Cloistered Dominican Nuns Corpus Christi Monastery

Father.Priest.Forever. (Part 1 of 2)

Part One in a Two-Part Series.

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It may have taken us a while to update you on the second event of our “triple-header” weekend, but we consider the timing “providential”.  The event was the first Mass of Fr. Christopher Brannan, O.P.; he and Fr. Dennis Klein, O.P. were ordained to the priesthood only two days before the Mass.  And the timing for this post is providential because it happens to coincide with Father’s Day.

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After blessing the nuns, the newly ordained priests gave blessings to the friars and the people outside. Pictured by Br. Joseph Marie Dinh, O.P.

What makes a man a father?  We’ve heard in many circles of our society that fatherhood is in crisis, and sadly, that’s true.  More and more, we have single-parent families, usually headed by the mother.  We have fathers absent from the lives of their children physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Abusive fathers, distant fathers, absent fathers, adolescent fathers (those that never seemed to grow up).  Taken a step further, other living and family arrangements, particularly same-sex couples, challenge the premise that there is something unique about fatherhood distinct from motherhood, and necessary for the well-being of a child (these relationships also raise the same questions about mothers, but we’ll focus on fathers for now).  Are fathers now to be considered, “good, but not necessary?”

If we want to see how God designed and views fatherhood, we need only look at the life of Jesus.  It was to Jesus’ mother, Mary, that the angel appeared and announced God’s plan – that she should be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and conceive and bear a son, Jesus, who would be both human and divine.  When Mary’s betrothed, Joseph, learned of her pregnancy, he planned to break off their relationship.  God could have let it happen.  No human father was necessary to explain Jesus’ being, His existence.  God could have let Mary become a single mother to Jesus.  Yet, God the Father found it to be more fitting that Joseph should be husband to Mary and foster father to Jesus.  Though Jesus was God, Scripture tells us that he grew in wisdom and stature.  We can well imagine Joseph teaching Jesus the boy Jewish customs – the prayers of Passover, how to act, how to treat people.  He taught Jesus the skills of his trade – carpentry – and how to make a living.  Joseph was an example to Jesus in his tender care and protection of Mary – he led them to Egypt and back again, and made a home for them in Nazareth.  One can well imagine the silent, strong, loving witness Joseph gave to Jesus the boy as he grew into manhood.

Natural fatherhood was designed to be a sign of divine fatherhood.  There are three primary things we receive from our parents: being (our existence), nourishment and support necessary for life, and instruction.  Our fathers provide these things in ways that are different from those used by our mothers, due to real anthropological differences between men and women.  These differences do not make one superior to the other, they are both equally necessary, but we cannot deny the differences.  And studies have shown the presence or absence of a father (or the presence of an abusive or neglectful father) has lasting effects on children – among other lessons and effects, sons learn from him what is acceptable for the treatment of women and daughters perceive from him their own value and how they can expect to be treated by men in future relationships.  Good fathers are crucial to the well-being of future generations.

Getting back to Jesus, He tells us, if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father.  So, what does Jesus show us about fatherhood?  We see Him using his resources to bring life and aid to those in need.  We see him weeping and compassionate toward those who are weak and hurting.  We see Him gathering His disciples, praying over them, instructing them, and bringing peace to their disputes.  We see Him providing for thousands by feeding them and protecting them by calming storms.  We see him direct his righteous anger to cleaning out His Father’s house and upholding justice and right worship.

Naturally, the ideal would be a child would have a good father.  Despite the dismal news we sometimes hear, there are yet many, many men out there who are striving to be good fathers, and it’s important to remember, honor, and support them.  Fathers, every day, you rise out of bed and sacrifice for your family.  You strive to follow the advice King David gave to his son Solomon before he died: “Take courage and be a man; keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statues, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn…”  For you, we are grateful and you remain in our prayers.

But what has this to do with the first Mass and priesthood?  Check out Part Two for the answer.

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