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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Year for Priests and Father's Day

I don't think it's any mistake that several important days are converging along with the advent of a very important year in the history of the Church.

The Year for Priests began on Friday, June 19, which "happened" also to be the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Today, of course, is the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and tomorrow is the secular "feast"....Father's Day.

Fr. Cory Sticha has an incredible homily for this weekend's Mass readings, and one of the things that struck me the most was the reality of the Spiritual Fatherhood of Priests.

"This year, we have a second fatherhood which we are asked to remember. On Friday, the feast of the Sacred Heart, Pope Benedict proclaimed the Year for Priests, a year of prayer for priests and celebration of the ministerial priesthood. Like Fathers' Day for our earthly, physical fathers, we are called during this special year to remember those priests who have truly shown the spiritual fatherhood that is the nature of the priesthood.

While most priests are not fathers by birth, all priests are called to be spiritual fathers, who give the same self-giving love to the people they have been called to serve. The focus of any priest should not be on his needs and desires, but on what is best for the parishioners that he's called to both serve and lead. Sometimes that service and leadership might lead to making decisions that aren't popular, but priests are still called to make those decisions on behalf of the parishioners.

Priests are also called to teach and preach the saving love of God and show the example of loving God and loving our neighbors. We're called to join in celebrating joyful occasions, and to be a source of comfort in times of sorrow. In short, we are called to be fathers. It's not a coincidence that the spiritual fatherhood and the earthly fatherhood have similar job descriptions. Both draw from the example of God our Father in Heaven."

I have to admit, Father's Day is always a bit difficult for me, and it kind of stops me in my tracks to realize that next year, my birthday will be ON Father's Day.

I've written before about how I was a "Daddy's Girl", which is pretty common for little girls. By the time he died, I'd long grown out of that phase, but of course that closeness, even when wounded, remains. We all NEED our Fathers; they're so important in our formation on so many levels, for they reveal to us, in a sense, the face of God, the love of God, and the protection of God.

Sometime in the last year, my Mom told me that she believes I was conceived on (or near) my Dad's birthday and her projected due date was close enough to Father's Day that they hoped for it. As it was, apparently I missed it by a day or so.

Just the same, every year my birthday and Father's Day was always close enough so that it was a special time for Dad and I, and we often celebrated our days together. If anything, that joint celebration probably strengthened our bond, and Dad was always so proud to have those special dates so close together.

But sometimes life gets in the way, and bonds are broken, although maybe not completely shattered or destroyed.

Even though I hadn't seen my Dad for nearly four years when he passed away, my grief hit me hard, and it comes back again around my birthday/Father's Day. It's easier when it's a few days apart, but this year it's the same weekend. Next year...the same day.

My heart caught in my throat when I looked ahead, realizing this. Realizing that finally, the dates converge.

I haven't had a Father since 1995.

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about the recognition of the spiritual fatherhood of priests, although it's one I took down. It was somewhat shocking then, to read Fr. Sticha's words that seem to follow the same lines of thought I'd had at that time.

I remember going to the chapel in my annual grief, lamenting that I didn't have a father, missing my Dad. And I remember pondering the priests in my life and their spritual fatherhood and how, after I'd become a member of a parish, the priests there became...Fathers. I wouldn't be where I am now without them.

No, it's NOT the same as having my Dad. I can't just call up the parish priest and complain to him about this that and the the other thing, ask him to fix my car, change out my ceiling fan for one that works, etc. etc.

What they do is so much more important than such menial tasks. Priests show us the face of Christ, they bring to us His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. They feed us with a Divine food far greater than any mere earthly meal, and through them, the Mercy of Jesus Christ is revealed to us and absolves us of our sins. On the more temporal level, those I know have helped me get into grad school, have helped me get my current job, and are assisting me in my discernment of a religious Vocation. (Actually, several Fathers are helping me, in different ways, on this particular front!)

After all...what good Father doesn't want to see his daughter married well?

So even as I face this annual bout of grief for my Dad, I know that I am not so fatherless, for there are a HOST of Priests who have been and will continue to be Fathers to me, and to all of us.

Tomorrow, as we pray for our earthly Fathers, living and dead, let us also remember to pray for Priests, for it is their spiritual Fatherhood that ensures we will never be orphans.


Mac McLernon said...

I haven't had a Father since 1995

You have. Your father is yours for the rest of time. That's what makes becoming a parent such an awesome responsibility. He's just been watching you from Purgatory / Heaven.

I know, it doesn't feel the same, but he's still your dad.

Adoro said...

Mac ~ Thanks for your comment, and of course, yes, I know that. That's why it's called "grief". And on this earth, I HAVEN'T had a Father since 1995. That's what's called reality.

And some days it's really painful. To state what I did in this post is not a denial of his fatherhood, only an expression of the reality of grief. I hope you understand that.