Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, in a reflection for Father’s Day, has given thanks for fathers everywhere who look to echo God, our Heavenly Father, and to the ‘Reverend Fathers’ – our priests.
In a message that looks back on the first week in which Catholic Churches, if they were safely able to do so, re-opened for private, individual prayer, the Cardinal acknowledges that there has been light in the darkness of lockdown:
“I know that’s been hard for some, but I also know it’s been a time of real opportunity for other families to get to spend time together, learning together, playing together, talking together and making contact with the wider family by all the means that the Internet gives us. And I hope those things have given fathers a great chance to be perhaps closer to their children than sometimes the demands of daily routines permits.”
It’s been quite a week, a week in which so many of our churches have opened again for private, individual prayer.
I’ve heard so many stories of the joy that that has brought, this sense of being able to return into the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and there we find our consolation. Those stories have been just lovely.
And of course, this Sunday, the Twelfth Sunday of the year is also Father’s Day. So it just gives me a chance to offer my best wishes and prayers and blessings to fathers everywhere.
These months of being locked down, as we like to say, have put pressure on all relationships and sometimes it cannot have been easy for families with very limited space brought together more closely than is our custom.
I know that’s been hard for some, but I also know it’s been a time of real opportunity for other families to get to spend time together – learning together, playing together, talking together and making contact with the wider family by all the means that the Internet gives us. And I hope those things have given fathers a great chance to be perhaps closer to their children than sometimes the demands of daily routines permits.
I think of fathers actually full of gentle strength and tenderness towards those with whom they share life in the bond of a family, in the bond of marriage, especially. And I just do want to thank fathers for the way in which they play their part in family life, often with great flexibility of roles and great partnership with the other members of the family.
There is a passage in the letter of St Paul to the Ephesians, which hints that it is from God, our father, that every fatherhood takes its name. The phrase is often translated as, “It is from God, the father, that every family takes its name”. And the word that’s used is flexible. It can mean family, it can mean father. But what it points to is that the fatherhood on which we all depend is that of God, our father. And as we try to create life together in the image of God, in the image of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, then we need to have that same ebb and flow of love and truth and tenderness and strength, which we often speak of as the work of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So on this Father’s Day, let’s pray for a great blessing on all family life and ask that that love and truth and goodness, which is at the very heart of the mystery of God, can find an expression in every family.
I just want to say a special word of thanks to all the priests who are privileged to be greeted with the title Father. It’s a sense that there is a flow of life that comes to us through the ministry of a priest. It’s the flow of the life of God, especially in the Sacraments. And it’s the role of the priest to express that tenderness of leadership within a community of a parish.
So a very special word of thanks to the Reverend Fathers, the priests in our lives, and thanks to them for the way in which the fatherhood of God, as St Paul speaks about, is reflected in their ministry. And I hope in my ministry.
So may God bless you all this Father’s Day. Please pray for fathers everywhere. For priests everywhere. And for me.
The Thursday of this last week on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the day on which we pray for the holiness of our priests. So my last word is there. Let’s pray that all of us can show the holiness of our vocation and especially that the priests will do so with great clarity.
Thank you. God bless you. And a very happy Father’s Day to all who are listening to this.