May 26, 2016
I ask that you have the grace to be very close to your children, letting them grow, but being by their side. They need you, your presence, to be there, your love!
Fatherhood is a marvelous gift that the Creator gives to his creatures. Not only is it a gift of love, but also it is a gift that beckons the heart to give back in return.
Thankfully, our diocese has been blessed with countless fathers who are embracing the gift of fatherhood in extraordinary ways, and enjoying the fruit of their labors by witnessing the successful lives of their children.
“I believe God works in mysterious ways!” says Joe Wanner, father of three and grandfather of four. “I believe God has a plan for everyone, and by having faith, and trust in Him, His master plan will be fulfilled. The most important step as a Dad, I feel, is to set an example and try to get your children involved in the Catholic Church, even if it is only in the smallest way. Two of my children played the organ for Mass at a young age and I was forced to lead the music to accomplish this. It was a small sacrifice in order to involve them. Yes, God does work in mysterious ways!”
Apparently, Joe's hidden sacrifices and those of his wife Diane have paid off in a beautiful way. All of their children are active Catholics and one of their daughters, Sr. Cecilia Anne Wanner, O.P., is a religious Sister with the Nashville Dominicans.
“Every father’s dream is to have their children’s life filled with happiness,” Joe continues. “All of my children are equally special to me. Sr. Cecilia Anne becoming a nun has been a blessing for me, because I know she has found her place in God’s master plan. Knowing she is well cared for is reassuring, of course, and her being a teacher of the Catholic faith is a bonus. The lives of the children she teaches will be enriched forever, and the example she shows my family, especially my grandchildren, is a blessing. My family is blessed 1,000 times over with her prayers, and the prayers of her congregation.”
Furthermore, Sr. Cecelia Anne is deeply grateful for the earthly father that God, her Heavenly Father, gave her as well.
“As I was growing up, my Dad always supported me and gave me the encouragement I needed to believe that I could do anything,” Sr. Cecilia Anne shares. “He has always worked hard to support his family and put in long hours of physically difficult work. He didn't do this to gain worldly status or success—he simply did it to support his family. This example of self-sacrifice, of willingness to give so fully of himself for his wife and children, made a lasting impression on me. Religious life is only possible for those who are willing to make a total gift of self—giving all to Christ. My Dad's total gift of self to his family allowed me to witness what this self-gift looks like, in a very concrete way.”
Looking back over the years, Joe realizes that being a father bears unmatchable rewards.
“I enjoy the opportunity to be a part of my children’s lives and watch them grow,” Joe says. “I like to be there for them for the little things, and the big things as well. I want to hopefully teach them, as well as learn from them, and guide them to be responsible and caring adults. The challenge of instilling in them the desire to set an example for future generations to follow is most rewarding!”
Linus Evinger, husband of Anne and father of 10 children, including Fr. Joseph Evinger and Sr. Michelle Marie, and six grandchildren (two deceased), also has some insightful reflections to share.
“Most of all, I enjoyed playing with the children when they were little and were so innocent and happy, with a big smile on their face,” Linus says. “The earthly father plays the role of God the Father in this life, teaching them how to obey God's Commandments. It is the duty of the father to see that their family gets to heaven. Today it's hard to do, if you as a family get too involved in the ways of the world. My advice is to go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, read the Bible every day, and pray before and after meals, as well as night prayers and the family rosary. God the Father loves His children by giving them life. The earthly father should welcome every child into this world which comes from God the Father.”
When asked about the most important aspects of fatherhood, Fr. Gary Benz, Pastor of Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Parish of Stanley and St. Ann's Parish of Berthold, lends a meaningful response. In essence, Fr. Benz explains that this spiritual calling is for a father to strive to be Christ-like in all he does.
“First of all, a father should provide a holy example to his children. A father’s words, actions, hobbies, interests, and friendships must all be holy and reflect the goodness and righteousness of our Lord. A father lives in this world, but he is not of the world. He is a man of God and all areas of his life should reflect this zeal for the Lord and His commandments. Thus, in a related manner, a father provides for the souls of his children by teaching them how to pray, at home and especially within the Holy Mass. A holy devout father gives his children a reflection of our Father in heaven, in whose name he minsters to his family.”
Being a great Catholic father in today's culture, however, is no easy task. In fact, it takes a genuine hero to do it well—that is, a hero who is relying on God's grace.
“In the spiritual realm, a father is also a protector, for he knows that Satan and his cohort of evil spirits are very real and wish to attack his children,” Fr. Benz continues. “A father who prays daily for his children, blesses them with holy water, encourages them to have sacramentals upon their person (such as the brown scapular, the St. Benedict medal, etc.), offers up holy hours before the Blessed Sacrament on their behalf, and ensures that they are faithful to the Holy Eucharist and the sacrament of penance is truly a caring father. Any father who sends his children into the world without Jesus Christ and the graces of the Church is not fulfilling his role to watch over and protect his children.”
Furthermore, it takes a vigilant heart as well, Fr. Benz advises.
“Closely monitor your children’s access to and use of technology and mass media. If you stop evil from entering your children’s senses, you, in turn, stop what enters their minds with its accompanying effects upon their bodies. Be resolute in this area, fathers. You may not be popular, but you are loving, because you are looking out for your children’s faith and morals and ultimately, their salvation.”
Keeping one's eyes on the “prize” of heaven helps keep the joys and duties of fatherhood in perspective as well. And, truly, staying in touch with divine grace and keeping a contemplative spirit is what will help one be a loving father in the end.
“I advise fathers to be faithful to Sunday Mass and if possible, daily Mass. If children see that the Lord is truly loved by their fathers, that He is the center of their father’s life, they will also come to love the Lord and His Church. Pray daily as a family, especially a holy hour each week before the Blessed Sacrament; pray daily within the home (namely the rosary), and pray before you begin anything . . . the day, a meal, a road trip, a family recreational activity, etc. You have to be faithful to the sacrament of penance as well, going to confession at least once each month.”
This June, let us honor our fathers with heartfelt love. Who would we be, and what would the world around us be without all of the wonderful fathers we have among us?