TEXT: Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 16, 2024

June 16, 2024 Father De Celles Homily

11th Sunday Ordinary Time

June 16, 2024

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

Life is filled with trials and challenges, especially nowadays

         with so many problems that past generations never even imagined.

So, it’s a great thing that in the summer we slow down, relax a bit,

         and make opportunities to celebrate the good and important things in life.

We celebrate our beloved dead on Memorial Day,

the dignity of work on Labor Day, the gift of liberty on the Fourth of July,

                  and motherhood on Mother’s Day.

And, of course, today we celebrate fatherhood with Father’s Day.

Fatherhood truly is good and absolutely essential to the wellbeing of society.

But there are a whole lot of folks who forget this.

And this forgetfulness is the cause of so many of those problems I mentioned.

You know the statistics:

         63% of youth suicides, 90% of all homeless and runaway children,

         71% of all high school dropouts all come from fatherless homes.

I could go on and on.

Fatherhood is important, good fathers are essential,

and bad fathers are a disaster.

Scripture tells us that in the beginning,

         God created mankind in His own image and likeness as male and female,

         telling them to be fruitful and multiply.

In other words, in God’s plan for the happiness of mankind,

         the first thing necessary is marriage,

         and the second, parenthood, springs from it.

You see, love is the source of all true happiness.

And marriage and parenthood are the “school of love

         where all human beings are supposed to naturally

         learn to love God and each other.

So, when marriage and parenthood are messed up,

         families and societies are in trouble.

Now, parenthood is a two-sided coin:

         On the one side is motherhood, and on the other is fatherhood.

Both of these are equally important in the eyes of God and for the good of man.

But sometimes the importance of fatherhood is forgotten,

         and many people seem to think that it’s actually UN-important.

We see the results:

Today 25% of all children are living in fatherless homes,

         and 40% of all children are born outside of marriage.

Also, many fathers drift away from the family, one way or the other.

But that is not how families and societies are meant to flourish,

         and it promises the destruction of both.

In today’s Gospel Jesus twice compares the Kingdom of God

         to the seed of a plant.

Some today say that a father’s role is simply to plant the seed of his child

         and then, more or less, walk away.

But fatherhood is much more than that.

Elsewhere in scripture Jesus uses another plant allusion, saying,

         “I am the vine, you are the branches.”

Then He says, “And my Father is the vinedresser.”

A vinedresser doesn’t simply plant the seed and leave;

         he remains to care for it, to help it become a full-grown fruitful plant.

Where there is a seed planted, a true father,

         created in the image of God the Father,

remains and feeds and waters his children

         –first in a literal sense as he puts food on the table.

A good father also feeds and waters them

         in ensuring his children get a good education, both formally and informally;

         in practical matters, like hygiene and manners;

         in secular matters, like math, science, and history;

         and in spiritual matters—teaching them the truth about God.

For a Catholic father this means taking responsibility

         for personally teaching them the truths and practices of the Catholic faith,

         as well as supplementing that by,

         if possible, sending them to Catholic school,

         or at least to CCD from K thru 12,

         or homeschooling them with a solid Catholic curriculum.

Above all, it means watering them with the water of baptism

         and feeding them regularly with the Bread of Life!

What young plant or child would survive, much less flourish, without eating food

         —and not just eating once in a while, but every day?

What child would survive, much less flourish, spiritually and morally

         without eating the Bread of Life not just once in a while,

         but at least every single Sunday?

What kind of father lets his children starve?


A true father also protects his children.

A vinedresser might build a fence around his plants,

         or cover them to protect them from ice,

         or hunt down the varmints that try to eat them.

A good father tries to provide a safe home for his family

         and carefully watches who his children’s friends are.

He doesn’t let his children play in a busy street

         or stay out late at night unsupervised.

And he’s careful who he trusts to supervise his children,

         never trusting them to anyone who would in any way

         corrupt or endanger them.

And above all, he protects his children from moral or spiritual danger of any kind.

He’s not afraid to shield his daughter from boys who won’t respect her virtue.

And he teaches his son that a boy cannot become a real man, a manly man,

if he doesn’t honor and protect the virtue of women.


God the Father, the vinedresser, also prunes away the dying or dead branches.

Likewise, a good, true father isn’t afraid of pruning the sickly or deadly things

          from his children’s lives.

A good father is not afraid to prune away friends

who have a bad influence on his children.

A good father isn’t afraid to discipline his children if they develop bad habits.

If they don’t do their homework, a good father doesn’t hesitate

         to take away their cell phones and video games until they do.

If they speak or dress immodestly, a good father isn’t afraid to set them straight.

Of course, always do this with love to avoid bitterness;

         sometimes do this with tenderness, but always with strength.

