A couple years ago, I taught music at a local Catholic school, and one of the seventh grade girls took to me.
Not in a weird way. It made sense. Music was a large part of her identity. It was something she was good at, but it was still a little odd that she hung around me a good deal more than other students. She would spend a lot of her lunches in the music room with her friends. She would often make sure she talked to me if I was doing yard duty.
What I found out after awhile was that her dad was present only sporadically. Her parents were divorced, and she lived mostly with her mom. Her dad lived in the area, but every now and then he also might up and leave for another state for awhile. For a time, the lack of his daily presence seemed to affect her.
Fathering Children without Being a Father
She came to my mind a couple days ago when I was reading Pope Francis’ latest Apostolic Letter on St. Joseph. In one part of it, he says this:
A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child. Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person.Patris Corde
Over the course of my short time at the school, I began to care more and more for this student. She talked of committing suicide for a brief period, and I worried about her. As much as I could, I tried to keep my classroom open for her if she needed a place to go to during the school day, and the school therapist asked me specifically to be one pillar of support for her there.
In a very small way, I became another father to her.
We Can All Be Fathers
When we look back on our lives, we can all see “fathers” and “mothers” who were not our biological ones here and there. Perhaps it was an uncle, an aunt, a neighbor, or a teacher who took some responsibility for you.
For my part, I remember Wade – a man who had this old-fashioned, wild-west curly mustache. He helped out in our youth group alongside another gentlemen, and they both taught us about God and played goofy games with us.
You may be a father or mother as well and not even know it. Who in your life turns to you? Who do you take responsibility for, perhaps without even realizing it?
That person needs you. That person is relying on you in some small or big way. You can be there for them, perhaps in a way they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Be a father today. Be a mother. Our world has a shortage of them.
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