Time moves fast, but hopefully not too fast to remember last Sunday. It was Father’s Day! And since no edition of The Anchor was scheduled to drop that weekend, I am taking the liberty to reflect on fatherhood this weekend.
My own dad, Frank Shaughnessy, is an excellent starting point for reflecting on fatherhood. Part of the “greatest generation,” my dad served in the Navy Air Corps during WWII. He considered the priesthood (even living as a Trappist Monk for two years), but his vocation would ultimately involve marriage, being a father to eight children, and serving the People of God as a permanent deacon. My dad saw his life as a vocation and opportunity to serve. He was a man of deep prayer and led a very simple life. He provided for his children, but material gain was of little interest to him. Before his death at the age of 92, he had been married for 56 years to my mother and became “papa” to 24 grandchildren. My father was a great model of Christian virtue, service and love. He was not a perfect man, but no matter the choices made by his children, he was always there to support, encourage, protect and forgive us.
While I am certainly a different person from my own father, shaped by different experiences, I, too, strive to be a model of faith for my four children. Honestly, I can’t see myself as even half the man my father was, but nonetheless, my calling is no different: to lead my wife and children to Jesus Christ and salvation. No matter the challenges or triumphs of family life, that must always remain the focus of fatherhood.
In Paul’s Letter to Ephesians, he writes: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed Himself over for her” (Eph 5:25). To be a husband and a father, it is not about power, control, comfort, or material success. Rather, the very foundation of family life is rooted in the sacrifice of Jesus. If Jesus laid down His life for us, so must we for our wife and children. Yes we are called to provide for our families. Material things, however, can never provide the sustenance that the love of God does.
In the Church, priests are spiritual fathers to their people. Pope Francis has written often about how important it is for priests to be close to their people. This closeness brings the grace of God to His people during times of great joy and great sorrow. Just as good children should never stop honoring and caring for their father, so should we Catholics support and honor our priests. By doing so, we strengthen the bonds that lead us to our Heavenly Father. Priests, like fathers, come from diverse backgrounds and are unique individuals. We should celebrate all the men who make the selfless commitment to spiritual fatherhood during this challenging period. Furthermore, we should do our part to encourage and inspire vocations to the priesthood.
Father’s Day, celebrated once a year, is a renewal of what we should recall every day: we were created to live in the loving, merciful care of our Father for all of eternity. As disciples of Jesus, that is the destination of our journey, and we can’t find the way without Him. If we choose to follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit will give us the power and strength to find our way home to the Father. Everything else in life is a footnote to this reality.
Anchor columnist Peter Shaughnessy resides in Fairhaven with his wife, Anabela Vasconcelos Shaughnessy (Class of ’94), and their four children: Luke (Class of ’24), Emilia (Class of ’25), Dominic (Class of ’27) and Clare (Class of ’30).