It struck me again this past Sunday as our family walked up to communion. My husband was leading the way, holding Mary-Rose in his arms, TJ and Noah followed behind and I brought up the rear. It was the perfect opportunity to absorb the strength in this man I love and take in the image of the role my husband fills. He is the leader of our family and we are all honored to accept him as so. With Father’s Day approaching, I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to thank God for this guy that that shows up every day, heart and arms open wide. He’s here when it’s fun and “easy” and he’s here when it’s overwhelmingly difficult.
My husband was named after Saint Joseph, the humble, quiet and selfless leader of the Holy Family. Of course when his namesake was bestowed, the kind of man he would grow to be remained a mystery only his own to solve. And this is where my sincere gratitude is owed to my father-in-law. The head of a family of eight children, my father-in-law taught my husband much about living the vocation of fatherhood. He modeled hard work, the emptying of self and the importance of doing it all for God. My husband learned what it felt like to be loved and he now holds nothing back when it comes to loving his own family.
Although each unique in their own right, I would say there are three words that aptly describe my husband, father and father-in-law; provider, selfless and faithful. I realize how fortunate I am for the lessons I have gleaned from each one. All, in their own way, emulate the kind of man I pray my sons will grow to be. Each are examples of what it means to live out their faith, to live well their vocation of fatherhood and consistently look to fulfill the needs of those they love before their own.
My own father was one of three boys. His Dad passed away when he was only in high school, so his mother was left to raise three boys on her own. She was tiny in stature, quiet in nature, a bit feisty in spirit and seemingly unafraid of anything. When my father ended up with three daughters, lets just say he was a fish out of water. All of a sudden he needed to learn how to play with dolls, dress barbies, put long hair in a ponytail, decipher the dramatic, ever-changing emotions of this strange breed and learn how to snuggle better than he could wrestle. He courageously stepped up to the challenge and raised three girls who continue to look to him for wisdom, guidance and the kind of love only a father can give.
There were many lessons hidden in my father’s calm and logical demeanor, his patient and understanding approach, his integrity and strong work ethic and his selfless commitment to his family. I am most grateful perhaps for his model of what to look for in a husband and father for my own children.
In looking at the precedent set by the Holy Family, the importance of the father’s role is undeniable. It is not one that seeks recognition, but should be both acknowledged and honored when it is done well. It is a role that many, be it due to generational dysfunction or other reasons, have fallen short to fulfill. I have cherished friends that have a void in their hearts, dug deep by an “absent” father. The good news, amidst their pain, is that their one true Father has more love for them than any earthly father is humanly capable of giving; and He is certainly worth celebrating this Father’s Day.
Thank you God, for placing not one, not two, but three men in my life who speak loudly without words, exhibit strength in their vulnerability, are forever rich in their poverty of self and have earned great respect in their humility. I pray that those who have been hurt by their earthly fathers will turn toward your open arms and recognize your irreplaceable love and affection for them. I pray for healing for those that have said goodbye to the fathers that they loved. And I pray for your continued wisdom, guidance and perseverance for all fathers out there who are just trying to get it right.
Happy Father’s Day