Saturday, June 18, 2011

Witnessing what it means to be a father

Because I want to be free from as many commitments as possible tomorrow, I wanted to post something for Father's Day a little early. Going back to my days as an accomplished high school extemporaneous speaker under the tutelage now U.S. Representative- Rob Bishop, I want to briefly write about three things: First of all, I want to wish a happy Father's Day to two parishioners and friends who are truly remarkable dads, Paul and Joseph. Paul is the father of two beautiful daughters. He was unexpectedly left as a single parent when his wife tragically died in November 2010. Joseph is the single father of 5 children after being divorced. Both of these men show me what it means to be utterly selfless, especially when I might be getting a little full of myself, in their service to their children. As fathers, both of these men really show anyone who cares to pay attention what it means to be a dad. The power of their witness lies in the quiet way they live deeply Christian lives on behalf of their children.

The second thing is that yesterday was my Dad's 73rd birthday. As my readers know, he passed in January. Tomorrow will be my first Father's Day ever without him in the world. It makes me feel kind of empty. His headstone is being installed today, in the space between his birthday and Father's Day. It brings home to me, yet again, how blessed I was to have a Dad, a man of few words (unlike his sometimes verbose only son), who taught me how to be a man, even how to die like a man, meaning even as he lay dying he was more concerned about all of us than about himself. I miss you, Dad.

St. John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests

Finally, in the wake of all seemingly unending affronts to the priesthood, I want to thank the many priests I know who are wonderful fathers. These are the priests who see and do not shrink back from the paternal aspect of their vocation. Just this week, in the midst of trying to reach a satisfactory conclusion concerning my ministry, I asked a priest of our diocese if he could make some time to speak with me and advise me. He is very busy as pastor of his parish and I am not a parishioner, or a deacon assigned to his parish. Well, he spent the entire afternoon with me. It didn't even dawn on me until I took him back to his parish and went in to use the restroom before driving home, what spending that time with me meant for him. As he walked in, his secretary had about four urgent messages for him (like nearly everyone on the go these days, he has a smartphone, which he only checked once while he was with me), including that a woman in the parish he had been visiting was in need of anointing, as it didn't look like she was going to make it through the day.

The reality that is eclipsed in all the clutter is the selfless and dedicated service of so many wonderful priests, who, like Joseph, Paul, and my Dad, live for others. I personally know many, many priests like that. So, to them, too, HAPPY FATHER'S DAY, Fathers! The power of your quiet witness shines all the more brightly in the darkness that sometimes seems to engulf priestly ministry these days.

St. John Vianney, holy patron of parish priests, pray for your brothers.


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