A good father is patient and knows when to practice forbearance,

always remembering St. Paul’s simple instruction:

“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”


Some fathers are overwhelmed by all this.

They feel like the man in today’s Gospel who plants the seed

         and then wakes up one day and it’s all grown up

         and, as Jesus says, “He knows not how.”

Some fathers feel that they “know not how” to raise kids,

         so they leave it to someone else like their wives, teachers, or “experts.”

Now, it’s true that when it comes to kids, moms do some things better than dads.

But not everything.

For example, a Mom might think a dress looks really pretty on her daughter,

         but a good Father knows that the boys won’t be thinking it’s justpretty.”

A Mom may be able to tell her son, “You be a gentleman on your date,”

         but a good Dad can show his son how to respect a woman,

especially her dignity and her virtue,  

         by the way he himself treats women, especially his wife and daughters.

And besides all the male/female differences,

         there are a lot of simple things that a particular dad, for some reason,

         does or understands better than a particular mom:

                  maybe math, or being patient, whatever.

And it’s true that teachers are better at teaching some things than Dad.

But a true father makes sure teachers don’t try to stray beyond

what parents delegate them to teach.

Believe me, parents tell me it happens all the time.

Is your daughter’s biology teacher teaching biology or sexual morals?

Is your son’s history teacher teaching historical facts or ideological doctrine?

And this isn’t limited to public schools

         —sadly, it can happen with Catholic school teachers too.

A good father realizes that much of the corruption in our society

         is flourishing because of the seeds planted in the schools.

A few seeds of immorality here, some seeds of radical ideology there.

Here a seed of heresy, there a seed of anti-Catholic bigotry.

Then one day you wake up and you wonder why

         your children don’t share any of your values and reject your Catholic faith.

Again: “He knows not how.”

A good father doesn’t abandon his responsibilities to “experts.”


Now, some of you women may be saying, but what about me?

Ladies, of course a lot of this applies to mothers as well.

But let it also remind you to help your husbands,

         and all the men in your life, to be good fathers

         —especially to support them and praise them when they try.

Some of you men may be saying, that’s all fine and good,

         but my children are all grown up.

Yes, but you can apply this to being a grandfather

         and to helping your grown son to be a better father.

Or maybe you’re a man without any children.

But are you an uncle?

Uncles are sort of fathers once removed.

Or maybe you’re a teacher, or a coach,

         or a worker in some field that affects fathers and their children.

Then it all applies to you too, one way or another.

Perhaps some of you fathers might agree with everything I’m saying,

         but you’re in the military and you have no choice

         but to be away from your family, sometimes for months on end.

Of course, when you go away you have to rely on others—especially your wives–         to do much of the feeding, protecting, and pruning.

But even then, as you know better than I, you must still do your best

         to provide whatever support you can to your wives.

Stay in contact with your kids as best you can,

         and remind them not only of your love for them,

         but of your expectations of them,

especially to respect and obey their moms,

         and to love and serve Christ and His Catholic Church.

And pray for them—and make sure they know that you pray.


         while we look to God the Father as the source of all true fatherhood,

         Jesus also tells us,

                  “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”

By your imitation of Christ, who laid down His life for his friends,

         your example of laying down your life for your children and for all of us,

         is an incredible act of fatherly love–

a heroic effort to truly protect your children from real evil.

Now, maybe you’re a member of one of those families

where things are not as I describe:

Maybe there was or is no father in your home,

or maybe you had a very less than perfect father growing up.

There are lots of reasons this happens,

         and sometimes things are just beyond our control.

I’m sure everyone would agree, though, that if they could change things,

         they would make things more like the way I’ve described

                  than how they are or were.

And just because things aren’t the way they should be,

         it doesn’t mean that God can’t or won’t find some way to help you

         to make it through these difficult times.

He will if you let Him because He is the true Father of us all,

         and He is always there loving us just the way we need him to.

You do your best, and then trust in God. He will be there for you.

Finally, fathers, all this is not to pick on you.

It’s tough being a father. It’s hard enough being a spiritual father,

but to be the dad of a family nowadays is so difficult

—sometimes I say, “Thank God for celibacy!”

So many of you are great fathers or trying your very best to be.

Thank you, and God bless you.

All this is just to remind you and to encourage you

to always strive, with God’s grace, to be the very best father.

And to emphasize how important that is, how important you are.


Our world is filled with problems,

         many of which our grandparents would never have dreamed of.

But that’s because our grandparents would have never tolerated

         the diminishment of fatherhood that we have.

Today, let us all celebrate fatherhood and praise its goodness and importance.

And as we continue with this Holy Mass,

         the mystery which flows from the perfect love

         between God the Father and Son,

         let us pray that, by the grace of this sacrament,

         we may always honor and love our fathers as we should,

And let us pray that our fathers may always be the good and true fathers

         we so desperately need them to be.