June 19, 2011, is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity … and Father’s Day.
Saints and Fatherhood
This week celebrates a number of saints who highlight aspects of fatherhood.
Son saves father’s soul. June 19 is the feast of St. Romuald (951-1027), a saint who repented for his father’s sins — and saw his repentance win his father’s heart. As a 20-year-old, Romuald witnessed his father kill a man in a duel. The sight shocked him, and he went to a Benedictine monastery to do penance for his father. There, he was so impressed with the monks that he decided to join the monastery. When Romuald’s father visited him a few years later, he was so struck by the holiness of the monks in the monastery that he also joined.
Fatherless family rebounds. June 20 is the feast of Blessed Michelina (1300-56), a saint for fatherless households. After losing her husband when she was 20, Michelina reacted badly to the stress. To ease her pain, she began to lead an irresponsible lifestyle full of parties and fun. Eventually, she realized that this left her empty and that she was not doing right by her son. She became a responsible adult and later a lay Franciscan.
Proxy fathers help boy. June 21 is the feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591), who shows the benefits priestly fatherhood can have. His father had designs to make him a soldier and reacted angrily when the boy wanted to enter religious life. It took him three years to acquiesce. But, ultimately, the boy’s trajectory to religious life, despite his father’s antagonism to religion, came about because St. Charles Borremeo was an early influence on the child and, later, St. Robert Bellarmine.
Loss of son inspires father. June 22 is the feast of St. Paulinus of Nola (353-409). After he and his wife lost their son, the two underwent a conversion, gave their belongings to the poor and began a life of celibacy. St. Paulinus eventually became a priest and, later, bishop of Nola.
Father’s faith in son cures him. June 24 is the feast of the birth of John the Baptist, whose father was Zachariah. The angel Gabriel appeared to him and told his wife Elizabeth was expecting a child. The angel also told him to name their son John. But Zachariah doubted, so he was struck dumb. It was only later that he believed and found he could speak again.
Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9; Psalm: Daniel 3:52-56; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; John 3:16-18
The Holy Spirit gets his celebration on Pentecost. The Son is celebrated on every Christological feast day. But the Father doesn’t get his own day.
Since Trinity Sunday is also Father’s Day this year, perhaps we can give him some attention today.
We can learn from God the Father what human fatherhood should be: It should be filled with kindness and fidelity.
At least that’s what God says in today’s reading from Exodus, when the Lord passes before Moses and Moses drops to the ground. Moses isn’t intimidated by God because God is aggressive or angry — he is overawed by him because he is pure love.
“The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity,” God tells Moses.
It is the same for us: A father’s effectiveness is not measured by his strictness, but by his love. Sometimes that love will mean strictness. But a good dad will be rich in kindness and fiercely faithful to his children.
The Psalm and the reading by St. Paul give examples of the kindness of God. The Psalm lists the awe-inspiring favors God has bestowed on us. And in the second reading, Paul exhorts Christians to imitate God’s kindness: “Encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Today’s Gospel gives the reason for God’s love: He is not a father in some abstract way. From all eternity God the Father has generated God the Son from his bosom, says the Catechism. The Holy Spirit is the bond of their love.
We are not strangers to that relationship. God has not made a recent decision to tolerate us as his family. He has always intended us to be part of his family. The first chapter of Ephesians explains that the Father “chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.”
He showed how faithful he is when “he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
Faithful. Kind. Loving. That’s fatherhood, divine and human.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.