June 9, 2010
An Important Question for Fathers
by Friar Jim Van Vurst, O.F.M.
want to wish all the fathers and grandfathers who might read these words a very
special and happy Father’s Day! The women and mothers who read this might want to pass it on to the fathers in your family.
Imagine This Scenario
Let me set up a scenario upon which a father might reflect. Let’s say that
significant medical examinations, you discover that you have a completely unexpected
illness. You are still in the prime of your life and this has shaken you
deeply. You’ve always been aware of your mortality,
but now you are shocked because you must face death far sooner than you
expected. The doctors (you’ve checked this diagnosis out with several)
agreed that your death is imminent.
You have, perhaps, a month to
live. You are very much in touch with your
mind and your thoughts. The disease has affected your body, not your
capacity. Gathering all your strength, you prepare to deal with this new
course of events.
Being the responsible person you
are, you make sure your will is up to date;
you do your best in providing for the financial future of you wife and
children. Everything seems to be in order.
But I want to
ask one more important question: “What would you want your last
to your children to be before your life ended on earth?”
A loved one’s final
words are considered almost sacred. Requests from a dying father are
with an openness that can never be matched at any other time in one’s
What You Might Say to Your Children
Think about writing a letter to your children expressing your last thoughts
and wishes for them. If you have both sons and daughters, you might want to
write separate letters. There might be things
you would want to say specifically for your boys and your girls.
Allow me to offer a few suggestions. First and most important, you would
want to tell them, “Children, I love you with all my heart.” At a moment like this, you would know the
meaning of “fatherly love” in a way you could not have known it any time in
Second, you would want to tell
them that while you tried to be a good dad, you are asking their forgiveness
for any ways in which you hurt them unjustly. As you prepared to leave them, you would want to open a way for any old wounds to be healed.
You would sincerely ask
your children to pray for you, their dad. You’ve prayed for them many times as
you watched them grow up. Now you need their prayers as you end your journey on
earth. Tradition holds that, just like parents' prayers for their children have
special efficacy, so, too, do the prayers of children for their parents have an extraordinary power before God. Parents sometimes forget that they can bless their children. Equally true, a child can
bless its parents with the prayer that can only come from the heart of a child. (Sometime when you are sick or under pressure, ask your child to bless you by placing a hand on your head and saying, “Dear God, please
make Dad/Mom healthy again; please give him/her peace of heart.”)
You might urge your
sons, depending on their age, to grow up to be good and just and
honest men: treating neighbors with respect, not cheating others, trying
to be honest and especially loving their families. For your daughters, there
might be some special things that you know fit them perfectly; remind them
that in your eyes they have always been the most beautiful and cherished girls in the world.
Tell them with deep sincerity, “Take care of your Mom. She gave you
birth, she nursed you, washed you, nurtured and fed you all the years you have
been growing up. She’s prayed for you every day, cried with you when you were
hurting, and was filled with joy when you were laughing and happy. Never forget
Finally, you might tell them
that when you see God face to face, you will ask him to let you continue watching over them,
walking with them and though they might not see you, you will be there by their
side as a good father would be for his children. Can you imagine that after
Joseph died, he was not walking with Jesus during his ministry, and with Mary
especially as she stood beneath the cross?
What It Means to Be a Dad
The idea of being able to leave these kinds of final
words to your children is so dramatic and touching that you will
undoubtedly have many more ideas. Even though
you're healthy now, this exercise might remind you what it means to be a
dad here and now. This is your day, after all. Your role is so very
special in a
family. Your example, your attitudes touch your children more deeply
I came across a beautiful
observation about dads and wanted to share it with you. “The warmest
man can wear is the arm of his little boy or girl around his
is so true.
I wish all of you dads a very
blessed Father’s Day!
Response from Friar Jack: Thanks to each of you for your interest
in St. Anthony of Padua.
Let me also remind you that I remember all the readers of Friar Jack, as well
as their loved ones, in my prayers each month. May St. Anthony intercede for
the good health and happiness of all of you
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