(This is Archbishop Wilton Gregory's “What I Have Seen and Heard” column for the June 25, 2020 Catholic Standard newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.)
There are generally enough media reminders at this time of year, to cause us all to spend a few moments in prayerful thanksgiving for our fathers – living or deceased as we approach Father’s Day. I always had a double reminder because my own father’s birthday annually fell within a few days of Father’s Day.
Mother’s Day usually gains significantly much more attention, but we would all be remiss to neglect an opportunity to thank dads, grandfathers, fathers-in-laws, stepfathers, or adoptive fathers for their love and generosity.
Ten years after his death, I still have wonderful memories of trying to find a Father’s Day gift – and a birthday gift – to honor my dad. Perhaps most of you have a similar problem. It’s sometimes difficult to find a really appropriate gift for fathers, even though most dads simply gush with gratitude over whatever we might offer them on their special day. Dads are usually pretty low maintenance when it comes to gifts. The greatest gift, of course, is to tell them how much we love and cherish them – always better than any tie or pair of outrageously patterned socks!
Father is a divine title and one that lives perfectly within the union of the Trinity. When we think about our earthly fathers, we hopefully glimpse at the unique relationship between the Father and His Only Begotten Son. To be a father is to be one who generates life, protects life, and nurtures life. Those men who bear that title thus give us a tiny reflection of the One Perfect Father of us all. To be called a father is to enjoy a wonderful honor.
This coming weekend, eight young men will be entrusted with the title father after they are ordained as new priests for the Archdiocese of Washington. After the Ordination ceremony, people who are old enough to be their grandparents will begin to call them father. In a few weeks, when they report for their first assignments, people that they have never met will call them father. Children and young adults will turn to them in trust and confidence and call them father. That title expresses a new relationship that they will have with God’s people. In spite of their youth and inexperience, they will be seen as sources of God’s compassionate care for the people God calls his own.
Over the years, I have gained several other titles, but I still find personal delight when friends from my early priesthood years continue to call me Father Gregory. I am reminded of the importance of that label and how it continues to connect me even today to the wonderful folks at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glenview, Illinois.
I pray that all of our new clerical young fathers will find in their fresh title, not overbearing power, but a pastoral opportunity to enter the lives of their parishioners with a gentle and humble heart – like every man who is privileged to bear that title does and always with joy.
This Father’s Day 2020, countless men throughout the Archdiocese of Washington will receive golfing gifts, perhaps even a new easy-chair, cards and notes of all types. What will thrill them the most is to know how deeply they are loved, admired, and respected. Happy Father’s Day to every man who is privileged to hold that title in this local Church!