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A Priestly Calling from a Father’s Perspective

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a national convention for Diocesan Vocation Directors. This convention has several functions for the priests who attend: social networking and just plain camaraderie with fellow Vocation Directors, education and “professional development,” and spiritual and physical refreshment. Each of these pieces year in and year out are equally valued by the members of the NCDVD and I, being a lay, married, father of 3 children and an associate vocation director, get a chance to experience all this from a decidedly different perspective.

Throughout the week I listened as priests and lay people taught priests how to work in the field of Vocation Promotion, how to increase the effectiveness of the message they hope to spread and how to reach more efficiently the right young men who are being called to the priesthood. I listened as priests taught their brother priests in the homilies during Mass. I watched as young priests met fellow young priests from across the nation and shared what is working for them and what they need help with and all the while I was able to sit back and think, what does this all mean for me as a husband and father.

The answer I received on the last day of the convention was one that surprised me a little. The realization is that almost everything that was being taught in those workshops and applied to the priesthood in those homilies was also very personally applicable to my life! Sure, the “professional development” applied very directly to my work, but the homilies about the role of a vocation director, the hard work of the vocation director, the importance of the priesthood in the life of the church all applied to me personally, because, I am a FATHER!

In paragraphs 1655-1657 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read that the family has the special distinction of being called the Domestic Church, the place in which our Faith is first introduced, fostered, and shared and it is in leading ones children to discover their vocations that a father and a mother participate fully in the priesthood of the baptized.

At the conclusion of this fantastic week of learning and reflecting, I finally understood that my role as father of my family is not so different than the role of the priest of my parish. We are entrusted with the souls of our families. It is our duty to make sure that while attempting to work with God’s grace to get ourselves to heaven, we live out a life of total self-sacrifice that enables those around us to get to heaven as well. We are expected to be holy examples of virtuous living and when we fail to do so, it matters all the more because of the responsibility in being entrusted with God’s children (no matter the number).

So, there I was, at the convention’s closing Mass, in front of the icon of the NCDVD patron, St. John Vianney, asking for prayers that I might be a good and holy priest for my family because, in that moment, I realized, that is my vocation; that is my responsibility; that is my gift.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in All In, fatherhood, Virtue

 

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Catcher in the Rye and the Role of Fathers

I will just go ahead and admit it, I’ve never read Catcher in the Rye. It is not for lack of wanting to have read it, it is for lack of ambition to actually sit down and read it. My wife and I even purchased the book a couple years ago (or found it in storage somewhere from her high school days – it wasn’t required reading in my school – I can’t remember which) and I still haven’t picked it up and gotten into it.  After reading this excellent article by Fr. Damien Ference, perhaps it is time I dive into it and stop being the uncultured swine that I am.

When I first read Catcher in my junior year of college, my absolute favorite part of the book was when Holden explained to Phoebe that all he wanted to do all day was stand on the edge of a big cliff, making sure that the kids playing some game in the field of rye didn’t fall over the edge. I bracketed that entire section with a blue pen. A couple of years later, when I read Catcher for the second time, that business about keeping the kids from falling over the cliff remained my favorite part, but this time I underlined the entire section with a red pen and then wrote “Priesthood 173” on the first page of my book, which is where I always make a personal index. Every time I’ve read Catcher since, I’ve stopped on page 173 and thought to myself, “this is what the priesthood is all about.” I always thought of Holden standing on the edge of that cliff as an image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and I loved that all he wanted to do all day was to save people. That all changed about two years ago.

Read the rest for yourself but at the heart of the article Fr. Ference’s impression of Holden Caulfield was put to the test and was found wanting. As the article puts it:

O’Connor’s issue with Holden Caulfield, Gooch argues, is “the naiveté of his savior complex.” In other words, rather than humbly recognizing his brokenness and his own need for a savior, Holden believes that he is the savior. Holden is at the center of his own world, and everything revolves around him. He’s actually not very mature for his age, although smoking cigarettes, going with prostitutes, and cussing may make him appear so. Under the edgy surface of his coolness, Holden is a selfish boy who can’t see himself as he really is.

Again, I haven’t read the book and these impressions may be off from your perception of the character but that is unimportant. What is important is the lesson here for all fathers (both spiritual and physical). We are called to lead our families to heaven; to keep those in our care close to Christ and His way of Truth so that when the time comes, they can enter into eternal glory with Christ. However, we can’t forget that we are just as much in need of that same salvation. When we fail to love our children and our wives as we should, we need to make amends and beg forgiveness. Let’s not be so proud as to believe that we can do this all on our own.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2011 in Books, Children, fatherhood, Virtue

 

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