I officially began fatherhood just as Pope Benedict ended his pontifical fatherhood.
Our firstborn son, Elijah David, was born at 10:36 p.m. on Feb. 27. Charging into the world at 8 pounds, 9 ounces, this big boy has already begun teaching his father what it really means to be a “father.”
It doesn’t matter how many times he throws up on my bare chest, how many times he pees on his own head (or on other nearby objects) during a diaper change or how many times his gentle whimper wakes me at 3:00 a.m. Immediately after I cut his umbilical cord, my heart overflowed with an unconditional love I’ve never experienced before.
In a deep sense, I want what’s best for little Eli, now and forever. Of course, I want him to be warm, to have a full belly, a clean diaper and a soft place to rest his tender head. But there’s an even deeper desire in my heart…
In the weeks that I was impatiently waiting for Eli to decide to join us in the world, a coworker gave me a book written by
The One Thing: Passing Faith Onto Children
In it, Kelly writes: “
I discovered that one thing I could teach [my son] to ensure his appreciation of Catholicism: I could teach my son to appreciate the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. … Interestingly, for all the people who have left the Catholic Church over the years, I don’t know a single person who has left who believes in the true presence
So that’s the task at hand: educate Eli to recognize that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist, a fundamental tenet of Catholicism. I don’t want Eli to have the label of “Catholic” for my own ego. I want him to be Catholic because I know he can find true joy, personal fulfillment and the fullness of Christ in the Catholic Church.
Passing faith onto children is a daunting task. But as I laid in our hospital bed the morning after Eli’s birth, I watched news stories marking the pope’s exit from his work as the ultimate “father” to billions of Catholics. As I welcome a child, I can’t imagine forfeiting a billion of them as Pope Benedict so graciously did.
I’m grateful that I can reflect on Christ’s fatherhood as a guide for this new phase in my life, and I’m also thankful that I can look to the pope (both Benedict and now Pope Francis) for a model of true fatherhood on earth.
“One receives one’s life precisely when he offers it as a gift,” Pope Benedict said in his address at his
final general audience
on Eli's birthday. As a new pope begins to totally offer his life as a gift for the church, I pray that I may do the same for my family.
Shortly after Eli’s birth, I received a beautiful text message from my Godfather from Iowa. I’d like to offer it now for myself, for all fathers and for Pope Francis:
“Take you now St. Joseph as your guide. Lead. Provide. Protect. And as you are the head of the house, so is your wife the heart of that same house. Love and be family. Congratulations, and God’s peace be with you.”