Father Hunger: Richard Rohr
The power of relationship is passed on through relationship and experience. It isn’t passed on through books. To discover masculine energy, we need to be in relationship with someone who has progressed farther along on the journey. We need to be mentored. When I was a young newly ordained priest, a Franciscan mentor did me the greatest favor. He said, “Richard, a lot of people are intuitive, but you trust your intuition and go with it. I want you to promise me you will always trust your intuition.”
Now that is a wonderful example of a man giving another man masculine energy – of a man mentoring, fathering another man. Somehow – and this is the heart of the problem – men have lost the ability to pass on the wisdom and experience of their life and who they are. All they know how to do is pass on roles, money and opinions, but not who they are. I would see that as the single greatest lack of power, dysfunction and disability in civilization today. No civilization has survived if the elders did not see their task as passing on the fruit of their experience to the young through some kind of initiation rite. We, however, look forward to old age so we can retire and move to Florida. In so many of the countries that I have visited men are no longer authoritative or empowered – leaders in any true sense. They have walked no spiritual journeys so they have nothing to offer. All they can do is go in the direction of clichés, control, comfort, legality and all the rest. That’s all that is available to them. As a result, there is a tremendous father hunger within many societies today.
Just what do you mean by ‘father hunger’?
By “father hunger” I mean the profound, but usually unconscious longing for affirmation and limits from male authority figures. The most common words people use to describe their relationships with their fathers are “absence,” “sadness” and “I don’t know him.” Men have not been given the permission or the skills to pass on who they are to their children. We often know what makes fathers angry, but not the deep desires and dreams of their hearts, much less their loneliness and hurt. That vacuum creates a similar emptiness in the hearts of sons and daughters. Dad is an unnameable mystery, which only calls forth fear, doubt and sometimes endless rebellion. I do not want to see everything through one prism, but I do believe that father hunger is at least intrinsically involved in such diverse phenomena as military and athletic bonding, prostitution and addiction to success and power, some expressions of homosexuality, gangs and male aggression, many women’s acquiescence to sexism, and the practice today in otherwise intelligent groups of “killing the leader.’ In Latin countries, I am convinced that machismo is basically men strutting their stuff in front of one another much more than it is an attempt to win the woman. A man who has been initiated into manhood by his father has no need to be macho. An insecure, uninitiated man has to be: He takes on the symbolic, exaggerated masculine [role] because he has never been given the real thing. If fathers could pass on their feelings, their excitement, their grief, their touch and the process of their struggles to become authentic men instead of just their dogmatic conclusions to their sons and daughters, I believe that we would have a very different world. There would be less mistrust and anger toward power and maleness, much less need for war and competition, much less fear and making demons of the unknown enemy. We are now living in a time when many people believe that all men are stupid, insensitive and selfseeking. There is no way to build up good models of maleness when males themselves are ashamed and mistrustful of maleness. I want to talk about this to give some men the courage to be true fathers and mentors, to start walking the inner and outer journeys so they have something to pass on to the next generation of the sons and daughters of God. The young need the wisdom and the blessing of their fathers who are truly fathers for them. In this age of feminism and increasing equality between the sexes, is there a need to speak of masculine spirituality?
 That affirmation gives the young person identity and empowers him to get out of himself and give self to others. End of the turning to self that is homosexuality.