18 Jun 2017
“On this day, dedicated to the honour of our fathers, we ask you Lord to bless all the fathers of our congregation and community.” (Opening Prayer of the Father’s Day Mass)
In the name …
Last Sunday my old college roommate surprised me by showing up at Mass. Last weekend was also our 35th class reunion. After church, Sharon and I went out with Scott for breakfast, but I should say Dr. Scott. He’s a gastroenterologist down in the New York City area. As such, he spends a lot of time in places that don’t see a lot of sunshine on our bodies, if you know what I mean. But I’m assuming that like any other profession, you get used to what you do for a living. This became abundantly clear while we were sitting down to breakfast. Scott took out his phone and nonchalantly showed us a picture of one of his patients, and I’m not talking about one of a patient smiling for the camera. He was very proud of the picture. He was able to save this person from having to undergo surgery. What had happened was that the patient had swallowed a chicken bone and it became securely wedged right across a very vital passage. Scott had to go in and remove it. All well and good if you’re a doctor and you do stuff like this all day every day, then you can be proud of it and show it off, but try and look at that picture when you’re not a doctor, when you’re not used to seeing those kinds of things, the sick inside of a person rather than their nice clean outside, and while you’re trying to enjoy breakfast on top of it all.
It takes time to get used to who we are and what we do. And this is where I would like to move on to the topic of Father’s Day. There’s a huge difference between fathering a child and being a father. It takes but a moment to father a child, but it takes time to become a father. Time to build a relationship with your child or children. It’s an investment. Time is precious and a lot of fathers don’t have much time to spare. So when they give their time to their family, when they invest themselves in their family, a man becomes more and more a father. When his example of right and wrong is not only spoken but lived, a man becomes more and more a father. When a man is slow to anger, constant in support, available and loving to his family, a man becomes more and more a father. And these are the men we honour today.
Now I like to joke about Father’s Day as being almost an afterthought when compared to Mother’s Day. Father’s Day came along a lot later as a national holiday, actually almost six decades after Mother’s Day. There’s also less spent on Father’s Day, fewer calls made, fewer cards sold. And I make these comments tongue-in-cheek, which I hope you know by now, and that’s why it’s killing me that we’re inside today because of the uncertain weather outside. I would have had such a big smile on my face if after a cold, rainy Mother’s Day we were blessed today with a sunny, breezy Father’s Day to kind of even out all the other inequalities, but it’s just not to be this year.
But as a father myself, and I may be speaking only for myself, I don’t know, but we don’t like to be exposed to a lot of the sentimental awkwardness of speaking about fatherhood out loud, and that goes for a father having to give a Father’s Day sermon too. It’s a bit awkward. So fathers sometimes joke about it instead. One father of teenagers said that he didn’t want to have a lot made out of Father’s Day, but that he would be ticked off if the kids simply forgot about it. Fatherhood is important, acknowledge that, but don’t dwell on it, I guess is what he’s saying. Another father was asked what he wanted for Father’s Day and he replied quickly that he wanted his 28-year-old son out of the house. A mother would never say such a thing, but fathers, we do. I’m spending today with Sharon and my two daughters and I’ll play up the Father’s Day card. I won’t even drive the car because when I’m done here, just like the cartoon at the bottom of the song sheet: “It’s Father’s Day. Don’t Bother.” And I chose that cartoon because I laughed at how angry the mother was that her husband was getting away with doing nothing at all. But I can get away with this today because it’s Father’s Day.
In that cartoon, you see the book lying there? I sure hope it’s not Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein, which will be celebrating its 200th anniversary next year. That’s a story about fatherhood, but it’s a scary and unfortunate one. But you can’t cheat and watch the movie with Boris Karloff because the two are completely different. In the movie, Dr. Frankenstein accidentally implants an abnormal, murder’s brain in his creature and you know what happens after that. But in the book, it’s not the creature’s fault that he becomes a monster; it’s Dr. Frankenstein’s, the creature’s father. The doctor is repulsed by his creation and rejects him. Because the creature isn’t loved by the one who gave him life, he acts out by killing those who are loved by Dr. Frankenstein. He isn’t loved by the one who gave him life so no one else will have that love either. The book is a cautionary tale. To create life is one thing, but to love is definitive. Fathers can’t give birth, and some see the horrible consequences of such envy in the book Frankenstein, and a lot of you mothers have told me that if it was up to fathers to do so there would be no more children, but fathers have to love, and the more they practice a loving and caring fatherhood the more natural it becomes. It takes time to be a father, and these are the men we honour today, both the fathers with us and the fathers called to their eternal reward.
May God bless the men who take their families seriously and who share themselves lovingly with them. And may they enjoy this special day because of all the days that they are fathers. And for this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randy Calvo