Here in the United States, we are preparing celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday June 21. This traditional holiday celebrates the unique contribution to the stability of our society that fathers make in their every day mission of guiding their families. We Catholics understand that the family is the individual building block upon which an ordered society rests and that fathers have an indispensible role to play in helping to maintain that society.
We Catholics also understand that the home is so important that it is literally a small church, a community of believers; the term for this home church is domus ecclesia. The geographic boundaries of a certain region that encompass these home churches is under the canonical jurisdiction of a Bishop, this is called a diocese or Episcopal See or a particular church and the fullness of the ministerial priesthood is present in the person of the Bishop, the successor of the original apostles.
But a Bishop cannot see to the sacramental needs of each of his flock on a daily basis and for that reason he organizes his see into smaller geographic regions called parishes, and relies on priests or presbyters to assist him in ministering to the needs of the faithful. This person, the priest, is where we Catholics most often come into contact with the person of Jesus since it is the priest who administers the sacraments and offers the daily celebration of the Eucharist.
Further, the priest is uniquely empowered, in virtue of his having received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, to substantially change ordinary bread and wine into the real living presence of Jesus; body, blood, soul and divinity. This person, the priest, is so important, so critical to our life as Catholics that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has on this very day, Friday June 19, 2009, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the 150th anniversary of the passing of St John Marie Vianney, patron of parish priests, inaugurated the Year of the Priest and has set forth his reasons in a letter released by the Vatican yesterday.
The Holy Father’s letter, addressed to his brother priests, is a beautiful reminder to us laity of just how important these men are. It is worthy of reading by all the faithful and can be accessed at the following URL http://www.ewtn.com/vnews/getstory.asp?number=96115
As we gather in our parishes for Mass this Sunday, June 21st the day we Americans celebrate as Father’s Day, why not take a special moment to reach out to the priest in your parish and wish him a Happy Father’s Day. Who knows, we might event give him a card.
But the important thing is for us to acknowledge the special sacrifice that he, and every priest, makes of his life each and every day for each of one of us. And to all my brothers and Catholic professional colleagues who are the head of their own domus ecclesia, I say to each and every one of you, Happy Father’s Day!
Mark McElrath is vice president of DaRue of California, and president of Catholics at Work OC (Orange County, CA chapter).