Husband & Wife Articles


Mom is from Advent, Dad is from Lent

Three lessons from the Church’s two seasons

By Ken Davison

We’ve arrived in Easter — Alleluia! — but we had to pass through Lent to do it. So indulge me momentarily for a backward glance at those “40 Days.”

When I ponder the long and hard journey of Lent, it calls to mind Advent, the other time when the priest wears violet at Mass and the Church asks us to prepare our hearts and souls through extra prayer and penance. Both are times of anticipation of joyful celebration. Both are about a great gift that we don’t deserve. Both are about the love of God for all his children.

Yet the seasons differ in what we are expecting. Advent’s preparation is oriented towards the love of a mother with the birth of Jesus, while the trial of Lent focuses on the love of a father.

I think moms are from Advent, but dads are from Lent.

Do you notice how much Jesus mentions his Father in the days leading up to his crucifixion? Throughout his ministry Jesus repeats that he is doing the work of his Father, showing the love of his Father in his words, miracles and works, but during his Passion he is particularly explicit: to his Apostles at the Last Supper, in his words and actions during his trials, even in his words from the cross. And although he says to his Father, “Thy will be done,” he does ask if the sacrifice his Father is asking could be done in a less arduous way.

I think we fathers can learn from this example how we need to show our love to our children: we, too, need to recognize that a father’s love is and should be different from a mother’s – just as Advent differs from Lent – though both arrive at a celebration of the living Jesus Christ.

A mother’s love is revealed through what she brings. It is comforting and consoling and comes to us. Didn’t your mother bring you joy by getting down to play with you and snuggle you, giving you comfort and confidence in her love for you just as you are? It’s what we look forward to all Advent, the love of a mother for her son.

On the other hand, a father’s love is demanding and dangerous and we need to reach for it. A father’s love is revealed when we share in his work. Remember the times your father allowed you to help him do his work, when you did something you weren’t certain you could do, as you aspired to be what he wanted you to become? You had to go out to him, and when you did, you found the love that was there all along. It’s why we struggle through Lent, at first thinking we’ve only reached a cross; and then we find just beyond it a glorious victory over every evil in the world!

So, dads, try these three tips to show some daddy-love. Help your children grow to trust Our Father in heaven as they carry their own crosses to reach the joy just beyond:

Let your children share in your work: Children need to work alongside dad, even more than they need “quality time” sharing entertainment and leisure. On weekends, invite them to come along and help you instead of playing their games. And just like Our Lord’s Father in heaven spoke words of encouragement for his Son, you can do great things for your children by letting them show what they can do as your workmate — and then thanking them for a job well done.

Let your children experience some “danger” and your protection: Jesus knew his Father was always there through his difficulties and trials. Dads swing kids and carry them on their shoulders and do all sorts of “dangerous” things, while moms are warning, “Be careful — should you really be doing that?!” (You’ve experienced this, haven’t you?) You know that you are careful, because you’re their dad. But, then again, you are a dad. So let them learn that dad is strong and daring and fun — so they needn’t fear when you’re around, because you’ll always catch them and you won’t ever drop them. Just like their Father in heaven is stronger than any evil, and he will always hold them in his hands.

Let your children experience obedience: Daddy’s love is revealed in enforcing the rules, not in creating exceptions — especially regarding the rules that to the violators “don’t make sense” (yes: I have teenagers). You know what I mean. My wife is much more willing than I am to chip away on the edges of punishments and to second-guess rules after infractions have occurred. Don’t be harsh, but let the rules be clear and the consequences, too, then let mom do the consoling while you stand firm on your word. Our Lord was obedient even unto death, which didn’t seem to make much sense to those around him at the time. But — Alleluia! – his Father had it all figured out. Thank God for Lent!

Ken Davison is the founder of Holy Heroes, a Catholic family apostolate that offers resources and inspiration. He and his wife live in North Carolina with their eight children.