For many of us, our fathers have given us, first and foremost, a reflection of God’s love. Fogelberg was able to recognize that so many of the gifts he had received came from his father. He also recognized his father’s gifts in the freedom he gave (which can be hard for a father) and “the times when you got tough” (which can be hard on the kids). As tough as it is for our fathers to give us freedom and watch us fail, we know that God is a Father who gives us our gift of free will, and he never stops loving us even when we use that free will to reject him. Yet as our fathers had to get tough with us at times, we know that God is never satisfied until we truly live by the grace He offers, and that He continually challenges us to grow in our faith and not to be satisfied until we love Him perfectly. So on this Fathers Day, we thank God for being our Father.
Like Dan Fogelberg, we can also ask ourselves if we “have said ‘I love you’ near enough.” I am quite thankful for the time I had with my father. For the last nineteen years of his life, Dad lived as a widower. As I was the only one of his children left in the Pittsburgh area, I developed a special relationship with my father. When he died, in March 2011, I felt like I had lost a father and a best friend.
As part of this reflection, I offer you a bit of Hissrich family trivia. You may not know that my father was once in the seminary, finally deciding that God was not calling him to the priesthood. Of course I am thankful that God called him to a different vocation. That meant he was a great source of support to me when I was discerning what God wanted of me, and I knew he would be very understanding in whatever choice I made. But after my ordination, he had another insight. When Dad was in the seminary, there were so many priests being ordained each year that the Diocese of Pittsburgh did not have assignments for all of them, and some had to go work for a couple of years in dioceses out west. So Dad came to feel as if God was saying to him, “I don’t need you now. But there will come a time of priest shortages, and I will need your son to be a priest in those days.” I am thankful that my father supported my vocation so thoroughly.
Speaking of my vocation, this week I return to Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland for my annual retreat. The retreat is an opportunity for priests to renew ourselves in the love of Christ and in the call to serve the Church. I will be away all week, and I ask you to pray for me during this time.