The Catechism of the Catholic
Church on the Our Father #2
August 13, 1995
Brother John Raymond
Continuing my discussion of the Our Father I would like to
consider "Our Father Who art in Heaven," which we pray so many
times. What are we saying when we are praying this? Do we really
appreciate the fact that we call God our Father? Other religions
accept and teach God as Almighty, Holy, etc. But these same
religions would consider it a sacrilege to refer to God as our
Father. Our Lord Himself was accused of just such a charge by the
The Holy Mass introduces the "Our Father" by saying, "and so we
have the courage to say." I don't think we are always fully
conscious of how radical is the idea of God as Father. St.
Athanasius (d. 373) wrote, "It is the great mercy of God that He
becomes the Father of those to whom He is first the Creator." St.
Augustine (d. 430) explains that "Man, created in the image of God,
is not of the same nature as God, and therefore, is not His true son
but he becomes His son through the grace of Divine Mercy." St.
Ambrose (d. 397) tells us that we are begotten of God through
Baptism. A holy person was told that the words of God the Father at
Our Lord's baptism, "This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well
pleased," apply to each of us at our baptism. Because of the grace
given to us by the Holy Spirit we can participate in that unique
Father-Son relationship in God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us what effect our
adoption by God should have on us__continual conversion and new
life. (#2784) By having God as our Father we should have the desire
to be like Him. For example, St. Ambrose tells us that when men
practice mercy it makes them perfect in that it imitates the perfect
Father. There is no greater honor one can give one's parents than
imitation. A father is so pleased when his son takes over the
business he started. We have that wonderfully interesting
expression, "Like father like son." Our Lord told us, "Be perfect as
your Heavenly Father is perfect." He, of course, was the perfect
image of His Father__"He Who sees Me sees the Father."
Another aspect of God as our Father is the trust and intimacy we
should have toward Him as His children. The monastic writer John
Cassian (d. 435) tells us that the prayer of the Our Father is
fulfilled when we speak to God as our Father with love, familiarity
and devotion. Jesus taught us to have this confidence in God as our
Father. We are to ask Him for what we need knowing that He will give
us that which is good for us. Some people have been damaged in
relating to God as Father by the poor example of their own father.
But we should remember that God does not have any negative
qualities__only positive ones. Whatever image we may have of a
perfect father, God far exceeds it.
God is in Heaven, as we say in the Our Father. Perhaps some
people take this to mean He is distant from us. But we are told in
the Catechism that this biblical expression does not mean a place
but a state of being, not a distant God but a majestic one. (#2794)
St. Augustine interprets God's Heaven as being in the hearts of the
just. Also, that those who pray this "should desire the one they
invoke to dwell in them." St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386) explains
that "Heaven" could refer to those "who bear the image of the
heavenly world and in whom God dwells." Being with God is Heaven.
Our guardian angels who are at our side day and night have not left
heaven. We can say that Heaven is all around us and in us__we just
don't have the eyes to see it. As St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1380)
liked to put it, "All the way to Heaven is Heaven." In other words
Heaven does not begin when we die, it has already begun by grace in
With these reflections on the opening words of the Our Father let
us deepen our appreciation and love for our Father. Let us grow in
this relationship with our "Abba"__which means Daddy!