Here is my homily from Father’s Day 2018:
Fatherhood is under attack. The easiest way to see this is in tv sitcoms; older tv shows had a father who was wise and cared for his children, such as the father on Leave It to Beaver. Yet watching tv now, the father is usually seen as the buffoon or the comic relief. The role of the father is something that is mocked. Media will downplay the role of the father, but fatherhood should not be abandoned so easily. All men are created by God to be fathers, so the question for each man is “how is God calling me to live out fatherhood?” As a married man, as a celibate priest, as a single man. God did not create men to be bachelors, to simply take the most comfortable route and to live for oneself, being a slave to passion.
You are being watched. Ultimately, of course, God is always present to us and we know we will be judged, but right now we are being watched by other people as well. Children are little sponges ready to learn and they do that by looking for routines, mimic words and actions, and they need a good model to help them with this. The world is watching and our Lord calls us to be the mustard seed in an environment which is often opposed to God. So, fathers, we need to realize that we have a role as teacher. Sometimes we will need to sit down and explain what is going on at Mass, how we pray, why we believe certain things and live a certain way, and other times just our simple actions speak volumes to those around us.
Another duty of Fathers is to be a pray-er. St. Therese of Lisieux said that when she saw her father pray she knew what the saints in heaven looked like. Shouldn’t we hope our children can say the same about us? Do our children catch us praying? Fathers must share the Faith with others. This does not need to be anything too complicated, but a family Rosary, or some time before the Blessed Sacrament or going over the Sunday readings perhaps. Getting to know the true superheroes: the saints in heaven.
To be a father is to be a spiritual warrior and protector. Protect your spouse and children. Be a man of prayer, be a man of the Sacraments. Go to confession every month. Get to daily mass and visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. If we deny that we are in the midst of spiritual battle, we are fooling ourselves. One of the first vestments I put on for mass is called the amice. There is a prayer I say when putting it on: “place upon my head, O Lord, the helmet of salvation that I may overcome the assault of the devil”. It is a central part of the fatherly vocation of the priest to lead in battle, to provide the nourishment of the sacraments, to pray and offer sacrifice, to mediate between God and the people. Fathers of families are called to continue this in the home-the domestic church, and they can do this with the strength offered through the Sacraments.
Fathers, we are living in difficult times, but we shouldn’t be afraid. We need to be good examples and teach so that our actions and words match; we need to have a prayer life, because thankfully we are not in this alone—we have God who is often described as a faithful warrior, we have the Saints who have gone before us, and we have each other to help in the hardships, rejoice in the successes, and lift each other up when we fall. The psalm today tells us, “The just one shall flourish like the palm tree, like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.” To be close to the Lord and living in anticipation of the judgment is to give strength for this journey. What man does not want to be strong? We can only be strong if we are humble enough to live our lives holding nothing back from God, giving ourselves entirely, and repenting in the Sacrament of Confession when we fall. The Sacraments were given to us to strengthen us on this journey of life, and we will need that strength and courage helping others to come to know, love, and serve God.
Your example, your prayers, your life can be that mustard seed that we heard about in the Gospel. The world awaits: “ A secret, an open secret: these world crises are crises of saints”(St Josemaria Escriva, The Way, 301). The difficulties we face are the mettle God uses to make us become saints. It may not feel like much is happening at times; it may seem that it would be easier to just give in, but those tiny actions, those tiny words are those tiny seeds that can take root and lead to the growth of a tree. If you have tried your best and your children have left the faith, keep praying, keep being a strong example of faith, do not allow false peace in the family to be your driving force, but live to please God, not man. It is a spiritual battle for souls-don’t give up! Men, we have a lot of work ahead of us, and we need a good father figure to help us. Saint Joseph is that father for all of us. He can really help fill the void if you have had an abusive or absent father, or perhaps your father died and you really need some fatherly affection and help. If your father has died, do not neglect to continue to pray for his soul. The man who became the foster father of Christ did not have an easy path; he was a man of action-hard work and silent discretion, a man of prayer, and a man who protected his family. A man’s man. So, we ask that the Head of the Holy Family and the Pillar of Families intercede for us and help us on our journey—Saint Joseph, pray for us.
“Don’t say ‘Thats the way I am- it’s my character.’ It’s your lack of character. Esto Vir- Be a man!” -The Way, 4
“Do you see? That cable – strand upon strand, many of them woven tightly together – is strong enough to lift enormous weights. You and your brothers, with wills united to carry out God’s will, can overcome all obstacles.” – The Way 480