15 Jun 2008
“O heavenly Father, graciously bestow your blessing upon the fathers of our parish that they may never lose sight of their duties …” (From the Post-communion prayer of the Mass) (+)
Fr. Randy Calvo
Today is Father’s Day. It falls every year on the third Sunday of June. It’s not like it’s unexpected or anything. There really aren’t any other major holidays during this month that it can even be confused with. So with this in mind let me talk about calendars. They’ve become something much more than useful. They’ve become decorations in our homes. It seems every year my wife purchases a Susan Branch calendar. I have to be very careful now about saying “my wife” in sermons. If you’re on our parish e-mail mailing list, you know why after I sent you the music-video a couple weeks back of those three pastor’s wives. But anyway, my wife buys her calendar and puts it up on the kitchen refrigerator. It becomes the family appointment book: school events, sports practices and games, doctor and dentist appointments, all of that kind of stuff ends up on this Susan Branch calendar.
Guess what gets all of the attention in Susan Branch’s artwork for the month of May. Now remember there’s Memorial Day in May, Mother’s Day even May Day’s celebration of springtime. Well, at the focal point of our attention is a mother lovingly walking with her young child. Most of the writing is devoted to the recipe for Mother’s Day Cake. And the border around the whole scene is a quote by the famous and accomplished Abraham Lincoln who once said: “All that I am or hope to be I owe to my angel mother.”
O.K., that’s all fine and good. I can’t wait to see what happens when we turn to the next page of the calendar and see what Susan Branch has drawn there for June, the month of Father’s Day. The month that doesn’t have any other holidays. Lo and behold, I turn the page and what do I find … a whole page of artwork devoted to … summertime. She gives directions for planting a beautiful garden, she quotes the Chinese proverb that “Life begins the day you start a garden,” and she thanks all of the previous generations on Martha’s Vineyard for planting all of the beautiful flowering trees in their gardens. And not one word about Father’s Day, not one picture of a father playing catch with his kid, no Abraham Lincoln quote or anybody’s quote about their angel dads.
But I’m not surprised. On Father’s Day weekend I have a buddy who’s attending his daughters’ dance recitals. The Frontier Girls’ Track team end-of-year banquet is scheduled for Father’s Day. But it’s all right. Susan Branch and all of them must have just forgotten. It slipped their minds. It happens. But like we read in today’s Epistle selection from Romans, Jesus didn’t receive any accolades for what He did, but He did it anyway, and that made it all the more significant. His life and ministry were not for applause; they came forth from who He was. He cared for us not because of what we could give Him, but simply because He loves us. Father’s don’t do what fathers are supposed to do because of recognition; fathers do what they do for their families because of who they are. Fathers who are truly fathers, not just men who can make a baby but men who care for and nurture their children, these are the fathers we honour today.
I woke up on Thursday morning as I always do to the news on National Public Radio. In a local segment they were addressing the problem of teen pregnancies in Holyoke and Springfield, the two cities in all of Massachusetts that now have the unenviable distinction of topping the list in this category. One Springfield high-school-aged girl asked her mother if she would be upset if she got pregnant. The mother said no. The daughter couldn’t believe it. She told her mother that she wanted an education. She wanted a good job. She wanted a shot at a better life. Then she would think about having a child. Fatherhood in some communities is not even thought of as necessary. The mother of this determined young high school student didn’t even process the idea of fatherhood when her daughter asked her about having a baby. Fatherhood was the exception, not the rule in the world she knew. These men who come along and make babies for somebody else to take care, this shouldn’t be called “fathering a child.” It has nothing to do with fatherhood. Fatherhood begins at birth and then lasts a lifetime. These are the fathers we recognize today.
And since so much of fatherhood is based on providing for a family, let us offer special prayers today for those fathers who are unemployed and under-employed. The month of May recorded the largest one-month jump in the number of unemployed since 1986. 49,000 jobs were eliminated last month, adding to the 324,000 that have been lost so far this year. Fatherhood is never based on how much a man can give to his children, but I know many fathers worry about this issue a lot. Fatherhood comes with a great deal of worry, and sometimes intentions are the best but reality doesn’t want to cooperate. For those in this situation, let us pray this Father’s Day.
But to end this sermon on a lighter note, let me share this story with you about the joys of fatherhood. A boss wondered why his most valued employee had not phoned in sick. He dialed the man’s phone number and was greeted with a child’s whispered, “Hello.” “Is your daddy home?” he asked. “Yes,” whispered the small voice. “May I speak with him?” The child whispered, “No.” Is anybody else there? “Yes,” came the child’s quiet reply, “A policeman.” Startled, the boss asked if he could speak with the policeman. “No, he’s busy,” whispered the child. “Busy doing what?” asked the concerned employer. “Talking to daddy and the fireman,” came the child’s reply. “What’s going on over there?” asked the worried boss. “The search team just landed in a helicopter,” whispered the child. Alarmed the boss asked, “What are they searching for?” Still whispering, the young voice replied with a muffled giggle, “Me.” For all that fathers do, we thank them and remember them. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. (+)