Monday, June 13, 2011

A Father

The following article of mine was picked up by Priest Magazine last year.

I sat in the pew and listened as the newly ordained priest introduced himself to the congregation; “Hello, I am Father…”  I remembered the many times I stood before a congregation and how blank their stare was.  But there was no getting around it.  The first weekend in a parish for a new priest was simply exhausting on a variety of levels.    
            Sitting next to me were my wife and son and the three of us glanced and smiled at one another.  As the priest  began his homily, I settled into thinking about the word he just used; Father.  Though I knew he was using it simply as a title, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was aware of its power—a power that can open his life to a much deeper existence.  Father is a word that transcends the vocational boundaries of priesthood and dadhood.  So, for what it is worth, here are some thoughts from a man who was both.

Being a Dad means you are not the center.
Fatherhood isn’t about you—you are about it.  Priesthood isn’t about you—you are about it.

Fatherhood is about sacrifice
Dads keep a variety of vigils in life.  From the bedside of your sick child, to the middle of the night worries about losing your job, to watching your spouse suffer through chemotherapy—desperately hoping your child doesn’t fall into despair.  We simply keep vigils at all hours, day and night.  Keeping vigil has something to do with asking the question “Why?” and then moving the heart to trusting that God is present.  Keeping vigil is really about offering everything back to God.  Spend a night in prayer.  It will do your soul good.

There is no such thing as a day off.
There might be a day off from work or even vacations—but you are still a Dad.  In priesthood, a day off should not become an excuse to blend into the world.  One of the worst homilies I ever heard was preached at a first Mass of a newly ordained—the premise being that to be a good priest the new priest must venture forth and immerse himself in the world. He must read, watch and listen to what the people read, watch, and listen. Really?

Being a parent means trusting in Divine Providence.
It means putting earthly desires aside and consciously uncovering your soul’s desire for God.  When this happens—God provides everything you need.  Where is your desire?  What is your desire?  Being more concerned about the diocesan campaign and weekly collection than anything else is fertile ground for self destruction.

To be a good Dad, I need to pray and fast
Constant prayer and fasting must be modeled.  As a priest it is easy to get caught up in the responsibility of leading prayer—so much that one forgets to pray.  That is acting not praying.  Fasting, true physical fasting magnifies heartfelt prayer.  “Only by prayer and fasting…”-Jesus Christ

A Dad must not shy from teaching right from wrong.  
For now, I must be my son’s shield and filter from the media frenzied world.  You are the teacher—Nobody else has the responsibility of your child’s soul.
Priests, are you truly living a conscientious priesthood and teaching right from wrong?  Are you truly caring for their souls?  Or are you living a soft approach more conscious of popularity?  Being a priest means that you are loved for just that—not super homilies, not building a parish, not even keeping everyone ‘entertained’ on a Sunday morning.  Live the Sacrifice…there is no greater love.  Spend just as much time in the confessional as you do in meetings.

The easiest way to be a good Dad is to love your son’s Mother.
Not all Dad’s have the blessing of a loving wife and mother of their son.  But I know one thing, without her I’d be lost.  Her love makes me want to be a good Dad.
Priests, love the Mother of Jesus, she will help you.

Being a Dad means I will never have this opportunity again.
Every practice, every event, every game, every recital, every kiss good night, every prayer—live your Fatherhood with intention.
Pray this Mass as if it were your first, your only, and your last

And so, let us pray for our Fathers.