When my Mom died, back in June of 2005, I was surprised to see a dear friend in the church as I was setting up for the funeral Mass. I asked what he was doing here, and he looked up at me and replied, “Mothers are special people.” I knew that from my 25 years of knowing his Mother and being her minister in her last days.
Let me add here at the outset that Fathers are special people. They are incredibly special people, and the fathers that are not good or who are AWOL are only proof of the importance of fathers, regardless.
St Louis de Montfort wrote: “Children copy their parents through watching them and talking to them, and they learn their own language through hearing them speak. An apprentice learns his trade through watching his master at work; in the same way the faithful…can become like their divine Master…” For boys especially, the role of a father (or a father-figure) is critical for growth.
Can we imagine the influence of St Joseph on the child Jesus in this regard? Though the Blessed Mother surely had a longer-standing influence (it’s pretty clear that by the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus, Joseph had already died), it’s hard to think that Jesus did not learn hard work and good work and honesty and compassion from Joseph.
Why was Jesus so concerned to call God (and to have us call God) “our heavenly Father”? What special insight of His relationship to God was/is being revealed in this simple word? More important, might the word Jesus used be better translated “Dad”? What feelings and memories does this word evoke in you? For me, at least, they are as intense as those evoked by “Mom,” but from completely different content. Both are necessary; both are beautiful and powerful (whether they remind us of what we had and have, or what we needed and never had). Both are different and complementary.
Many of us probably remember only a few things our Fathers said to us, but we are flooded with memories of what they did for and with us. Was it taking us to a ballgame or teaching us to ride a bike? Was it packing us all up to an amusement park (where Dad’s chief “amusement” was watching us enjoy ourselves)? Was it kneeling down after supper to pray the Rosary with us? Was it the lessons of life and death he taught by witness when his child died or when he was dying?
Yes, those are some of my memories, and you have yours, as well. Let’s remember them, celebrate the ones who created those memories with us, and pray for those we so desperately needed to make such memories but didn’t because they weren’t able, or weren’t around; and give thanks to God the Father who will satisfy every longing and need and fill every memory, perfecting it in His love.