Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This weekend the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, traditionally known as the Feast of Corpus Christi. This Solemnity honors Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is really, truly, and substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine. This Real Presence happens through the change which the Church calls “transubstantiation” (“change of substance”), when at the moment of consecration during Mass, the priest says the words which Christ Himself pronounced over bread and wine, “This is My Body,” “This is the Chalice of My Blood,” “Do this in remembrance of Me.” On this day, we Catholics are reminded that Jesus Christ still gives Himself to us, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Jesus, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, is always with us until the end of time. In the Holy Eucharist, we have the most tangible form of His presence.
This year, this solemn feast of Corpus Christi coincides with Father’s Day, when we honor all those men who have been fathers to us in our lives, not only through biological connection but also through personal affiliation because they chose to be father figures to us and have nurtured us in different ways. One little boy, when asked to explain about Father’s Day, said, “It’s just like Mother’s Day, only you don’t spend as much on the present.” Yes, maybe we’re not quite as sentimental about Father’s Day, but it does not make this day any less significant than Mother’s Day.
This Father’s Day has a very difficult connotation for me as it is my second Father’s Day without a father. For forty-six years I had one, and he was one of the best. But now he is no longer here. It seems strange that he is not around. In my family, he is never gone. We feel that he is still close by, always present, always available, just the way he used to be, because his words, his faith, and his way of life continue to shape our own. I am convinced by copious signs that seem to confirm my dad’s abiding presence. I am blessed by all the memories of him that I will cherish forever, including some very tender, precious, and invaluable moments in my life. Like a warm fireplace in a large house, my dad was a source of comfort. Like a sturdy swing on the porch or a big shady tree in the backyard, he could always be found and leaned upon. His strong faith and passion for the Church inspired me, despite so much suffering he and my mother endured during the years after the Vietnam War, and through the early years of our resettlement in the United States as refugees.
I could say that all my life, my father was always a reassuring presence. He was the glue that held our large family together. Because he was there, life went smoothly for all of us. Everything in the house worked like a well-oiled machine; all the bills got paid on time, the lawn stayed mowed, and the garden was cultivated. Because he was there, our laughter was fresh, and our future was secure. Because he was there, I could concentrate on my vocation as a priest without needless worry about my family. This was particularly true throughout all my long years of serving the Church away from home. Because my dad was there, we never missed an important feast day, a family celebration, someone’s birthday, baptism, marriage, anniversary… All those were the things on Dad’s calendar. He made the decisions, broke up the fights, played with the grandkids, read the newspapers every morning, worked in the gardens, helped my mother with house chores, presided at night prayer, and made sure that the whole family go to Mass on Sundays. He didn’t do anything unusual. He only did what dads are supposed to do – be there for their family.
My dad’s life was a beautiful expression of what it means to be a man after Christ’s own heart. He comes to my mind each day because I see his imprints everywhere in my own thinking and behavior. He taught me how to shave and how to pray. He showed me by his examples how to be a father figure and a spiritual father to others. On occasions, when I hear a good joke, I could hear him chuckle. A good sense of humor is the one thing that I still need to learn from him.
I realize that mine is a unique experience of fatherhood that not everybody has. Some of you may not have had a father figure’s presence in your life. But today, on this solemn Feast of Corpus Christi, when we praise, adore, and give thanks to Christ, who is the perfect model for all fathers, I believe that it’s worth celebrating all that fatherhood stands for: love, responsibility, dedication, sacrifice, and most importantly, abiding presence. More than ever, we need fathers who will rise up and be the abiding presence to his children and family the way Christ is to the world through His Holy Body and Blood.
Happy Father’s Day and a Blessed Corpus Christi Feast to you all!
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham