Today, Sunday 20, 2021, in the English speaking world, we celebrate Father’s Day. That means that both Malta as well as Canada are celebrating the same memorial day. Adding to this, today, on Friday 20 June 2003, I was ordained a priest from the hands of a holy Archbishop Mons. Joseph Mercieca. Finally, these two festivities are taking place at the year dedicated to St Joseph, the patron saint of the Church and the fathers in particular. Is there a relation between these three beautiful events?
Being a father is something truly beautiful. It is so life-giving to have a son or a daughter whom you can love, take care of and give your life to. In my hospital ministry many fathers told me that one of their best moments in life was certainly when their children were born. However, and like every kind of vocation under the sun, being a father is not a ready-made business. One becomes a father by time. To this end David Gottesman says it so clearly: Fathers, like mothers, are not born. Men grow into fathers and fathering is a very important stage in their development. Obviously this generative trait in every man needs care to be pruned to grow and give more abundant good fruit. Here Jack Baker’s reflection highlights what we are saying when he said: Every dad, if he takes time out of his busy life to reflect upon his fatherhood, can learn ways to become an even better dad.
If a father of a family needs a time out so that he could mature in his way of fathering. how much more we priests, as spiritual fathers of God’s People, need to find time to let ourselves be formed in the way of being and serving as priests. In the many courses I have been graced to attend on priestly formation, I came to realize that it is one thing to be ordained a priest and far another to live as a priest. In my priestly experience the Holy Spirit taught me to be more aware and responsible to take my priestly formation seriously. No one can give from what he does not have, and we give from what has been given to us. It is precisely for this reason that a priest has to invest in his own ministerial identity and life by continually engaging himself in ongoing formation, for which lay people see the need. Pope Saint John Paul II’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the formation of priests in the circumstances of the present, Pastores Dabo Vobis, insists exactly on this point when it says: Lay people themselves had asked that priests commit themselves to their formation so that they, the laity, could be suitably helped to fulfill their role in the ecclesial mission which is shared by all. Indeed, “the more the lay apostolate develops, the more strongly is perceived the need to have well – formed holy priests (no. 3).