Lessons for Dads from the spontaneous gestures of the Holy Father

Dads, take a Father’s Day lesson from the Holy Father.

Pope Francis is gaining quite a reputation for spontaneous gestures that show his joy or compassion. And his visit to the Holy Land included more off-the-script moments.

For example, on his way to a Mass in Bethlehem, he made an unscheduled stop to pray before a grafitti-covered, controversial separation wall built by Israel over Palestinian protests on West Bank land. During a ceremony with Holocaust survivors in the Hall of Remembrance in Jerusalem, Pope Francis bowed and kissed their hands.

When asked about such actions during an interview aboard the papal plane home, Pope Francis said “the most authentic gestures are those you don’t think about . . . it just occurs to me to do something spontaneously that way.”

As a Dad, I get that.

Sometimes family life is scripted — First Communions, graduations, wedding choreography — but most often it’s not. And our love as parents is most often modeled in the unscripted times, when a hug is needed but not requested, a correction is called for but unwanted, gratitude is spoken instead of assumed. The list goes on.

As Father’s Day approaches, fellow Dads, let’s think about the signals our gestures are sending — positive and negative — to our children and our spouses. What can we do better?

Pope Francis is teaching us. And like his saintly namesake from Assisi used to say, sometimes he uses words. — Thomas J. Dermody

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