When attempting to find out what experts consider to be the paramount qualities in a good father, it seems clear right away that consensus on the question does not exist. For every one “considered opinion” there are at least a dozen others who prize things totally different or occasionally even opposite. No wonder there is confusion and murkiness on this question.
Relationships, just like God himself, are by their very nature complex . . . we do a severe injustice to important things like fatherhood by attempting to be reductionist about them.
The traditional Catholic response to the plethora of diverse opinions on this should usually be the “both/and” answer . . . we do not believe oversimplifying important things like this.
Fatherhood is very much a massive blend of many virtues, all coming together in infinitely diverse combinations to make strong and real; something that we as Catholics understand comes initially from God. As our Father and Creator it is He who gives us life; it is He who models for us the greatest qualities of caring for others . . . and it is He who comforts us always in our times of need.
And at the risk of sounding reductionist, maybe that is a somewhat-overlooked image that does deserve some reflection on our parts . . . the Father who brings us comfort.
God is there for us . . . he models all that is good and consoling in all of existence. Just like God himself, a father is to bring hope, relief, reassurance and calm. He is to be a rock of stability even when he may not feel all that secure himself. He teaches justice, mercy and kindness and brings the gift of presence when it is so needed.
And most importantly he teaches us to think of others first . . . for sacrifice is an essential part of the contentment and the comfort that he brings.
It is no accident that Jesus taught us to call God “father” just as it is also no accident that those who stand in his persona here on Earth are called “father” as well. Just as God is the source of all goodness, so must those who reflect him and act for him, labor to be his comforting presence to all they encounter.
This is what we call being pastoral . . . this is where we seek out our comfort . . . for this is he whom we call “Father.”