Mother's "Father's Day" Homily

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Every year as "Father's Day" approached, my mother gathered her children around and explained to us why our father was her great hero. She wanted to share with us her feelings about him so we might appreciate him more fully. After all, she said, "Father's Day" would soon be here, the day to honor the father. In order to honor him, we had best appreciate him. But he was a quiet man, strong and with silent tendencies. She felt his sometimes restrained behavior did not always call the attention to himself that he merited for the good way he did his job as the head of our family. He was, she said, the hero as well as head of our family.

She said a family hero was a member who fulfilled his or her responsibilities and duties in the family very well. He did this often in spite of considerable odds and difficult choices. She said many men were not heroes but we should be proud and thankful not only to have a father but to have a very good father. After all, she said, without him she did not know how she could keep going, and she felt it was largely because of him the family kept going. At least kept going sanely.

Then she said she did not want to center on the money a father earned or the type job he had. Fathers often worked odd hours or odd jobs for the family to make it financially, and it was very sacrificial of them to do this, but the real meaning of a father was far beyond money.

The emphasis on the money made by the father was just part of the sick values of the too materialistic and secular society that we lived in.    Ours was a society full of many false values and ideas. One of the false values was an overly important emphasis on money. Yes, she said, money, was a need for the family but not the only need or the biggest need. Love was the first need to make a family. If there were love, there would be trust, and trust was needed to make a family into a real family.

What were our family needs that were more important, far more important, then money? First children needed a father for love and guidance and example. Our father gave us that. Then she, as
a wife, needed a fine man for a husband. That was only nature and perfectly natural. Our father was a very good husband to her. Their natures complemented each other, she said.

She said father was not a perfect man, but then she didn't want anything but God to be perfect. Perfection in a human would drive her crazy. She wanted good children like us, of course, but she didn't want any perfect children looking up at her with eyes like those of an offended cockerspaniel. Nor would we children really want some perfect adult hitting on us all the time to be perfect. No, of course not. And we should not gripe when our father or mother were not perfect. Just be thankful we had them, and pitch in to boost where they weren't perfect. That's what family life was all about. Pitching in together to make a team. When a family pitched in together, the unity in working together made it strong. Where individual weaknesses were merged came group strength, family strength.

Then, my mother said, we must not forget the grandparents are family. They are getting old and they need a son. Our father was there for the older people as well as us. Being there for the older people was an important need father filled. And to add to this our father took
part in community life and was a good man active in the church.

A good father did invaluable service in filling these roles in church, community and family. Some of the family roles were biological roles that only blood could play. Father filled them as best he might. No perfection but as best he could. After all there was so much need that it often spread him around thinly, but, Good Grief, your father is there and trying for all of us: God, family and community.

She said to have a really good and happy family meant love had to come first. Love was shown best in families where the members fulfilled their roles. If everyone thought at times of other members of the family first, and-appreciated them for what they were, good people but imperfect, we would be a happy family. Yet we as children had family roles to fulfill too, thinking of the results our actions might have on others and the family.

All families, she believed, were made happy in direct ratio to the love and consideration put in them by all the members. All happy families she said, were good in the same way, when all put love in the family and showed this through loving and considerate actions. Mother said in any good family there was love at home. And our father was putting love and money, as he saw it, into ours. He was setting us a good example. Therefore we should appreciate him and emulate (be like) him according to our abilities. Remember, she said, you children owe your parents. In a real family everyone pays, she said, not just the father and mother. You children must do your part as your father does his part and I do my part. We all have work to do.

Then my mother added a good family bound together by love would always survive trying circumstances. My older brother asked her what "trying circumstances" were. I knew what "trying circumstances" meant.  I was just dying to blurt it out and show up the ignorance of my older brother. I did not do so because my mother looked at me with a clear steady gaze to remind me to keep quiet. I was much quicker on some things than my older brother. My mother knew this of course.

On such occasions my mother was trying to teach me to "save his face." She said that it is very important in life to "save the face of, brothers and many others." If my older brother said he didn't know, even if I did, I was not to say I did and so cause my older brother to be embarrassed by a cheeky younger brother. I was to be silent and say that I didn't know either. So I went along of course, and I said to my mother, "Yes, mother, what is a trying circumstance?" Face saved!

My mother explained to us that meant "hard times or a hard time." Then my mother smiled at me. I knew she had seen at once I knew what my brother did not, but I had controlled my egotism, been courteous to others and not hurt others' feelings by putting them down. Her smile towards me clearly said that she was proud of me. I puffed up. I had been a Christian, considerate and courteous. I had saved my brother's   " face." I could see she was pleased I was learning how to have fine manners, and to be a Christian like she and my father were. Even when they disagreed with others, they were conscious of their feelings.

That was my mother all over, up and down, our lady of the family, always trying to teach us to be considerate of the feelings of others, to understand, and to be thankful for what others did for us, (as she was showing us in the homily on our father for 'Father's Day"), to be courteous, to be kind, and to think how our actions and words might affect or upset others.

I cannot say that in my life I have always been able to rise to the high standards of civilized behavior and living that my mother tried to teach me as a boy, but I have recalled my mother's efforts many times and thought with pride and pleasure how Mama tried. It is a Christian memory.

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Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.