June 21, 2009

Happy Fathers' Day, Father

I guess I just feel funny receiving Fathers' Day wishes. It goes against something inside me, but I can't quite articulate it yet.

Certainly there is a lot of spiritual fatherhood and motherhood in the order of grace. In any devout life we are given many mothers and fathers along the way, helping to conceive us as the new creations Christ calls us to be. Priests are supposed to be ministers of this spiritual fatherhood in a particular and intense way.

But for any ministering celibate--not just priests--this call to parenthood in the order of grace is always bound up with the darkness and obscurity of the renunciation of ordinary generativity. Done well, this emptiness and obscurity becomes a mystical contact with the Source of all, a kind of superfecund coincidence of opposites. Done poorly, well we know what disasters come from that.

Like any experience of true prayer, the intersection of spiritual parenthood and celibate chastity is a place both terrifying and sublime, and an experience of the Light Who is so bright that our minds and hearts can only see It as darkness.

I guess none of this explains why I feel funny when someone wishes me a happy Fathers' Day, but it's a start.

So go ahead, I guess, and wish your priest a happy Fathers' Day. But don't forget your mothers in the spiritual order on Mothers' Day either.

8 comments:

pennyante said...

I guess you will just have to accept being greeted with a "Happy Father's Day" as a little Penance. (chuckle)

Actually, when a person wishes you a Happy Father's Day, they are acknowleging your spiritual fatherhood... That's why we call you "Father" and not Minister or Preacher or Pastor.

We accept you as an annointed person who by your vocation you are called to care, nuture and be with us in our joys and sorrows and through the sacraments help us come nearer to our God.

Sounds like a kind of fatherhood to me! :)

LM said...

We love you Father!

Michael Hallman said...

Happy Father's Day :-)

Just figured you better get used to it :-P But actually I really loved this post. Celibacy is the area where I still continue to struggle in terms of accepting my own vocation - not that I'm struggling to be celibate now, but I know that I have a mixed record of how I deal with moments of loneliness, of that lack of intimacy which enables the celibate to experience a deeper sense of intimacy with God through prayer. You wrote of dealing with celibacy well and poorly, and I myself have experienced both. Sometimes in those moments when something is restless within me I recognize it as an opportunity to turn to prayer, which inevitably leads to a profound encounter with grace. At other times, I turn to some sort of external search for transcendence, whether it be sexually or otherwise. "Behold, You were within me, and I was outside, and it was there that I sought You." How many times has Augustine described my own struggle, my own sin. And yet, like the Psalms that so often begin with darkness and despair and end with expressions of hope, so too does Augustine call me forward towards that deeper, mystical encounter with God, as he continues, "You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain peace which is yours." I pray that for you, Father, and for me, that the experience of celibacy will always fill us with the hunger and thirst for God, for the fire to attain peace which comes through that rest in Him.

Brother Charles said...

Thanks Penny and LM!

Micheal, you get it, and that's encouraging to me.

Julia said...

I understand. You are a Father, not a daddy. :)

I found today to be a good day to especially pray to God as Father. Depending on the moment, God takes different positions in my life: Lord, Creator, Judge, Savior, Companion, Beloved, or - yes - Father. Meditating on the Trinity and these different relations with God, and even trying to feel them out a bit, always leads to deep, intimate prayer and adoration for me.

That was a very nice comment, Michael. We must direct our aimless hunger into thirst for God. But failure happens; sometimes we turn to the world (or the flesh) to try to satisfy us when we are empty instead of putting ourselves at the foot of the Cross. In such times we need to remember the extraordinary grace of God that brings us such painful humiliation and gives us the broken, contrite hearts that can turn only to the Lord.

Brother Charles said...

Thanks for the beautiful comment, Julia.

pinoycatholic said...

I metitated on how God works in my life and in a way I can relate how He is as a Father, like me, as Son, like me, and as the Holy Spirit, the Nurturer and Giver of Life, like me who labors and toils for my wife and children.

In a way Brother Charles, those who are ordained are called to witness to the work of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in a more radical way.

Anonymous said...

Faith of Our Fathers.
Early Church Fathers.
Holy Father.
Spiritual Father was given to me at age 4, at the Elevation of the Host, in May 1959, and Jesus told me, from the Host, "This Priest will teach you all about me." Turns out this Priest taught 1-12 Catechism & Bible History Classes. He was more a "father" to me, than my father. I cried more at his death, than that of my own father. My dad taught me indifference, and hatred. Jesus knew I needed extra dose of a Father's love.

Happy Spiritually-Fecund-Generative-Spiritually Father's Day!!! :-)