Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Spiritual Reflection on Fathers' Day

[I was asked to prepare comments for a reflection on Fathers' Day to be shared with the congregation at the Saturday evening mass at the Saint Francis of Assisi parish on Saturday, June 20, 2009. The following blog generally reflects my comments from that event.]

I was flattered when asked to provide this Fathers’ Day reflection, as I often don’t think of myself as a father. How could I possibly be that old? I’m still a kid! But with three children of our own and having had helped raise six foster children, I guess that my wife and I qualify as “real-life parents.”

Thinking about Fathers’ Day has given me with the opportunity to reflect on what has shaped me… what has inspired me to become the kind of father that I am. It’s probably only natural for me to think of my own Dad as the key architect of that job. It was interesting that today’s Gospel helped to remind me of my Dad. Not the part where Jesus called out to the storm, “Quiet! Be still!” Although if I had a nickel for every time that I heard that... Rather it was the part of the Gospel where Jesus asks the disciples “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

Let me explain. You see my Dad has always taken great pride in being a teacher to all of his children. My Dad is a hard working, self-made man who has found success in many different aspects of his life. He made a sincere effort to teach my two sisters, my brother and me everything that he knew; and he encouraged all four of us to further our education, to learn even more as we set-out on our own. Then as young adults, when we were faced with a question or dilemma, he would only need to look at us, as if to say, “Why are you asking me? Don’t you know that you already have the answer?” Just like the disciples, we did not realize that we had already been taught all that we needed to know; there was no reason to be terrified.

This helped me realize that being a father means that you are a very important teacher to your children. They will follow your lead, consider your opinions and learn from your example. Knowing this, I am much more aware of what I teach my children. I must be an example today that will help prepare them for tomorrow.

I have learned a great deal from all of the men in my family. My Dad, grandfathers and uncles have each provided examples of what it means to be a father. Beyond all of the usual roles of provider, caregiver, confidant and sometimes even family peacekeeper, I believe that the father-figures in my life have helped me to understand that one of the most important things that I must strive to be is a good role model. As a good father, I must put selfish interests aside and make a sincere effort to do the right thing. To make intelligent and thoughtful decisions that will benefit all who may be affected. Being a father has helped me to learn how to care for the less fortunate, those who need assistance from a strong helping hand. Fathers know how to encourage the timid; those who seek the courage to create success in their own lives. And I have learned that fathers unconditionally love those who need the strong support of someone who sincerely cares. This may be even more important today then what it was only a generation or two ago. You see, just as many of the men in my family have been an example for me, I see my job as a father not only to be a strong Christian role model for my two daughters and son, but also for the many other children and sometimes even adults who may not have a father figure in their lives.

One thing that my Dad did not prepare me for was all of the things that being a father would wind-up teaching me! I’ve learned how to be a better listener, to be compassionate and patient. However, the most important thing that I may have learned from being a father is to be respectful. I believe being a father has helped me to better respect the gift of life, our natural resources and our environment. I respect the value and rewards that come from honest, hard work. I lovingly respect my mother, my wife and all of the other women in my life who have helped to support my role as a father. I respect my Dad, and the many lessons that he has taught me. He taught me to respect our military men and women, and the freedom and rights that they honorably defend. I also respect our religious leaders, the friars, priests, deacons and brothers who are our earthly spiritual fathers. And of course I respect our Heavenly Father, who has given us all of these blessings and many more.

For many people, it seems that being respectful can be a challenge. When I was a young man, I often found myself at odds with my Dad. However, over time I learned that disagreeing with my Dad did not mean that I could not respect him, to appreciate where he was coming from. As I have gotten older, this experience with my Dad has helped to strengthen my relationship with God, and it has helped me to contend with the challenges of our fast-paced, self-centered, lives. I have grown wiser and my faith has grown stronger. I have learned to respect the Church and its leadership even when I may disagree with them. I can appreciate where they are coming from. I hope that Fathers’ Day is a reminder for all of us to respect and appreciate our father figures, especially God our Father.

Preparing these comments has helped me to realize that Fathers’ Day is so much more than a celebration of fathers. It’s a celebration of all of the people who help dads carry out their important role each and every day. So speaking for fathers everywhere, I thank you for helping us look good and I wish you all a very blessed and happy Fathers’ Day.