The Power of Fatherhood

At our Visitation Mission, the phone lines are always buzzing. You never know who could be on the other end of the line. One day during lunch, the phone rang, and a Sister picked up, hearing: “Hi, my name is Izzy. I just walked out of the abortion clinic. Someone gave me this pamphlet, and I decided to call.” “Wow, Izzy,” the Sister replied, “that was a really courageous decision. What made you decide to leave?” “My boyfriend talked to some people outside and then he came in and got me,” she explained. When Izzy and her boyfriend Max arrived at the clinic earlier that morning, Izzy went in while Max stayed outside. Max was troubled by the abortion, but was confused and unsure of how he should respond. A male sidewalk counselor approached him and encouraged him to step into his role as a father and protect his unborn child. “You have to go in after her, Max. You can do it. You’re the father.” Max called Izzy and went into the clinic to bring her out. “In my heart I didn’t want the abortion, but I was afraid,” Izzy confided. Max’s brave embrace of fatherhood gave her the confidence to choose life. Izzy is now so happy and excited to be a mom, and when she told Max the sex of the baby (it’s a boy!), he burst into tears. This June 18th will be Max’s first Father’s Day, and it will be a significant one. He saved his child’s life.

Izzy and Max’s story reminds us of the tremendous love of our Heavenly Father Who sent His Beloved Son to rescue us from death and sin. We were headed for destruction, and He came in after us. This is where our dignity comes from, our identity as children of God the Father. Sometimes, if our human fathers have failed us, the perfect Fatherhood of God can be difficult to believe in. But the next time you pray, imagine Jesus bringing you to His heavenly Father and setting you in His lap. God the Father cannot even speak. He chokes backs tears because His Heart aches for you. He is so pleased with you; He is so happy to hold you. With Him, held by Him, you are safe, you are loved, and you are free. When the Father looks at you, He sees His Son Jesus. He sees His perfect child. Our lives are precious and priceless to God the Father.

As we celebrate Father’s Day this June, we are aware of the critical need for strong, dedicated fathers in the lives of the women we serve. They need both physical and spiritual fathers for their children. On June 1st, “Foundation Day” of the Sisters of Life, we remember the spiritual fatherhood of our founder, John Cardinal O’Connor. Cardinal O’Connor is a spiritual father not only to each Sister of Life, but to every vulnerable pregnant woman we serve and to their unborn children. Cardinal O’Connor spent time praying in front of abortion clinics for the protection of the unborn. In fact, the NYPD required Cardinal O’Connor to wear a bullet proof vest when he prayed outside abortion clinics. His life was under threat because of his courageous and unwavering stance on pro-life issues. What an incredible example of fatherhood! Because of his profound dedication to the sacredness of human life, Cardinal O’Connor was willing to risk his own life to protect the most vulnerable.

But Cardinal O’Connor could be a spiritual father only because he knew God the Father. He told us: “Our Father. How could we begin to understand those two words? We could repeat those words over and over again. “Our Father”, yours and mine and the whole world’s Father. Father, a real father. Our Divine Lord did not say in response to the Apostles, “When you pray say, `Our Creator’” or “`Our Mystical One’”, or “`Omnipotent One’”. Jesus said, “Our Father” with all that fatherhood connotes.”

Father God, fill my heart with an unshakeable confidence in your love. Gaze on me and in your gaze, heal me and free me. Reveal to me the goodness you see in me and in each person I encounter. Restore me to innocence and draw me to yourself. Father of the Poor, raise up physical and spiritual fathers. Give us courage to protect and defend all human life, no matter how weak or small, for we are all your children. Amen.