Where do we see and feel God’s love in the world? It is manifest in so many ways. One is the love of our fathers. This year Father’s Day falls on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. For my own personal reflection, this seems so appropriate. Both speak of love to me; the love of my God and the love of my father. My hope in life is that I bring both of these to the world.
What is it about the love of a father? My father was stern, yet gentle. He celebrated his world and his children with every waking day and his quiet, humble faith was a model for us. You always felt his love, even in challenging parental moments. He had five children, all so different with different needs and wants. His love was unique to each one. I would like to highlight some aspects of my father that demonstrate how wonderful he was, and hopefully to bring us all to reflect on dads out there and their place in our hearts and lives.
My father was the middle of nine children. He grew up in Uptergrove, Ontario. At the young age of 21, he went off to Germany in WWII. He rarely spoke of his experience while I was growing up, but it was a cross he bore his whole life. He enjoyed the outdoors. Spending time in his cabin was a favourite pastime. He loved animals, feeding squirrels, saving turtles stuck on the highway and raising geese, ducks and chickens. Beekeeping was a hobby for a while until he was stung several times. He loved to sit around the woodstove in the garage with a chum in the neighbourhood and talk for hours.
My dad was proud of all of our accomplishments. He drove my friends and I to church with our guitars and boisterous behaviour and never complained. I think what I treasure most is my father’s contentment with simple things like his backyard garden, dancing with my mom, eating an early supper and watching wildlife shows on T.V. He loved taking his young grandsons for rides in his pickup truck. I miss him so much and when I think of him now, I visualize his plaid shirts and his laughter. He loved jokes and music and was in his glory when the family sat around singing and playing guitar. I knew he wanted the best for me, for all of us. My father passed away while I sang “Amazing Grace” beside his bed. It was a painful moment, but a sacred moment where the thin veil between heaven and earth was real for me. God’s love shone through my father.
When I receive the Body of Christ, I feel peace. This is the love beyond our comprehension, the love that we cannot see, but we know is there. I am grateful for the Eucharist and God’s presence around me in relationships, the natural world and the memories of my father.
Of course, there is no perfection to our human relationships and sometimes the fatherly love may come to a child through someone else or may have been corrupted by the stresses of life. The love of God is always there. The Sacraments bring this to us in a concrete way.
One final image of my father is his discovery of four-leaf clovers. He often bent over to pick them and he kept them in a photo album in the kitchen. On his knees at communion, on his knees in the clover, my dad was a man who lived a full and blessed life.
On this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, may we cherish these moments of peace where we sit in the presence of our loving God-Father, Son and Spirit. And on this Father’s Day, may we encourage all fathers to seize the moment to model love to their children. May we celebrate the love. The love is God and it is our greatest gift.
Happy Father’s Day!
Jan Bentham is a retired Religion Coordinator with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. She is a musician, serving in music ministry at St. Ignatius Parish in Ottawa. She currently works at St. Paul’s University with the Catholic Women’s Leadership Program.