By Susan Ciancio

This weekend, we celebrate all the dads in our lives. It’s not only a time to honor them, but it’s a time to seriously reflect on the importance of fatherhood.

The Bible tells numerous stories about fathers who lead their families as God commands. One of the most well-known is of the prodigal son, who squanders all of his father’s money and repents. Like God with us when we sin, the prodigal son’s father welcomes him home with great jubilation.

Other strong men and fathers in the Bible include Abraham, Isaac, Noah, and Moses. And though these men were far from perfect, their love for God and their families was absolute.

Finally, we see the love and protection of St. Joseph, as he obediently follows God’s command to care for Mary and Jesus.

We cannot overstate the important role fathers play in the physical, emotional, and spiritual lives of their children. Fathers shape the way their children behave, pray, live, laugh, and forgive. That’s why it’s so important to honor those who live out the true calling of fatherhood in our lives and to show our gratefulness for all they do for us.

Below are six quotes and reflections to help encourage all of the amazing fathers to continue to lead their families with heroic virtue. We need you now more than ever!

1. “St. Joseph did not do extraordinary things, but rather with the constant practice of the ordinary and common virtues he reached that sanctity which elevates him above all the other saints.” – St. Joseph Marello

Fatherhood does not require exceptional or remarkable acts. But it does require love, compassion, kindness, and generosity. These virtues are what set you apart from others. Spending time with your kids, educating them in the faith, teaching them to throw a ball or appreciate the arts, or seeking their help with character-building chores around the house are all things they will remember. These are the things that will help them grow, not only as human beings, but as daughters and sons of God.

2. “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” – Fr. Theodore Hesburgh

Your children are watching how you treat their mother. And, chances are, they will follow suit. When you show her that she’s valued, respected, and cherished, your kids will internalize that. They will want that in their own lives. And, hopefully, boys will grow to be men who treat their wives well, and girls will grow to be women who seek men who do the same.

3. “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” – Jim Valvano

What a gift to have a father who believes in you! Fathers, never pass up an opportunity to gush over your child and his abilities. Every child has his own special gifts and talents. A strong father will learn to recognize these and will help hone them in his child. Never forget the importance of making all of your children feel special, unique, and valued, not only as your child, but as a child of God.

4. “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” – Clarence Kelland

About 10 years ago, country singer Rodney Adkins released a song called “Watching You.” It’s a sweet song about a man with a little four-year-old son who wants to do everything his dad does. The verses run through things the child does, with the dad asking how he learned to do them. The little boy responds, “I’ve been watching you, Dad. Ain’t that cool? I’m your buckaroo; I want to be like you.” In one of the verses, the child climbs out of bed and gets on his knees to pray. Again, the dad asks how he learned to do that. And the child responds, “I’ve been watching you, Dad. Ain’t that cool? I’m your buckaroo; I want to be like you.”

Kelland’s quote reminded me of this song. Make no mistake: Children watch you. They want to be like you. Even if they say nothing, and even if they pretend they aren’t watching, they take note of your behaviors—good and bad. That’s why it’s crucial to remind yourself every day that you are the first and most important role model for your child.

5. “Fathers are so necessary as examples and guides for our children in wisdom and virtue. Without father figures, young people often feel orphaned; left adrift at a critical moment in their growth and development.” – Pope Francis

Children need their fathers! They need you for support, encouragement, and love. Without this, they feel an immense hole in their lives. But with a father’s loving presence, a child can thrive. You don’t have to be Superman. You don’t have to have a high-paying job. You just have to be present in your child’s life. Do the little things your children will remember. Take walks. Talk. Go for ice cream. Tell silly jokes. Play games. Pray. These are the things that teach a child he is loved. These are the things that make him feel secure.

6. “When a child is given to his parents, a crown is made for that child in heaven, and woe to the parents who raise a child without consciousness of that eternal crown!” – Fulton J. Sheen

Faith is the most important thing we can give our children, for without faith, their souls are in jeopardy. Our Lord entrusts our children to us. He commands that we care for them, nurture them, and teach them His laws. Yes, children do sometimes stray from the faith, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to guide them back. We pray daily for our children. We communicate God’s love and mercy. And we love them unconditionally, just as God loves us.

This Father’s Day, we thank all the fathers and father figures in our lives. You make a huge difference in your families! And we are praying daily for you.

If you would like to teach your elementary-aged children about St. Joseph, the Culture of Life Studies Program has an awesome downloadable lesson that explains why we honor St. Joseph as the guardian of the Church. Students will also learn the important role that fathers play in our lives and why we should turn to St. Joseph for his intercession.