Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. As Catholics, we believe in one God who is three divine persons—the Holy Trinity. It’s a distinctly Christian belief. It’s a truth revealed by God himself, known by faith. Why is an understanding of the Trinity important in the Christian life and for Christian fathers?
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
16 June 2019
Our Lord Jesus revealed the Trinity to us out of love. Consequently, his teaching on the Trinity reveals the reality of the inner life of God. Clearly, Jesus did not reveal this wondrous yet mysterious truth simply to have it brushed aside. If we love God, we too must love what he has revealed and seek to understand this revelation to the best of our ability, since it belongs to love to strive to know the One who is loved. It’s about getting to know who God really is—the exemplary goal of the Christian life.
We should take a keen interest in the Trinity because we are called to model and image the Trinity in our lives. We should ardently desire to know all about the Trinity because we are destined to become like God and are given a share in his divine nature by virtue of baptism and the other sacraments, especially the Eucharist. The Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and life (CCC 261).
The Holy Trinity
Our readings at the holy sacrifice of the Mass today are trinitarian in character. They point to the truth of the existence of the Tripersonal God.
In our 1st reading from Proverbs, we learn that Wisdom (referring to the Son of God) is preexistent, brought forth before time began and hence is eternal. The Wisdom of God (or Son of God) is eternally begotten of the Father. The Son of God is eternally generated from the Father: “God from God, light from light, true God from true God,” as we profess in the Nicene Creed.
In eternity God the Father, the First Person of the Holy Trinity, generates the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. The infinite divine love between Father and Son generate the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. The love of Father and Son bring about divine love personified, the Holy Spirit.
In our gospel from John, Christ speaks about how he will send forth the Spirit of Truth. The Spirit will not speak on his own but will reveal what he has heard from Christ. Jesus goes on to tell us that everything the Father has is his—he possesses everything the Father possesses. Therefore, the truth the Spirit reveals is from the Father and from Christ, the Son of God. It is their one, single truth. This teaches us about the communion and union of the Trinity. The Trinity is one God. One divine mind, one divine will, one divine nature. The three divine Persons of the Trinity are co-equally God. Each fully possesses the divine nature of God.
The Christian Family and the Role of Christian Fathers
It is the teaching of the Church that the Christian family is to be an image or reflection of the divine family of the Trinity. It is to model the Trinity. It is to be ordered according to the communion of love found in the three divine Persons of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
As you might guess, the father of a human family is to live as an image and model of God the Father, the Creator. He is to be an image and model of the Son of God, who is Wisdom, and who is “the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). He is to image and model the Holy Spirit to his family, who is the loving Advocate, Sanctifier and Spirit of Truth.
A number of the problems we are witnessing in society today are due to a breakdown in the understanding of the role of fatherhood—or a rejection of it—and in a failure to live out that role in a way that models the Holy Trinity. Let’s be clear: fatherhood is under attack severely. This attack is, ultimately, demonic in nature, for Satan desires to compel man to reject his creation in the image and likeness of God. The devil loves the idea of destroying marriages, families, and children by thwarting and confusing the role of fatherhood in society. Satan desires to disillusion fathers, to disrupt their understanding of who they are called to be, and to lead women to despise and reject masculinity and the role of fatherhood in the created order.
The gender ideology of the day is evil. It is demonic in origin. It is a product of a sin, corruption, and a hate for God and the created order he himself ordained and brought into being. If it continues to progress, it can be said that humanity has fallen into hate for itself.
Virtues of the Catholic and Christian Father
Given that today is Father’s Day, I’ve put together a list of virtues of the Catholic Father. This is just a “short list,” of course. Much more can be said. But it’s my hope that it will provide you with helpful information on how Christian fathers can better model their lives on the blessed Holy Trinity. In doing so, marriages, families, children, society, and the common good will be nourished and fostered in many positive ways.
The Catholic father is the spiritual leader of his household and family, as God the Father is the First Person of the Holy Trinity. Christ said of his relationship to God the Father: “The Father is greater than I” (Jn 14:28). This does not mean that Christ is a lesser God or is less divine than the Father. It means that Jesus voluntarily submits his human will in perfect obedience to the divine will of his Father. This is done in love, not slavery. Within the Holy Trinity, the divine will is perfect unity. It is one. The Persons of the Trinity are not at odds with each other.
As another example, Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise” (Jn 5:19). Again, this does not mean Jesus is less than fully God. It emphasizes unity of mind, will, and divinity between Jesus and God the Father.
The Catholic Father is the spiritual leader of his marriage, as God divinely reveals in scripture through St. Paul: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. (Eph 5:22-24). In Eph 5:32 Paul teaches that Christian marriage images the relationship between Christ and his Bride, the Church.
This relationship between husband and wife is ordered by and based on love, as Christ loved his Church even to the point of giving himself up to death for her, as divine revelation teaches: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, …. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Eph 5:25-26, 28).
The Catholic father is the spiritual leader of his children as God commands children to “honor your father and your mother” in that particular order. God did not say, “honor your mother and your father.”
By virtue of the spiritual leadership of a Christian father, his prayer for his family carries with it a special emphasis and power before God. It is a father’s duty, role, and honor to pray for his family as its spiritual leader.
The Catholic father leads his family in the practice of the Christian religion, the virtue of the worship of God, and prayer by setting the rule and example, with devotion and conviction. A father who is lax in this area promotes error and may place his family in spiritual peril. Studies show that teens and young adults who are indifferent to attending Holy Mass and lax in their faith often grew up in households where fathers displayed the same attitude.
Catholic fathers, then, make it a priority to provide spiritual and religious example to their entire family. They stand before and in Christ, modeling their deeds and words on him. They expect their families to do the same.
Catholic fathers provide doctrinal example to their families. They are men committed to the truth as they are committed to Christ, the light who shines in the darkness (Jn 1:5). They are men of faith who take an active interest in learning and applying the belief of the Church. They inform their lives by the Word of God and Sacred Tradition. They actively demonstrate love for dogma and doctrine to their entire families.
Catholic fathers set an authentic, true moral example for their families. They teach their family the moral doctrines of Christ and his Church by their words and deeds, by their determined fidelity to the commandments of God. They remain totally committed to living a moral life in conformity to the true good. They hold purity of mind and heart as paramount. They recognize that living a moral life in Christ and leading their family to do the same is an essential characteristic of a Christian father. In doing so, they give honor and glory to God and help their wives and children to attain the glory of God in heaven.
By virtue of their leadership in Christ and through the Holy Spirit before God the Father, Catholic fathers are the protectors of their families. They sacrifice for their family’s well-being, giving even their life, if necessary, for Christ said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). How much more so is a father’s duty to lay down his life for his wife and children?
Catholic fathers protect their children from the relativistic and moral bankruptcy of the day. They protect their children’s purity of heart and moral integrity. They guard their wife and daughters in purity and modesty. They protect their sons from attacks on masculinity by teaching them to model their lives on Christ, God-made-man, through whom the truth is fully revealed. Catholic fathers teach their sons to truly live as men.
Last, when difficult times or suffering arrives, as it always does, the Catholic father stands before his family and in the Holy Spirit and proclaims the words of St. Paul we heard today:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Rom 5:1-5)
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel.