Thank you, Father

By  Neil Maccarthy, Catholic Register Special
  • June 12, 2009
{mosimage}Father’s Day. Bring out the greeting cards, new ties and socks. My dad is an inspiring guy, a role model, someone who’s shown me the kind of person I’d like to be in life. So dad, never forget you’re #1 (along with mom) in my books.

But this Father’s Day, I’d like to thank some other “fathers” out there. They probably won’t be taken out for brunch this weekend and are unlikely to receive any great classroom art from the kids at school, but I’d like to say thanks just the same.

The secular Father’s Day “shout out” to dads that we celebrate each June was never intended as a  thank you to our priests, but as the Vatican and global church kickoff the “Year of the Priest,” this is an appropriate time to express appreciation for the men who devote their lives to being our spiritual fathers.

Priests are called on to be spiritual guides, financial managers, grief counsellors and role models for the community —  on most days all of this takes place before noon. They’re the ones visiting the sick and dying in hospital, baptizing children, helping us bury our loved ones, stopping by to bless a home, ministering to the homeless who are looking for a meal or a few bucks. They pull a lot of all-nighters and the motivation isn’t financial, it’s spiritual. 

At the best of times, many of us find it challenging in our busy lives to visit our own relatives or take a moment to connect with siblings or parents. But priests spend much of their time caring for those they’ve never met, reaching out to people of all faiths, praying, listening, teaching, changing lives forever. 

And contrary to what many believe, these “fathers” weren’t always priests. They come from a variety of backgrounds — from athletes to economists, labourers to artists. They all responded to a call, a tug, a vocation, something telling them that they were being asked to serve the community and to serve God. Just like our own dads, they put others before themselves. In a world that says we’re successful based on the amount of wealth and possessions we accumulate, they walked away from that and took a different path. For that, we should all be thankful.

Yes, these “fathers” like to see movies, talk politics, travel, laugh, debate doctrine and cheer (or pray) for their favourite hockey team. Are they perfect? Not at all. In fact, most readily admit their own shortcomings — there may even be a few people driving home from Sunday Mass ready to do that for them. Yet how many of us carry healing oils in our car in case we come across an accident, or cut short a rare day off to rush to the hospital to visit someone we’ve never met? 

Our priests share the same call to serve but they are present in our lives in many different ways — from Pope John Paul II, who was shot for his beliefs, to the parish priest who faithfully celebrates Mass each morning; from Fr. Mychal Judge, the firefighter’s chaplain and first recorded victim of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, to the parish priest who presides at weddings and baptisms each weekend; from Toronto’s first bishop, Michael Power, who died at age 43 after contracting typhus through ministering to Irish immigrants, to the parish priest who faithfully visits the sick and the homeless in the neighbourhoods around his home. 

These men help make up the great fathers of our community. You can bet I’ll see my own dad this Father’s Day weekend and give thanks for all he’s done in my life. But this year I’ll also reflect on the more than 400,000 priests worldwide and all they’ve done to make our world a better place.

(MacCarthy is Director of Public Relations & Communications for the archdiocese of Toronto.)

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