From the Pastor – June 20, 2009

“Fatherhood” is something to which we’re introduced to at a very young age. While not as “immediate” as motherhood (we’re in our mother’s womb for 9 months!), our father is one of the first people to whom we’re “introduced.” But fatherhood can’t be reduced to simply begetting a child. Fatherhood is one of the most important relationships in our entire earthly society; fatherhood points to our relationship with God. One of the most important models of fatherhood is St. Joseph, the “foster father” of Jesus. Although very little is said about St. Joseph in Sacred Scripture, there’s something very profound about the relationship between Jesus and St. Joseph. As a young boy, Jesus would have addressed St. Joseph as “abba,” a name still used by most Semitic children for their father. It combines some of the intimacy of the English word “papa” or “dad” while retaining the dignity of the word “father.” It’s informal and endearing, yet respectful, and it’s among the first words a child learns to speak. Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus used a word to address the first person of the Most Holy Trinity, He chose to use the same word that He first used to address St. Joseph? Abba, Father. And that is the same word that we use each time we pray at Mass: “Our Father.” That’s what makes fatherhood so important. Our relationship with our earthly Dad has an effect on how we understand God as Father!

Unlike my Mom, my Dad never gave me the option of finding a new one at Dorignac’s! He was Dad, and that was that. “Why can’t I do that, Dad?” we’d ask. “Because I say so.” He never needed to add: “and I’m your Father” because we knew who was boss! Isn’t it the same with God? Or we’d ask: “Dad, can you please buy me some Levi’s, because all Mom will be get me are J.C. Penney perma-press jeans.” And Dad would take us to Maison Blanche on Saturday without Mom knowing. Doesn’t God answer our prayers? And how many times did my brother and sisters tearfully say “Dad, I wrecked the car. I’m so sorry.” And how many times was he happy we weren’t hurt and told us: “I forgive you.” Doesn’t God forgive us when we ask? My Dad is strong, but compassionate. He’s smart, but not stern. He has richly provided for me, but doesn’t seek anything in return but my love. And best of all, he loves my Mom more than anything. That’s probably the best gift he ever gave me. Seeing the Sacramental life of my parents’ marriage helps me to understand the Sacrament by which people call me “Father.”

Every father knows that one day his son will follow his example rather than his advice. And I’m happy to be a living example of that. My Dad is a lawyer who became a permanent deacon (Happy 35th Anniversary, Dad!), and I was a lawyer became a priest. And our relationship, like every relationship between a father and his son, has changed over the years – much like my continually changing relationship with God. But it’s a relationship that matures and grows and gets better and better like a fine wine, which is a good analogy for me and my Dad: two oenophiles!

So on this Father’s Day, I’m happy to say that I’ll take up a chalice of sacramental wine, say the words of consecration and offer the Blood of Christ to God the Father. And at some point over the weekend, I’m sure I’ll share a glass of Nalle Zinfandel with my Dad. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you!

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty