Gratitude for Fatherhood’s Delight of Glory: Lessons From Holy Dads
COMMENTARY: I have come to realize that the delight of a father in his child has a weight of glory all its own.
C.S. Lewis once observed, “To please God … to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness … to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a son — it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.”
These words of Lewis are often quoted — and for good reasons. It is true that we humans can be pitiable creatures at times. We often lack faith. We often lack hope. And our scarcity of charity is repeatedly evidenced. Sometimes, it seems the best we can hope for is to be pitied by God. But Lewis offers us a challenge here: What if we reached beyond mere pity? What if we strove to accept every grace of God? What if we nourished the divine friendship that accompanies sanctifying grace?
Since I read these words by Lewis years ago, I have pondered them many times. I do not want God to merely pity me for my sins; I want God to delight in me for my acceptance of graces and practice of virtues. If I am the artwork of God, I want to be beautiful artwork — not for my sake, but for his glory. Of course, I fall short time and time again. But I know it is possible to delight God, and perhaps the process begins with my desire to delight him. That God could delight in me is an almost overwhelming thought, as Lewis explains.
Yet that delight is real.
Lewis’ observations above are from the perspective of the art, rather than the artist. But as the father of nine children on this Earth — as a man who watches his children grow into adulthood — I am beginning to understand Lewis’ words from an additional perspective. I missed this at first, but now I see it: Lewis compares God’s delight to the delight of a father in his child.
And I have come to realize that the delight of a father in his child has a weight of glory all its own.
That is something the parental saints have experienced, but none more than St. Joseph. Chosen by God from all eternity to be his protector on earth, we cannot imagine his immeasurable daily happiness and fulfillment. As Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “The Son of Mary is also Joseph’s Son by virtue of the marriage bond that unites them.” John Paul quotes St. Augustine, “By reason of their faithful marriage both of them deserve to be called Christ’s parents, not only his mother, but also his father, who was a parent in the same way that he was the mother’s spouse: in mind, not in the flesh.”
If any man bore both delight and weight of glory, it was St. Joseph.
Francois Soubirous, father of nine, knew about the delight of glory, too. He was destitute in all the ways that did not matter, but wealthy in all the ways that did. In 1844, Francois and his wife were blessed with a daughter. The little baby, aged two days, cried every moment during her baptism ceremony. It would have been ironic if her tears were caused by her aversion to water because water would play a very important role in her life. In fact, the water she discovered would play a pivotal role in the lives of millions. Her name was Bernadette.
Mary, the Immaculate Conception, appeared numerous times to St. Bernadette and revealed to her a miraculous spring at Lourdes. Francois’ Catholic faith had already been strong before Bernadette was born; Bernadette helped make it unshakable. As Francois lay dying, he knew that his daughter was a living saint and that she was praying for him as he passed to eternal life. It’s impossible to comprehend the level of consolation he must have felt at that final moment. For the weight of glory is also a weightlessness.
St. Louis Martin also felt this weight of glory. In his childhood, Louis had hoped to become a priest and say Mass in little churches. Instead, he married a saint and built nine everlasting cathedrals, one of whom was named Thérèse, who came to be affectionately known as the “Little Flower.” In her writings, Thérèse often mentions her “Papa,” who helped form her impression of her Heavenly Father.
In his homily at her canonization in 1925, Pope XI said of Thérèse, “That superabundant share of divine light and grace enkindled in Thérèse so ardent a flame of love that she lived by it alone, rising above all created things, till in the end it consumed her; so much so that shortly before her death she could candidly avow she had never given God anything but love.” Little Thérèse now adorns the garden of heaven, along with her father, who has also been canonized.
The weight of glory continues unceasingly in heaven.
As we celebrate Father’s Day this year, we fathers should offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God.
He has made us partakers in creation, and no angel in heaven has been granted that gift.
Fatherhood is an artistry that allows us to delight in our children, a grace of almost impossible magnitude — a delight of glory that our human minds can scarcely fathom.
“But so it is.”