YOUTH AND FATHERS. Fr Sammy Mabusela talks to Toni Rowland.
When I asked Fr Sammy Mabusela, the new secretary for Youth at the SACBC to write an article on youth, fathers and families he firstly shared something deep and personal, his own pain at not having his father as an active player in his life.
“I would start by saying that this generation is a fatherless generation. I am saying this from personal experience because I grew up without a father. What I could not reconcile with was the fact that we had to say the Our Father prayer in my home , one of the first prayers that my grandmother taught me.
From the prayer, I understood that a father was supposed to be someone that you are proud of and who is a role model to you, but then how could I have him as a role model if he was not there, when I could not even feel his presence? Fathers were supposed to instil values and be a disciplinarian, but how could I do the will of the father who is not there.
Fathers are supposed to provide and protect their families, how could mine provide when he was not there.
As children we are supposed to run to our fathers for protection and security but now we run away from them because they are causing us enormous pain by abusing us emotionally, physically and psychologically.
Despite them being disciplinarians, they are supposed to teach us forgiveness, but instead we learn to fight, hurt and cause pain, because in our homes if they are there, all we hear and see is shouting and screaming, not shouts of joy because the person who is my Daddy is home.
We end up being bitter, resentful and full of rage and this is manifested in the violent people we become at home, school and in church.
We end up feeling unworthy and unwanted and then we become tempted to have destructive behaviour, indulging in drug abuse or alcohol abuse, because we want to fill the void that is inside of us, a hunger for love, which is a hunger for God, for God is love.
It never ceased to amaze me that this man (father) has the same title as Father (God), who is love and this father has to teach me and be the earthly father who emulates the heavenly Father. How will I know, love and follow the heavenly Father, if the earthly father is not there and is not bothered to teach me who He is?
In an interview we discussed the vision and work of the Youth Desk. His aim is to establish a strong network, effective youth chaplains and ultimately to provide holistic formation to youth through programmes such as Education for Life or around Theology of the Body.
Fr Sammy shared that he had always had an interest in youth work and believed that youth were not given a hearing and that their talents and gifts to the Church and the country are neglected. His own personal story has a bearing on this too. He spoke with great love and respect about his paternal grandmother who had brought him up. His own parents hardly featured in his life and he has little contact with his siblings. His grandfather died when he was only 6 years old. However he considered father figures in the community to be an important and a valuable influence on him claiming that children need someone to journey with, to nurture them physically, spiritually and mentally as a whole person.
We discussed the broader issue of fathering. I asked if the community provided a father figure, why then did he have difficulty with equating God with such a figure. He observed that in spite of this support he believes that every child has a need for their own father, to relate to closely in order to be able to relate to God as a father. God was clearly not a mother figure either. The image of God as Father based on a child’s life experience can be very inadequate. Mentor too, doesn’t fit the bill. “Too distant and businesslike” he claimed.
We touched on the role of the priest as father. He sees himself as fatherly and called to be so, having a personal involvement in child-care projects. A sad result of the abuse scandals has been the need for priests to withdraw from the “fatherly” and the close contact with children that many did enjoy.
An important question for the Youth Desk is, “How can the Desk go about formation of youth as future parents, boys as fathers too.” We agreed that collaboration with the Family Life Desk can help to provide that component “You’d be amazed how many youth are, in their heart of hearts, interested in a good marriage and raising good families” he said.
There are massive external pressures to be socially acceptable. The lack of extramural activities for some rural youth also contributes to boys and girls being sexually active. Sometimes girls, especially those who have been deprived of a father in their life, are looking for a father figure in an older man or even a boy. Can the attitude really still be true that “if he doesn’t beat you he doesn’t love you?” Do we still have a long way to go to impress on adults the importance of fathers being there for their children and to affirm in youth the concept of a future healthy marriage and a healthy family?
A true father is not one engaged in domestic violence or even a disciplinarian but primarily one who is intimately connected and seen as a protector, provider and carer. Like God.