……from your Pastor’s Desk
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY
I am constantly amazed at how God can bring good out of bad. Case in point, I can’t tell you how many fathers got to spend time with their children these last few months. Unplanned, of course, but to see them in the courtyard with their little ones teaching them to ride a bike, or out in the parking lot riding with them on bigger bikes together, or stretching and doing exercises on the lawn or just playing games with them. I’ve had a few say to me that they never realized how smart or joyful or loving their kids were before. But having, and taking, the time to be with them, well, was a real joy to these fathers.
The word ‘father’ brings up many different emotions and feelings for people. Hopefully for most it is positive, but not everyone has had a good father. Some have never had a father at all. So what does it mean to be a father? Let us look at one of the most famous fathers. Saint Joseph. I love the image of Saint Joseph as portrayed in the movie ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ by Franco Zeffirelli. Rent this or buy it if you can. He is joyful, gentle, and kind. He takes on the responsibility of Mary and her unborn child – at great personal risk. He provides for them and is present to their every need. As Jesus grows he is shown teaching him and the other neighborhood boys the Carpentry trade. What impressed me most about the portrayal of this character is that he was always smiling. Smiling is a good thing. He showed a genuine love for people, all people, and in that he truly reflected Our Heavenly Father – even as he raised His Son.
I see these traits of St. Joseph in many men today – including those who are not biological fathers. It is evident in uncles, teachers, family friends, other relatives, and yes, even in some priests. I have had wonderful priests as mentors and father figures. When I hear the word ‘father’ to address a priest I think of it as an action verb rather than as a proper noun. It‘s not a title, it‘s a description. It‘s what we do – not just what we are called. I have tried to live up to the examples I‘ve seen of ‘fatherhood’ throughout my priestly life – and I have learned much from experience and observation.
- I learned that what a child really needs is your time. Even just a few minutes a day. Even if just a bike-ride.
- I‘ve learned that a father teaches his children many things – but not by what he says to them as much as by what he does with them.
- I‘ve learned that we should not be threatened by our children, or envious of them or their accomplishments.
- I‘ve learned we should support and encourage our children – not criticize and tear them down.
- I‘ve learned that love definitely means having to say you are sorry when you‘ve hurt your children.
- I‘ve learned that ignoring your children is a far worse punishment than a spanking.
- I‘ve learned to be thankful to God for sharing their life with us.
Can all fathers match up to this all the time? I don‘t know. I know I can‘t – not all the time. But that‘s Ok. Fatherhood, like Priesthood, is acquired by living and learning. Having a child or being ordained merely begins that process. It is a lifelong journey and seen as such – there can be great joy in the journey as you grow together with those to whom you have been entrusted.
So Happy Father’s day to all men who have raised or influenced the lives of children, whether biological fathers or not. And finally, Happy Father’s day too to all the single parent women who have been/are mother and father to their children.
God Bless us all.