My dad is awesome. He can tell you anything you need to know about a residential property and why you would or would not want to live there. He knows about zoning laws, building code and all sorts of things we never think about. My dad taught me how to look at the outside of a building and determine whether the plumbing could viably support the number of occupants. My father never raised a hand to me as a child. Even when I disappointed him by dropping out of college for a semester, he expressed himself firmly, but without abuse or degradation. My father told me that I can do anything if I put my mind to it. I went back, I finished, and then I got my M.A.
My parents are good people who struggled when they were young to work through their disagreements. Sometimes, my grandmother stepped in to help them. Grandma, like my mother, was a single parent for many years. Grandma believes that she should receive at very least, a Fathers’ day card, because when her husband died, she did a lot of things that many women in the 1960’s were not expected to do. She worked. She owned two homes. She can fix lots of things. She has no problem telling you what’s on her mind, and she also has no problem forgiving you. Over and over and over again.
My grandmother slept on a roll -out bed in the living room, so that my mother and I could stay in the apartment that she shared with my uncle. My grandmother made room for me when it was no longer safe for me to live with my mother and stepfather. When I was financially unstable, my grandmother opened her home to me one last time. She tried to teach me everything there is to know about football, but a quarterback is still a stingy rebate, as far as I’m concerned.
There was a day in my late twenties when I shared with my father that my grandmother and I had a disagreement. To my surprise stood behind my grandmother’s position, and urged me to be a bit more compassionate.
“Your grandmother was there when I couldn’t be.”
My grandmother was a woman who assumed the roles of father and mother, not only for her own children, but for her grandchildren. There are many widows and single mothers who deserve both the macaroni necklace in May and the necktie in June. I also know quite a few men who never married or had children of their own, but truly embodied the qualities of fatherhood.
One of these men has become a friend I have grown to trust for more than twenty years. As a teacher, mentor and guide, he helped me to grow as a pastoral musician and woman of faith. When I was just starting out in my career, I almost took a position in a parish where the pastor was later called away from ministry. At 17 years old, that situation would have been devastating for me, but I was young, innocent and there was only so much that could be disclosed about the situation. My friend enlisted the help of another friend who was a parish priest at the time to dissuade me from taking the position. When I struggled with anorexia in my early twenties, my mother reached out to my friend to because she knew I trusted his insight. He intervened then, and he intervened a few other times in the years that followed when I was involved with guys he knew did not have my best interests at heart.
It’s Fathers’ Day. A father is a person who loves, who forgives, who puts their life on the line to protect those who are vulnerable. A father works tirelessly to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves. Often, women who are widowed or separated from their child’s father are shouldered with the responsibility of both parents—and because our nation is still dragging its knuckles while it toys with idea of equal pay for equal work—a woman has to work twice as hard to provide for her children in the absence of a male wage earner.
I wish it wasn’t this way, but don’t get me started on this one! Please, tell me: why was it, when I worked in NYC and I had a masters’ degree, that my younger male colleagues with high-school diplomas were in the next tax bracket for less demanding positions in the same field? Just raising awareness, that’s all. [Takes deep breath. Shifts gears. Takes deep breath. Long exhale]
Here is an inclusive blessing for Fathers’ Day, which takes all of these fatherly relationships into perspective.
Of fatherhood, our Pope Francis has said that children of every age need to find a father who is waiting for them when they return home. They will do everything not to admit it, not to show it, but they need this, and not finding him opens up in them wounds that are difficult to heal. How much dignity and how much tenderness in that father who is waiting by the door for his child.
We invite all who claim paternal tenderness for their identity
to stand for a blessing, whether they
have given birth to new life, fostered or adopted new life.
We invite all grandfathers, god-fathers, step-fathers, uncles,
older brothers who raised their younger siblings,
and men who give life to others through
their talents, creativity and sacrifice, also to stand.
[This is important!]
Furthermore, we are certainly aware of the distinct challenges that single mothers face. In the absence of their children’s father, they often assume the roles of both parents, and so we invite them to stand with us also in this moment.
And we ask those who are seated to extend their hands in blessing.
God who is a creator, sustainer, and life-giver,
as a father provides for his children, you never stop working to reveal your love, so that we might have fullness of life.
Bless these parents, so that they may know the fullness of their dignity, their wisdom and their integral role in your plan for salvation.
May they always be certain of their unquestionable equality with their sisters and brothers so that the two may work together in harmony.
May we always honor these people with a spirit of profound respect. We ask this through Christ, Our Lord, Amen.
And may almighty God bless you all, the Father, and the Son, + and the Holy Spirit. R. Amen.