Celebrating Father's Day!

This Sunday, in some parts of Europe and in Northern America, we celebrate Father’s Day. Father's Day is a time for all fathers to reflect upon their duties as responsible and well-integrated men.  Dare I say I have many special ‘fathers’ in my life that I remember with gratitude on this Father's Day. No, I haven’t gone mad or become a crack pot (see my last post!). 

On my First Profession with Dad, Rome 2004.

My Dad, Ray, as he was known to most people, left us to go home to God in 2006. We still miss him so much. When someone close to you dies, you get a hole right through you, a hole in your life and your experience. You always miss them, and you are never the same. So Father’s Day is a bitter sweet day for me. It is filled of memories of Dad which bring our past into our present and manage to connect us to a future where one day we will meet again. But until then in our lives there is still a gap that cannot be filled and never should be. Emotions are frightening little creatures who have the capacity to creep up on you and push you into a place of vulnerability. On the other hand, the conviction of our faith assures us that our loved ones, with our prayers and offerings, can be at peace with God where there is no more suffering and no more pain. Father’s Day is bitter-sweet because I professed my Perpetual Vows on Father’s Day in 2011. It was a divine coincidence that it fell on this day which also happened to be Trinity Sunday. I saw it as a nod from God to the fact that I was dedicating myself through religious consecration to service of ‘fathers’ or priests as a Disciple of the Divine Master!

On Father’s Day, there is a category of men which are often forgotten, men we call ‘Father’, our priests. As I have mentioned before, my current academic life has brought me to be part of a student community of international students, the majority of whom are diocesan and religious priests. It has been an eye-opener journeying together, yet a privilege. I've been blessed to count many priests in my circle of friends and acquaintances throughout the years. All priests are called to be spiritual fathers, who give the same self-giving love to the people they have been called to serve, because it is at the very nature of priesthood. Looking back through the years, some of the significant moments in my life were when I received the sacraments of Holy Communion, Confirmation and Reconciliation from them. Priests show us the face of Christ through the Eucharist and the Word of God. In the person of Christ, they absolve us from our sin, providing the bridge between heaven and earth which allows us to walk towards mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and be free. At a day to day level, these are the men who have supported me throughout the years in my discernment to religious life, accompanied me as spiritual directors, listened to my trials, my difficulties, my doubts and continue to do so. They share my joys and successes, journey with me in experiencing the newness of new life! They have taught me and continue to teach me the beauty and the virtue of pure friendship which places as paramount fidelity to the vow of chastity and the promise of celibacy. They are holy men who live a theology of Incarnation. They have been as older and now, even younger brothers to me, looking out for me and reminding me of the dignity of my calling as a woman, a religious, spiritual mother, a sister. For this, I am grateful.

Ministry in the Clergy Home, Lublin, Poland.
I thank the Lord that He called me to this Congregation where in my mission I am asked to walk alongside my brother priests in a particular way in whatever form of apostolate I am called to carry out in whatever country He calls me to serve. Throughout the years I have seen how my priest friends live out their priesthood. I have seen how they renounce having their own family so that the world might call them "father" and how the Lord has given them an abundance of sons and daughters. I have seen in them a commitment which demands maturity, sacrifice, and a lot of love.
Sadly, priests and the priesthood get a bad rap these days. In secular communities and sometimes even in religious ones people think "priest" is synonymous with "paedophile. How this makes me sad. For every sick priest (paedophilia is a sickness), there are thousands of healthy and holy priests who do so much and sacrifice daily for their congregation. Using an image from Pope Francis, they are the shepherds who smell like their sheep because they walk with them in good times and bad. Those priests “who do not go out of themselves” by being mediators between God and men can “gradually become intermediaries, managers.”

Our contemporary culture has an urgent need for men who want to be real men; men capable of making definitive decisions and carrying them through no matter what obstacles may come their way. Men who are mature, selfless and defend the notion of family .This is not just in priesthood but in all walks of life. As Blessed John Paul II said in his profound “Letter to Families” (Gratissumum Sane): “Fatherhood and motherhood are themselves a particular proof of love; they make it possible to discover love’s extension and original depth.” (GS 7). This is destroyed by both contraception and abortion. A contraceptive mentality has changed the way we view so many things today. How we view conception, life, a baby, motherhood, fatherhood. As Catholics, we hold that human life begins at conception and a baby is conceived. The 23 chromosomes of the mother combine with the 23 chromosomes of the father, and a completely unique and unrepeatable human person is called into existence, just as is motherhood and fatherhood called into existence through conception. By denying personhood to a foetus, we deny motherhood and fatherhood to the woman and the man. Our society needs mothers and fathers to be so for their children. One has to love much to be able to renounce much.

So on Sunday as we pray for our earthly fathers, whether they are living and in heaven, let us also remember to pray too for our priests, for it is their spiritual Fatherhood that ensures we will never be orphans. It might sound crazy, but why not wish them a ‘Happy Father’s Day, send them a e-card, a text message or something special to remind them that you are grateful that they answered the call to be ‘Father’ to so many.

I leave you with this video. If my class companions were still around here, I could so see this happening! Blame the nun!