Today, June 19, is, of course, “Fathers’ Day.” In a way, it is quite remarkable that our nation still celebrates this holiday, given the concerted effort over recent years to reduce or to denigrate the importance of fatherhood. Among other interest groups, the radical feminist movement made this a particular target of its efforts to change our culture in the ’60s and ’70s, as it labored to convince women to think of men as not necessary to their happiness. Women could “have it all,” even a home with children, without men figuring into the picture. At the same time, the rise of the use of contraception, especially “the pill,” also contributed to this problem, as it gave women more “control” over choosing motherhood, and so giving men even less control over choosing fatherhood. In the end, female contraceptives, as well as the rise in “a woman’s right to choose” abortion, had the effect of causing society, and men in particular, to largely view pregnancy and childrearing as a “female issue,” and so caused fatherhood to be understood less and less as an essential societal vocation and more a simple one-time biological function. This was only aggravated by the emphasis on financial/economic independence of women, rendering even the role of family bread winner obsolete for fathers. And as new forms of in vitro fertilization have developed and become more popular, even the “one-time biological function” meaning of fatherhood is being diminished; and technology such as cloning may render it completely meaningless to many in our society.
While the “feminist movement,” as such, at least in its radical and overt form, is largely a thing of the past, its historical effects remain with us today, having devastated the family and the lives of women and men, mothers and fathers. And related ideological movements, such as the “gay rights movement,” continue and reinforce its efforts.
To Christians, and to all men and women with common sense, this reconfiguration and redefinition of family and fatherhood cannot be accepted. Consider just a few statistics of the effect of this perverse understanding: 63% of youth suicides, 90% of all homeless and runaway children, and 85% of youths in prisons grew up in fatherless homes.
In the beginning, God made man “male and female” and commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply”—to be father and mother. So essential is fatherhood to the well-being of the human race, and to understanding human nature, that God himself identifies himself as “Father” to us. This in no way diminishes the dignity and importance of women and motherhood, but it does remind us that if we continue to diminish the importance and essentialness of fatherhood, we do so at our own peril.
Restoration of respect for fatherhood is a task for all of us, mothers and children, the Church and society; but most of all, it is a task for men and fathers. Fathers, be who God created you to be, what your nature intends you to be! And do not settle for, much less seek, a diminished role in your children’s lives. You are not just a breadwinner, or a playmate, or a babysitter. You are those things, yes, but you are also: teacher, protector, guide, exemplar, boundary setter, disciplinarian, and much more. And above all these, and in all these, you must love them, even as Christ loved us: you must be willing to die for them, give up everything, for their good. And all this is understood not just in terms of material well-being, but above all in spiritual well-being. Their ultimate goal is heaven, and it is your great and solemn responsibility and privilege to lead them there.
To be a good father is to be a great man.
Children and mothers, young or old, today, remember all this as you honor your fathers and husbands. Remember what great things they have done for you, and how important they are to you, to your family, to society and to God Himself. Honor them personally, and honor them by your own commitment to respecting and encouraging respect for the dignity of fatherhood in society in general.
And for those of you whose father has abandoned, neglected or abused you or his fatherhood, know that God is the perfect father and He is always your father in the most perfect, personal and loving way. Pray for your fathers, that God might have mercy on them for their sins and mistakes, and try your best to have mercy on them yourselves. And pray for our culture and society, that all fathers will live up to their obligations, and that society will respect and foster the true meaning and importance of fatherhood.
May God shower His blessings and grace on all our fathers today.
Special Thanks I want to thank so many of you for your participation in this year’s Bishop’s Lenten Appeal. Our goals this year were the participation of 35% of parishioners, and raising a total of $202,000. Well, we smashed both of those goals, achieving 40% participation and raising over $290,000—or 144% of our goal. That 144% was the highest in the diocese. So, thank you for your generosity, and thanks to all those who worked so hard to coordinate the BLA this year, especially Joe Cox and Kirsti Tyson. That’s the good news; the bad news is, guess what our $$ goal will be next year…
Also, a special word of thanks to Caterina Tiso, who has headed up our wonderful crew of lectors for more years than I will tell you. She has done such a great job of recruiting, training, scheduling, and caring for our lectors at Mass that most people don’t even think about what outstanding lectors we have—those things often only come to mind when there are complaints. But coordinating all that is a hard job and she had done it superlatively. But, as with all things, a time comes when we lay down our load, or pass it along to a worthy successor, and she now has decided to do so with this charge. Thanks to you, Caterina, for your long and superb service to Our Lord and to our parish.
Corpus Christi Procession. Next week we celebrate Corpus Christi Sunday. As is our custom, at the end of 12:15 Mass we will carry our Lord’s Eucharistic Body in procession. It is a great way to teach our children and grandchildren (and remind ourselves) of Jesus’ true and real presence in the Eucharist. Please join us in this ancient and moving ritual.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles