The Wisdom of Our Fathers

Ann Marie Eckert

The late Tim Russert, host of "Meet the Press" for so many years, wrote a book called Wisdom of Our Fathers. It is a collection of letters written to Tim as a response to his best-selling book about his dad, Big Russ and Me. People experienced Big Russ and Me as an invitation to tell stories of their dads, and beautiful stories they are. From Wisdom of Our Fathers we hear what fathers have meant to their children, but in honor of Father's Day, I thought it would be good to hear from fathers about their own experiences. I asked four fathers I know, "What does it mean to be a Dad?" and these are the responses I received.

From Tom M., a father of two little ones: "The greatest gift I have received in my life is my children. When I look at my kids I sometimes feel a fierce love welling up inside me, and it is in these moments that I think I am closest to understanding God's love for me. I can't imagine a scenario that could change that love, that could make it fade or grow less fierce and tender, and I imagine that God must feel the same way about me. As I reflect on Father's Day, I keep in mind the joy and responsibility given to me, and I thank God and my wife for helping me grow in understanding of what love really is."

From Steve, father of three girls: "What does it mean to be a Dad? My wife and I have three wonderful, funny, smart daughters — currently aged 15, 18 and 22, so I'm still finding out. I expect that being the only male in the house for twenty-five years will continue to be a daily education. It has certainly brought a whole new meaning to the words 'blessed art thou among women.' "

From Tom E., father of three adolescents: "I always wanted to be a dad. When I was a teenager and young adult, I knew some of what that would mean — changing diapers, reading stories, and staying up with a sick child. There were things I didn't know I would need to be good at. When we put up the Christmas tree, there is always a favorite homemade ornament that breaks and an expectant child who is hoping I can perform "daddy magic" and fix it. What I am learning as a parent of adolescents is that the real nature and purpose of the job is only now becoming clearer. My children are becoming people, and I now know that I have a few short years left to share things with them while they are still children. Things like faith, values, character, justice, integrity, humanity. As mom and dad, my wife and I do these things together, but like the "daddy magic" it feels like there are particular parts of this conversation that fall to me. This is humbling. It feels huge and overwhelming sometimes. It also feels grace-filled; what a privilege to be in on the moments of pain, joy, success, failure, loneliness, first love, and discovery. I stumble through knowing that there is a greater force at work and a much more perfect Father guiding us."

From John, father of three young adults: "Being a father means building a relationship of trust, caring, and love with your children as they grow into young adulthood so that they know they can always turn to you for advice, support, and assistance in the large and small life decisions they face as young adults. The gift of being a father is "watching" your children grow to discover their unique gifts and abilities — to become the persons God created them to be — and then to use those gifts and abilities in life. It is to know that you will always be their father and that you have contributed to the wonderful people they have become."

Sarah Hart sings a song that seemed to capture what these dads are talking about in her song For a Little While. She speaks about knowing God's love through her child (like Tom M.) and the rest of the song seems to echo Tom E's image of "daddy magic" — wanting to make the world okay for your children while you still can. It is a beautiful song that speaks to the love of all parents for their children.

As you celebrate Father's Day, I hope you will use the occasion to tell your dad what he means to you, and to give him the chance to tell you what being a dad means to him. You might hear something you never realized.

Let us pray today and on Father's Day . . .

Gracious and loving God, we thank you for the gifts of our fathers and all those who have showered us with fatherly love in our lives. Be with all men who are fathers, grandfathers, foster fathers, and guardians of children. May the example of Joseph's love for Jesus inspire all of use to love not only our own children, but all the children of the world. Help us to grow in love and faith. Amen.

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