Father’s Day honors many icons of fatherhood

aymond    Can you share your thoughts on next Sunday being Father’s Day?
     I’d like to salute all those who share in the important vocation of fatherhood. Very often when people hear the word vocation, they think of the priesthood or religious life, but we believe that marriage is a vocation. It’s a call from God and a sacrament, and we believe fatherhood is a call within the call of marriage. We honor fathers for their willingness to participate with their wives in the procreative work of God in giving birth to a child. There is a special blessing for the father in the baptismal rite that specifically reminds the father that he is to be the first and the best of teachers in the ways of faith for his child. The father is asked not only to help give his child life but also to share with him or her God’s life as a Christian.
    Fatherhood is not just biological fatherhood.
    That’s correct. It’s important that we as a nation take a day to give thanks to God for our human fathers, living and deceased. But it’s also important that we give honor to those who serve as adopted fathers, as foster fathers, as stepfathers and those in our lives to whom we are not related but who have served as important father figures.
    What does the church teach about fatherhood?
    The real theology that we embrace as Christians is that the father is given the privileged responsibility of forming and raising his child. He presents to the child, by his love and example, the fatherly love of God. We are grateful for those children who have been able to get a glimpse of God’s fatherly love through their human fathers. They are indeed blessed and gifted.
    What about those who have had rocky relationships with their fathers?
    We know there are some who have had painful experiences within the family from their father or mother. We can’t forget those children on days of celebration such as Mother’s or Father’s Day, and we ask God for healing. On a day like Father’s Day, I also remember those fathers who have had to bury their children in death. That’s a very painful, heart-wrenching experience, and we lift to the Lord those who have had to suffer through that.
    Have you ever reflected on why St. Joseph has no recorded words in Scripture?
    That is a bit curious, but what we do have is an indication of the tremendous care and dedication and unconditional love that he gave to Mary. It is implied in the Scriptures that Joseph and Mary certainly shared that with their son Jesus. We have no photographs or DVDs from the Holy Family, but we do have some art which depicts Jesus spending time with his dad and learning to do carpentry, learning to pray, learning the values of life. And in 2,000 years, that role of father has not really changed.
    Last Saturday you had the chance to ordain five men to the priesthood, and they are now our spiritual fathers.
    It was a true privilege to ordain them to the priesthood, and from that day forward they will be known as Father. Some would say that “Father” is not an appropriate title, but it is because by their ministry they are to represent the fatherly and unconditional love of God. They stand in the place of Jesus, who is the priest, and their ministry is lived out through the Holy Spirit. For the past 3 ½ years, I have gotten to know these men very well, and I have great confidence in them and in their ability to lead and serve God’s people. It’s always a touching moment for me to be able to do the laying on of hands and offer the prayer of ordination, which gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit and which enables them to serve as a priest. In the priesthood, specifically, they have the great privilege of praying in the name of Christ and changing bread and wine into his body and blood. They also have the privileged opportunity to absolve and to forgive people of their sins, to anoint the sick, to ask for healing and peace and also to walk into the dark corners of people’s hearts, where they are invited to bring God’s unconditional love as father, as brother Jesus and as the Holy Spirit. I wish these men God’s blessings, and I look forward to sharing priestly ministry with them. They also join a very strong fraternity of priests in the archdiocese. I have been so impressed by the sense of fraternity and mutual respect that our priests have for one another, and it is a blessing for us to be able to open up our brotherhood to these five new men.
    Do you recall the first time you were called “Father”?
   When you hear that, it is an awesome responsibility. You grow up hearing other people called Father, but I remember for the first month after I was ordained and I was called Father, I had to turn around and say to myself, “Where is he?” Every once in awhile these days somebody will call me father instead of bishop or archbishop, and then they apologize. But I always tell them not to apologize because perhaps that’s a more appropriate title. The bishop really is the father of the larger family of the diocese, and he should always be a father. I pray to be a faithful father!

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