In his new book, “Our Father: Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer,” Pope Francis offers his insights into some of Jesus’s most profound words. In this excerpt from the book, the Pope discusses the importance of spiritual fatherhood.

The first thing needed is this: that the father be present in the family. That he be close to his wife, to share everything, joys and sorrows, hardships and hopes. A father needs to be close to the children as they grow up; when they are playing and when they are working on a task; when they are carefree and when they are troubled. He needs to be there when they are outgoing and when they are withdrawn; when they are daring and when they are fearful; when they make a misstep and when they get back on track; the father must be present, always. Being present does not mean being in control! Because fathers who control too much are crushing their children, they are not letting them grow up.

The Gospel speaks to us of the exemplary nature of the Father who is in heaven—the only one, Jesus says, who can truly be called “good Father” (cf. Mk 10:18). We have already mentioned the parable of “the prodigal son,” or better, of “the merciful father,” which is found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15 (cf. 15:11–32). What dignity and tenderness there is in how the father stands at the door of that house, waiting for his son to come back! Fathers have to be patient. So many times there is nothing that can be done but wait with patience, kindness, generosity, and mercy, and pray.

A good father knows how to wait and knows how to forgive sincerely. Of course, he also knows how to give firm correction. He is not a weak father, a pushover, sentimental. The father who knows how to correct without discouraging is the same one who knows how to protect without sparing himself.

A good father knows how to wait and knows how to forgive sincerely. Of course, he also knows how to give firm correction. He is not a weak father, a pushover, sentimental. The father who knows how to correct without discouraging is the same one who knows how to protect without sparing himself.

One time at a conference on the topic of marriage, I heard one dad say, “Sometimes I have to discipline my kids a little, but I never humiliate them.” How beautiful! The father has a sense of dignity. He has to reprimand, but he does it in the right way, to correct behavior, and then moves on.

Therefore, if there is someone who can fully explain the prayer of the Our Father as taught by Jesus, it is precisely someone with his own personal experience of fatherhood. Without the grace that comes from the Father who is in heaven, fathers lose courage and abandon the field. However, children need to find a father who is waiting for them when they return from their failures. These children will do all they can in order not to admit their mistakes, not to let their embarrassment show, but they need this security. Not finding their father at the door opens wounds inside of them that are difficult to heal.

The Church, our mother, is committed to supporting with all her strength the good and generous presence of fathers in families. For the younger generations, fathers are the irreplaceable guardians and mediators of faith in the goodness, of faith in the justice, and faith in the protection of God, like Saint Joseph.