man. One more thing-he believes that parents are immune from sin and that whatever parents say or do is sinless and for children to suggest correction to their parents is a ticket to Hell.

  3. You nailed it Randy! I heard a homily from a visiting priest on this very topic. It riveted these responsibilities into my mind. He said, we bring souls into existence that will live for eternity and our responsibility is to be the light that leads them to the foot of the Cross. This led me to the understanding that I cannot do this alone. I must enlist the help of The Holy Spirit, His spouse The Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph, the Saints, and the Church, in carrying out this mission. Our vocation is an onerous one, yet also rewarding and enriching. It’s not easy being Catholic.

  4. I am the father of 7 (30-22) and a bunch of foster children. Two points I would like to add.
    1. A father should encourage his children to seek God’s answer to this question: Should you be eagerly working to know and believe whatever it is that God wants everyone to know and believe and thereby show that you have accepted the love of truth so that you may e saved (2Thessalonians 2:10).
    2. I have an idea that I believe should be supported by all Christian, Jews, and Muslims. Please let me know if you see a reason why it should not be supported by all. Thank you

    If it is possible that the following simple idea can be improved upon and eventually be used by God to lead all people to the one Faith God must will all to know and believe and therefore it should be passed on to others in the sure Faith that God must be infinitely good and powerful enough to do this; the Questions are; Should all ministers be eager to help pass this on and to make this better? How many ministers and leaders of all faiths will demonstrate, by their refusal to work to eventually write or obtain their own list of superb questions, that they really do not believe God will, or can, bring everyone to the faith they preach and profess one step, one issue at a time, if all just seek TRUTH through God’s questions and God’s answers? Will you pass this on?

    I believe this idea is potentially so good that if only one church (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) supported it publicly, all others would have to follow and very soon great progress would be made by God.

    One small step at a time to world peace
    Does your minister believe that God is infinitely good and powerful enough to turn the whole world right side up by His peaceful means, one person, one step, one issue at a time without violating anyone’s free will, even if almost all ministers and laity of all faiths have accepted different half-truths and are not really open to God’s complete peace plan and in effect, oppose parts of it because it requires more from (and of) them? Yes or no?
    In the past, evangelists could suggest to someone that they read an entire book that answered many of the questions concerning “what does God want all to believe?” and that person might very well do this. In this world today, we need a different approach that addresses one particular issue, presents the best verifiable evidence concerning this issue and asks the right question, in the right way, in the privacy of their own home where they do not have to argue or debate anyone and where they can simply ask God for the answer He wants all to find concerning this issue. We have to trust that God wants everyone to come to the One Faith He wants all to have more than we do and all we have to do is cooperate with God in helping them diligently search (thereby give evidence to God that they really want to know His answer) one issue at a time so as not to get overwhelmed and give up because their are so many issues. How do we create such a new approach and at the same time help keep people on track at seeking God’s answer when battling all the distractions of the world, without being “in their faces” all the time, pushing for our answer, NOW?
    Could the following work by God’s grace? If yes, should it be passed on to others who might have the time to help make it better?

    To help ALL parents be better helpers of their children, ONE STEP AT A TIME.

    This idea has three aspects:
    1. A poster (similar to the one below) in all churches, put up by their minister
    2. Superb questions (God’s questions) on slips of paper with a web address
    3. all ministers of all faiths will be expected to trust in God’s answer to all such questions and each minister will be expected to make available their own sequence of questions or endorse another’s sequence.
    I hope you see the potential for good if this gets started and all parents and children are reminded in all churches by posters to show they have accepted the love of truth so that they may be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:10) and reminded by their ministers what it means to love truth, to seek it and to want others to love it and to seek it and to understand it the way God wants it understood.
    The intent of each question with verifiable information on each slip of paper will be to help people take one step at a time, one issue at a time, towards believing whatever God wants everyone to know and believe, rather than trying to get them to read an entire book (which is a very good thing but few do this today) and there will be services (almost always free) where many different approaches to questions on each particular “step” are put side by side for comparison purposes. Parents, especially fathers, will be expected to arm their children with the best examples and to demonstrate being open to knowing and believing everything God wants all to know and believe and to help their children check out the arguments, questions, posted by other faiths to see if they have any questions that God’s answer to seems to appear to lead to this other faith only. Hopefully, all people will be expected to enter the market place of theological ideas armed with critical thinking skills and work to make those skills better. What minister will fear this will lead all away from their faith and therefore refuse to support it?

    First aspect-Poster idea:
    What minister will publicly dispute any part of the following suggested Poster idea that can be improved and/or shortened and is to be put up in the church as a silent reminder to parents and children so each thinks about showing they have accepted the love of all truth so that they may be saved (2Thessallonians 2:10)?

    “All truly good parents are seen wanting to pray ever more perfectly and committing themselves to a lifelong effort at being open to all Truth from God, through anyone, and eagerly working to know and believe whatever it is that God wants everyone to know and believe and therefore these parents, in order to share them with others but especially with their children, are looking for the best verifiable information and GOD’S ANSWER to the best sequences of questions from ministers of all faiths who are eager to share such in the sure faith that God’s answers for these questions will lead all, by peaceful means, to the one Faith God must will all to have and for them to thereby reject all man made additions to this Faith. There are many in this church eager to help anyone start or continue in this lifelong search for Truth and to help any who now seek to find everything God wants everyone to know and believe, one step, one question at a time.”

