by Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Faith of Our Fathers 

Last weekend’s newspapers, and reports on TV and radio, understandably had a lot on dads, since Sunday was Fathers’ Day.

Was it just me, though, or were there more stories than usual about the sadness of growing up without a dad?

It is a somber fact: Many of our kids today are raised by moms alone. Many do not know who their dads are; others know, but rarely if ever see their fathers.

Sociologists tell us this is particularly apparent in minority families, especially African-American and Latino.

Our love and concern go out to children without a dad. God Himself knows that having a dad is so important that He revealed that He is a Father to us!

He thought having a dad so essential that He had His only begotten Son, Jesus, raised by a loving earthly dad, St. Joseph.

Our hearts are with single moms who work so hard to provide children with love, support, and guidance by themselves.

Our gratitude to grandparents who are heroic in their tender attention to their grandchildren without dads.

We’re all upset these days by the ugly incident of a deliveryman seized by immigration officials and separated from his grieving wife and kids.

The nation is repulsed by scenes of babies and children taken by force by border officials from their parents.

By nature we all seem to realize that a child deserves and needs a mom and a dad.

Of course, perfect situations are not always to be ours this side of heaven. So, even some children raised in a family by both parents may not have it all that good.

When I was a parish priest, a young woman asked to see me after Mass one Sunday.

She told me how hard it had been for her to think of God as her father, or even to say the “Our Father,” because her own dad had been so abusive.

But then she confided that she had worked it out: her very recognition that her own dad was so evil, she told me, meant that she knew what a good father should be. And she had decided to accept God as the loving, embracing, protective dad she never had. Not bad at all!

Experts in religion report that fathers have a very significant impact on the faith of their children. When I offer Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, or at one of our parishes, I always enjoy looking out at moms and dads who have brought their kids to Church. I see the children watching dad make the sign of the cross with holy water, genuflect, pray at Mass, and receive Holy Communion. One day those children will hold their own kids at Mass, because they were raised right.

These summer days I gratefully recall early memories, as mom, dad, my sister—more siblings would come later—and I would spend weekends with my own dad’s parents at their little home in the country on the river. These were weekends filled with love, laughter, fishing, swimming, and conversation. I still smile as I reflect on those days.

An essential, unchangeable part of those family weekends was Sunday morning Mass, as together we’d ride into Bourbon, Missouri, for 9 a.m. Mass at St. Francis Xavier parish. To see both my dad and his father at Mass touched me deeply. I may have an advanced degree in theology, but nothing formed my soul more than that.

One wonders if so many difficulties we have in society and even in the Church can be traced to the absence of dads in families.