There is a feeling in the air that the father figure has been rejected. The crowding of diverse and contradictory feelings towards the father figure makes it not an easy matter to talk about. The rejection of the father by so many of our contemporaries makes us wary of using the father figure to excess when we speak of God. The Father-Mother we are speaking about here is a metaphor for the mysterious and ultimate Other to whom we can entrust ourselves without fear, certain that we will be welcomed, cleansed and forgiven. Many of us have had a glimpse of the face of a Father-Mother who is able to love us unreservedly, in the happy experience of our relationships with our fathers and mothers. But there are some whose experiences were not entirely happy, and still others for whom the experience was negative, who perhaps feel in their hearts an even stronger yearning for the utterly Other they can abandon themselves to.
This book is about how difficult it is to recognise the father, how bitter is our own and our modern culture’s rejection of the Father, and how certain it is that life has meaning only when we see it as a return to the Father. I know it is quite a difficult road.
Nevertheless without it the “Year of the Father” will end up as a heap of pious phrases without having inspired any true conversion.
Carlo Maria Martini was Archbishop of Milan from 1980 to 2002. He was a prolific writer and renowned biblical scholar.