Celebrating Fathers – Both Biological and Spiritual
A few weeks ago our nation paused to celebrate Father’s Day. It is a time to celebrate and to pray for our fathers and those who have been like fathers to us. A national day to celebrate the love and sacrifice of fathers was the idea of Sonora Louis Smart Dodd. She thought her father, a veteran of the Civil War, had done a remarkable thing in raising six children on his own after his wife died in childbirth. The first Father’s Day celebration was a church service in 1909, and Father’s Day became a national day in the United States in 1966.
At its very core, Father’s Day is a time to prayerfully celebrate the witness of love offered by fathers. I have been blessed throughout my life by my dad’s love for me, and I am sure that my brother would echo those sentiments. Our dad, like so many dads, worked hard to provide for his family. He was not afraid to make difficult decisions when they were necessary. Even though I might not have agreed with those decisions at the time, I can see in hindsight that many of them were correct for the particular situation in which dad was making them. I also appreciate my dad’s love for his wife, my mom; his keen intellect; his kindness; and the witness of his faith. That witness of faith has been present throughout his life, but it has become more intense and beautiful over the last two decades. Dads make difficult decisions, they lead by example, they do their best to love their family, and hopefully all of this is guided by their faith in God.
I was also blessed to have had a “spiritual father” in my life in the person of Father Charlie Irvin. At the time of his death in February of this year, I had known Father Charlie for 34 years, first as my pastor, and later as a vocational mentor, as a friend and as a faith-filled and gracious example of priestly ministry. Across the years of our friendship, I witnessed Father Charlie as he worked tirelessly to love, serve and lead his family in faith. He certainly made difficult decisions at critical times, and sometimes the parish “family” did not understand or appreciate some of those decisions. He could certainly stand his ground, but I always believed that he had the best interests of everyone at heart. He could be outrageously funny and deeply serious. His keen intellect helped break open the mysteries of our faith, bringing deeper understanding of them, and he celebrated those mysteries with great grace and love. Although he never had biological children of his own, I firmly believe Father Charlie was a good dad for so many through the years.
Just a few weeks ago, Bishop Boyea ordained Fathers Mark Martin, Miguel Colunga-Santoyo and Russell Ward, LC. Fathers Mark and Miguel will serve the people of our diocese, while Father Russell, a member of the religious congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, and a native of our diocese, will continue his academic studies and eventually teach moral theology. Let us pray for each of our newly ordained, that they may be good spiritual fathers, living the faith-filled, Christ-like, generous and challenging life of priesthood. Let us also pray for our fathers, wherever they may be. Even if our relationship with them has been difficult or strained, we can still pray that God bring them the help and consolation that they need. And so, our journey in FAITH continues.