June 18, 2023

Dear parishioners,

As we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, I want to reflect with you on the beauty of fatherhood. Once a young boy was asked to describe Fathers’ Day, he aptly said: “It’s just like Mother’s Day, except that you don’t spend as much on the present.” Perhaps the young boy was on to something.  While Father’s Day may not evoke the same sentimentality as Mother’s Day, its meaning remains nevertheless profound.

Father’s Day serves as an opportunity to honor not only those who are fathers to us biologically but also those who have embraced the role of fatherhood through personal affiliation. These individuals have chosen to be father figures, nurturing us in various ways. Whether they are biological fathers, stepfathers, foster fathers, godfathers, spiritual fathers, grandfathers, uncles, or other father figures, all deserve recognition for their love and devotion.

Fatherhood is a divine gift, reflecting God’s love and care for us. In this week’s Gospel reading, the Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, we witness Jesus demonstrating immense compassion for the crowds, acknowledging their need for guidance and leadership. He instructs His disciples to proclaim the good news, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons (Matthew 9:36—10:8). These words resonate deeply with the responsibilities and calling of fathers in our lives. Fathers are called to be leaders, providers, and protectors, offering love, guidance, and nurturing, much like Jesus did for His spiritual children.

On several occasions, I have shared with you my personal journey of losing my own father and how his presence continues to shape me. For two years now, Father’s Day has remained a challenging time for me. Although physically absent, his influence remains potent. His words, faith, and way of life continue to shape my path. I have come to understand that a father’s love and guidance extend beyond his physical presence, leaving an indelible mark on his children’s lives.

Beyond my father, there are other men who have been like fathers to me throughout my life. These include the priests who have cared for me spiritually from my childhood through my youth and into my young adulthood. These remarkable individuals have imparted lasting lessons and inspirations that continue to shape who I am.

I acknowledge that not everyone has experienced the same type of father figure in their lives. Some of you may have missed out on a father’s presence altogether. However, this does not diminish the profound essence of fatherhood itself, as intended by God. Now more than ever, in a world experiencing a crisis of fatherhood, we need fathers who will rise and embrace this calling.

As a priest, I may not have children of my own blood, but I do have numerous spiritual children, faithfully addressing me as “Father” each day. Among them are several young priests and seminarians whom I have adopted as my “spiritual sons” over the years. I feel a particular responsibility to support and inspire them in their vocations. Caring for their well-being brings me immense joy, similar to a father’s experience with his own children. As most of my spiritual sons now reside and minister in different states and even different continents, being present for them can be quite challenging. Nevertheless, our unique relationship demonstrates that fatherhood can extend to the spiritual realm, where one is called to generate and regenerate life in a special way.

On this Father’s Day, let us express our gratitude for the fathers in our lives. Let us honor them for their love, sacrifice, and unwavering presence. For those who have lost fathers or faced difficult relationships, may you find solace in knowing that our heavenly Father, the epitome of fatherhood, is always there for us. His love knows no bounds, His care is unwavering, and His presence is everlasting. From our earthly fathers to our spiritual Father, let us draw strength and inspiration as we strive to embody the beauty of fatherhood in our own lives.

Wishing you all a joyous Father’s Day!

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham