Saturday, June 23, 2007

My Father's Day Gift

Last Sunday as I was driving home to spend the day with my family, two of my children called me on my cell phone to wish me a happy Father’s Day. Yes…you read that correctly, I said two of my children. You see, besides being the Vocation Director for the Diocese, I am also part-time campus minister at Rhode Island College. So, on this special Sunday, two students that I know very well from their involvement in campus ministry called to let me know that they were thinking of me on Father’s Day.

Needless to say, it was a wonderful Father’s Day gift; I was truly touched by their thoughtfulness. And after the call ended I thought to myself: they get it. They understand the spiritual fatherhood of the priest. I call them my children because just as they acknowledged my spiritual fatherhood, I acknowledge that the Lord has entrusted them to my care in a special way. Like all priests, I am called to be a spiritual father, and it brings me a tremendous amount of joy knowing that these two students grasp that reality.

People will often ask a priest, “Father, don’t you wish you were married? Don’t you wish you had children of your own?” My response to this question is simple: I am married and I do have children. This is not wishful or delusional thinking; it is not something the priest conjures up so that he can “feel good” about himself since he does not have his own wife or biological children. Spiritual fatherhood is a profound truth that gives shape to the life of every priest. The priest gives himself to the Church as a husband gives himself to his wife, and the priest is called to be a spiritual father to the children that God has entrusted to him.

The great St. Paul wrote about his own spiritual fatherhood to his children in Corinth: “Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15). He understood that he was “fathering” his children as he preached the gospel. And as you read the Letters of St. Paul it is clear that he had true fatherly concerns: he experienced the anxiety of a father when he worried about his children; he experienced the sorrow and frustration of a father when his children strayed from the path of the Lord; and he experienced the joy and pride of a father when his children made progress in living the Christian life.

If a priest is to live his vocation to the fullest, then it is crucial that he grasp this concept of spiritual fatherhood; but it is also important for a man who is discerning a call to the priesthood. The truth is that a man who is discerning the priesthood ought to be able to see himself as being a good father and husband in the physical realm. If he can’t see himself as being a good father and husband, then he should not believe that he would make a good priest.

So, if any man believes he is sacrificing being a father and a husband when he becomes a priest, he is only partly correct. True, he will not have his own biological children nor will he share marital intimacy with a woman; but, he will most certainly exercise his spiritual fatherhood and will love the Bride of Christ, the Church.

Maybe a good advertisement for the priesthood would be: Wanted: Single Catholic Men who can see themselves as being dedicated, loving, and happy fathers and husbands.


Blogger Becky said...

I hope it's not too late to wish you a Happy Father's Day!

-Becky B.

June 25, 2007 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger JBro said...

Doesn't that just make sense? I think you hit it right on the nose. Perhaps this better explains a priest's relationship to the Church. If it is so alike to marriage, then there must be times of great joy and intimitacy and still more times of patient endurance when the road gets tough. As for us children, it becomes so important to have good fathers: fathers who both instruct and demonstrate their faith by the way they live each day. The song "I've Been Watching You" by Rodney Atkins comes to mind here. In the song, the refrain says, "I've been watching you dad, ain't that cool.
I'm your buckaroo, I wanna be like you. And eat all my food and grow as tall as you are. We got cowboy boots and camo pants. Yeah we're just alike, hey ain't we dad
I wanna do everything you do;
So I've been watching you." It's the priest's example, above all else, that helps foster the vocations God gives so many of us young men. Be assured your example is never without merit. Happy belated Father's Day!

June 27, 2007 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger ilestnee said...

Father Najim,
We're jumping up and down about your Projo letter! We thought you may have posted it here...ooh--there's an idea!
(A belated Happy Father's Day from Ele, who can't email much because she's WORKING!)
I have unearthed a wonderful, related quoted from Roger Williams, if you're interested.
Happy Today, too!

July 10, 2007 at 3:08 PM  

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