The third Sunday in June is traditionally observed in the United States as something we refer to as “Father’s Day.” We all know what it is about. It is a day set aside to honor fathers and fatherhood in general. Interestingly enough, in most of Europe a day honoring fathers has been observed for centuries on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, the husband of Mary, foster father of Jesus and also patron and protector of the Catholic Church.
Father’s Day came about when a young woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, who lived in Spokane, Washington, heard about a new holiday called Mother’s Day. Sonora held her father in high esteem and decided fathers needed a special day as well. The first Father’s Day was a local celebration in Spokane in 1910. And here all these years I have been blaming Hallmark cards for starting Father’s Day. My apologies to Hallmark.
Seriously, there are so many reasons to be thankful for our fathers and to show our gratitude to them for all they have done for us. First and foremost has to be the gift of life. Let’s face it, all of us share something in common; a father and a mother. A father and a mother, with the assistance of our God, create life. Without our father and our mother, we would not be here. We would not have the joy and pleasure of experiencing God’s creation in all its majesty and beauty; the peace and contentment of watching a sunset after a long day of work, a young child’s happy face or any of a numberless array of happy occurrences we experience every day. Without the action of a father, we would not be the creature that we are. But their influence does not stop there.
In a “traditional family,” the father and mother each play their roles because each has their own set of gifts and strengths. In our present culture, the roles of each have become more fluid and more nuanced than even just a few years ago, but the father still has his role to play in the context of the family. A father models for his sons the traits, hopefully the positive traits, of a male of our species.
A father can provide many positive and wholesome outcomes for all his children but heaven knows this is not always the case. We are human beings. We are not perfect by any measure and we should not expect perfection. A father who, as head of his family, strives to emulate our Heavenly Father, provides a positive example for his children as they grow and develop and eventually seek their place in our society.
As the first reading from the liturgy of Trinity Sunday states, our God is “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” And let’s not forget love. Scripture tells us in many places that God is love. A father who loves his family shows mercy to his family, is gracious in his dealings with them, shows patience and kindness and is always faithful will be loved in return.
I believe for this to be the case, a father must have a deep and abiding faith in God and a willingness to not be shy in professing that faith. And that begins in church.
A father who worships with his family in church receives the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit that give him the ability to be or become that role model, not only for his own family but for others that he comes in contact with throughout his life.
But fathers can’t do it all by themselves. They all need our support; and that support begins with prayer. So on this Father’s Day, and every day, let us remember to pray for our fathers that God would bless them and guide them in their roles as our fathers.
Dcn. John Grek is the director of Diaconal Life for the Diocese of Superior.