Pope Francis reflected today on the joy of fatherhood during his homily at morning Mass in the chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae today. Concelebrating at the Mass was Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, Archbishop Emeritus of Palermo, who celebrated the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination.
The innate desire to be a father, he said, is ingrained in all men, even priests, in giving their lives and protecting their spiritual children. However, when one lacks this desire, something is missing. “All of us, to exist, to become complete, in order to be mature, we need to feel the joy of fatherhood: even those of us who are celibate,” the Pope said. “Fatherhood is giving life to others, giving life, giving life… For us, it is pastoral paternity, spiritual fatherhood, but this is still giving life, this is still becoming fathers.”
Contemplating on the reading from the book of Genesis, which recounts God’s promise to Abram to give him descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven, the Pope expressed his admiration for Abram, who defending the sacrifice of animals, which was the seal of God’s covenant with him.
“It moves me to picture this ninety year old man with a stick in his hand”, defending his sacrifice,” the Holy Father said. “It makes me think of a father defending his family, his children. A father who knows what it means to protect his children. And this is a grace that we priests must ask for ourselves: to be a father, to be a father.”
“The grace of fatherhood, of pastoral paternity, of spiritual paternity. We may have many sins, but this is commune sanctorum: We all have sins. But not having children, never becoming a father, it’s like an incomplete life: a life that stops half way. And therefore we have to be fathers. But it is a grace that the Lord gives. People say to us: ‘Father, Father, Father …’. They want us to be this, fathers, by the grace of pastoral fatherhood.”
Directing his words towards Cardinal De Giorgi, the Holy Father compared the prelates 60 years of priestly ministry to that of a father. “I do not know what our dear Salvatore did,” but “I’m sure that he was a father.” “And this is a sign,” he said while pointing to the priests from Palermo who were present. “Now it’s up to you” he said, adding: every tree “bears its own fruit, and if it is good, the fruit must be good, right?”. So, the Pope concluded lightheartedly , “do not let him look bad …”
Pope Francis concluded his homily thanking God for the grace of fatherhood in the Church which “is passed from father to son.”