    Obviously people will eventually know everything in the poster no matter how long it is if the minister makes a monthly, strongly worded comment reminding all that there are parishioners who are eager to help anyone find God’s answer to all questions from anyone. Parents and children will each know (because the poster and the monthly reminders puts a “spotlight on the parent’s actions”) whether or not the parents are, or are not, doing what they should already be doing but many times today, in this world, are not doing. Is this not a good way for ministers to frequently remind all (without pointing a finger at any one person) of the importance of truly accepting the love of, and therefore being open to truth from God through anyone and eagerly seeking ALL the truth that God wants all to love so that they may be saved (2Thessallonians 2:10)?

    Second aspect of Idea: Slips of Paper to help evangelize others and children?
    The second aspect requires the minister or a moderator (or team of moderators) who will write, or find, and post suggested questions on a particular part of the church webpage (numbered and grouped according to toplc) for people to be able to read and print out the questions (with verifiable, unassailable evidence) on slips of paper and carry them in their wallet or purse. Then, when a person has an opportunity to dialogue with someone, (or when a parent and child have “one of those” discussions) they have these carefully worded, superbly well thought out questions, that they can hand to the other person and ask them if God might want to give them HIS ANSWER to this question and if they should therefore seek and find God’s answer to that question in their heart in the security of their home. Hopefully, many people will include related questions listed by numbers at the bottom to be found on the web page also listed and therefore they will not have to personally have all the answers, they have several superb questions written by experts such that there are only two possible answers A or B where B is all that is not A and therefore there is no middle ground and when combined with the verifiable evidence which can also be on the slip of paper, all sincere, humble seekers of truth will be lead by God’s answer.
    Obviously, if a person is talking to someone and hands them a slip of paper for them to keep, the verifiable information and question can be superbly written and quite lengthy. A little ink could go a long way with the correct facts and question on a piece of paper folded once in a wallet or purse. Think of all the incredible arguments that could be put on a slip of paper (by Scott Hahns and such) and handed to someone to read in the security of their home with the only goal of hearing God’s answer and not worrying about arguing with or having to convince the person who handed them the slip of paper. Think of how fathers could soon be expected to find and pass on to their children the best arguments they have found? Think if all religious schools made sure that all children new where to go for the best questions for people of any faith. Obviously, each minister should be hopeful that their questions and verifiable evidence will be the ones that God’s answer to will resonate in people’s hearts, convincing them that this answer is God’s Will that they should accept and believe, thereby rejecting other man made beliefs and whatever the best questions are, those will be passed on and on.
    This idea does not negate everyone’s responsibility to know their faith and be eager to share it. It merely helps them be better armed, gives them a sense of confidence, so that even if they do not have all the answers at any given time (fear of which keeps many from engaging in dialogue) they know that they are armed with several well worded questions that the other would know they should seek God’s answer to, and which we can be hopeful will lead them to the One Faith God wants all to have when they find His answer to all questions, hopefully checking out the web address on the slip of paper.

    What minister would want to be seen not enthusiastically supporting these two ideas once others publicly endorse them, once the ball gets rolling?

    I could offer a long list of questions as examples, (I have the beginning of a list on my blog at (question 5.1 a,b,c,d, please) and I hope people will make their own lists, suggest their own questions to me and try to improve mine), but I will offer only one example here (to help bring hope to those who despair):

    Since all competent ministers of all faiths profess that the one, true God must be the infinite perfection of every good virtue we can know, and we can know that sometimes mercy and forgiveness are right and good, therefore we can, because of God’s infinite Goodness and Mercy in spite of our sins of commission and omission, we can have certain hope in God’s mercy and forgiveness, no matter what we have done and no matter how many times we have done it, AS LONG AS WE ARE AND CONTINUE TO BE truly full of true sorrow for our sins and honestly will to sin no more and will to do all we can by God’s grace to undo the effects of our past sins. Question: Does it seem right and good to you that there is a chance, a hope, for eternal happiness in heaven because of the infinite goodness and mercy of God in spite of our many faults, if we only persevere in honestly trying to do all we can by God’s grace from this day forward because an infinitely good God cannot ask more of a truly contrite heart than they are able to give today?

    What reason can you give for not passing this on to others (maybe without endorsing it) who may be interested in helping make it better?
    Can you imagine all the superb questions that can be printed out, and how people who are today scared to dialogue about matters of faith might be empowered with the knowledge that they do not have to have any answers, they have the superb questions and the purpose of these questions is for the other person to seek God’s answer in the security of their home and look to the web site for further questions and we are trusting God’s answer will lead others to the Truth? Should not all ministers believe such an approach would help lead all to the one faith God wants all to have, to their faith, and should not all ministers enthusiastically support this?

    Thank you. Douglas Kraeger

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *