From the Rector: Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day!

Without exception, every year on Father’s Day, some parishioners will greet the priests with a “Happy Father’s Day!” greeting. There’s always a slight discomfort in their voices because, while we are Spiritual Fathers, the people know we have forsaken the fatherhood of Marriage and family life for their sake, and I think they are afraid that it might be a difficult day for us. I can assure you that priests are very happy to be Spiritual Fathers. I found this reflection given below saved on a jump drive. It was written by a priest who borrowed my computer to work on an essay. I thought it would make a great reflection for this Fathers Day since we are so close to the Ordination of Deacon Nathanael to the Priesthood (June 28th!).

The Priest as Father, By Fr. John Cihak, S.T.D.

The priest’s manhood and spousal relationship with the Church also makes him a father. True love always generates life, and in the priest’s case it is spiritual and eternal life. St. Charles Borromeo often gave conferences to his priests when he was Archbishop of Milan. In the opening lines of the conference he addressed to his diocesan synod on April 20, 1584, he writes:

“She was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery.” (Rev 12:2) said John in the Apocalypse concerning the mother, of whom we proceed to speak. O what pain, O what wailing of Holy Church! She cries out with prayers in the presence of God, and in the presence of you through my mouth, pronouncing divine words to you. It seems that I am hearing her saying to her betrothed the Lord Jesus Christ what Rachel had formerly said to her husband Jacob, “Give me children or I shall die” (Gen30:1). I am truly desirous of the one to be born. Indeed I dread this sterility; so unless you come Christ and give to me many sons, I am precisely at this very moment about to die. This is the spirit of our most beloved mother, in whom we are principally gathered here. I especially long for this, so that we may have it. [15]

The implication of his words is that Holy Mother Church cries out to her Divine Bridegroom, and to the one who participates in Christ’s spousal relationship, for children. The priest’s spousal love is necessarily generative. Jesus’ priest, therefore, is not a bureaucrat, a hired hand, a CEO, or a careerist, but a father.
We are used to calling priests “father,” yet it is no metaphorical or poetic designation. The priest’s fatherhood is real because it is a participation in divine fatherhood (1 Cor 4:15, Eph 3:15). Therefore the priest’s fatherhood is constituted by our heavenly Father’s fatherhood–total, complete self-giving. It is the Father who gives Himself away in generating the Son, and then to save us gives away what is most precious to Him, His Son. It is the Father who says that if we want to see Him to look upon the face of His Son (Jn 14:9)–what humility! As a father the priest does not abandon his family or use his family for his own benefit, but rather is the first to sacrifice for his family. He is eager to build and generate new spiritual life in his family. 

Thus, the man called to priesthood strives to renounce his own desires and plans, and take up his ministry of prophet-priest-king as an expression of his spiritual fatherhood. His priestly ministry generates spiritual life in the Church. His priestly ministry leads his Bride along the path of deification, holiness, transformation into the likeness of Christ, the high priest.

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