A moving video for anyone who has ever had a good father.
Perhaps an even more moving video for those whose fathers were broken, or deeply flawed, or not there at all.
In a former parish, there was a sister-liturgist who–eager to promote “sensitivity”–decided that the Gloria should be sung with the refrain “Glory to God in the Highest, and peace to God’s people on earth;” she was content to brutalize the ear, change a liturgical prayer that is not supposed to be changed, and disorient the people just a tad, in order that no one should be subjected to that troubling male pronoun, “His.”
I always thought it was a nonsensical point; why go to the trouble of training the people to avoid the “His” in that sung prayer, when it proceed to refer to God as “Heavenly King, Almighty God and Father,” and to Jesus as “only Son of the Father.” And of course, I got into a civil debate with her about it.
“You don’t understand,” she said kindly (because she was a very kind sister) “it’s important that we begin to think of God as having no gender at all, containing aspects of both mother and father, but not limited to our understanding as “Father.”
“Yes, mysticism if fine; I’m a fan,” I said. “But the prayer–which is liturgical and not subject for editing by you or me–makes enough male references throughout that it seems incongruous and silly, to enforce this clumsy and cold “Glory to God and peace to God’s people,” phrasing. It’s ick to my ear. And it puts God at a distance; it’s not intimate.”
To sister’s credit she remained kind but she did buckle down and let me know she wasn’t budging. “There are a lot of people in the world who have had bad fathers, they have bad memories, a lot of people find referring to God as “Father” to be distancing and hurtful. They cannot relate.”
“Well, sister, I happen to be one of those people who had a bad father and carries bad memories, and I like referencing God as Father; I happen to find great comfort and solace in having a Heavenly Father who more than fills the void left by my earthly one.”
She looked stunned. “You are the first person who has ever said that to me; that is not the usual perspective.”“But don’t you think that’s a perspective worth promoting? Isn’t it a much better thing to tell people whose fathers have failed that they may be consoled by a Father who will never fail? Wouldn’t that be more positive, and ultimately more healing, than wrecking the liturgy to pander to neurotic sadness?”
We live in an era where all Motherhood is celebrated as a “choice,”, but choices are by their nature invitations to be inconsistent. When a mother may “selectively reduce” her twins or triplets down to the one “chosen” child, or carry a baby unto viability, then deliver just enough child from the birth canal in order to slaughter it, the celebrated post-modern notions of motherhood do not speak much to transcendent constancy or unfailing love, and yet it is Fatherhood that has taken a beating in the culture. It is Fatherhood that is considered dispensable, on earth and–apparently–in heaven.
Good mothers are amply applauded in society, as they should be. Perhaps if we can funnel some of the whirlwinds of the age back into valuing fatherhood, and celebrating the powerful effect of a good father on his children’s lives, people will be encouraged–or allowed–to find the Fatherhood of God and embrace it for themselves, be consoled and taught by a Person whose earthly counterpart they may have missed in their lives. Perhaps fathers will themselves discover in that reflection, the inspiration and instruction they need to love with wisdom and space.
When a child steps out and tries something risky, and then falls, the mother is quick to run to him, console him and hug him close; she frets for him. The father is the one who says, “I’m here if you fall, only do not be afraid.”
The child needs both.
We are formed in God’s image; we are meant to reflect God to each other, in all of our relationships. If fathers are invisible on earth, we lose site of God in Heaven; losing sight of Him, we lose site of the Son and Holy Ghost as well, and tumble-spin into a cold and distant world of incompleteness, which is incompatible with the Restoration we await.
Related: Tips for Catholic Men