“Without the grace that comes from the Father who is in Heaven, fathers lose courage and abandon the field.”
We don’t typically make a big deal out of Father’s Day or Mother’s Day but I awoke on Sunday looking forward to a good omelet, a hug or perhaps a word of affirmation. Bupkis! At first I thought perhaps the children had decided to go big this year and there was something dramatic planned later. As we reached late morning, I realized nothing was coming and my pity party commenced. Strangely, I also didn’t notice the usual numerous social media posts affirming my fellow fathers either. Had the whole world gone mad? Then I realized I was a week early. We then learned that Peter needed a procedure that would have him in the hospital over the actual weekend. Tricia took the first evening and I volunteered to take the second. "That’ll be Father’s Day though," my wife reminded me. "Oh I don’t care," I said magnanimously. But as the time drew closer, I did care and I felt my pity party restarting. As I sat in traffic on my way down to Children’s Hospital, I found myself doing a mental inventory of the last year’s highs and lows, and the lows seemed a lot more plentiful than usual. "Happy Father’s Day," I said with a pout in my head. When I walked into Peter’s room, his face lit up. "I have lots of surprises for your Father’s Day." He then struggled but got to his feet. "The first is I can walk after my procedure," he said with a big smile. Unable to sleep during my hospital sleepover, I looked at the cards he had made me and stuck them in my backpack. As I pulled my hand out, I felt something pointy. It was my rosary. As my fingers moved over the crucifix, I began to think perhaps it was actually the perfect Father’s Day.
Whether it’s in my fatherhood or leadership, how often do I evaluate my life’s purpose based on the mountaintop experiences versus the valleys? Do I benchmark the fulfillment of my call by the extent of what I receive or the degree to which I give? In our Catholic tradition, the most fundamental sign of our faith is not one of praise or adulation but one of sacrifice and humiliation. Love, in its purest and deepest form, is emptying, painful, and yet undeniably important. I held onto the rosary in one hand and Peter’s hand in the other. I always am grateful for an omelet, but for the moment, I was more grateful for all the challenges that are stretching my understanding of what God has called me to more than ever before. As we come from celebrating the gift of fatherhood, let’s give thanks for Our Father and all the chances we get in this life to follow His example of love.