It seems everywhere we turn these last four months, we feel the ground shifting under our feet. I harken back to my study of physical geography and the theory of plate tectonics and think, ‘we are living the billion year tectonic shift in a matter of months.’ I’m sure many of us feel the last four months have been an experience of ground-shifting on speed dial. I like the constancy of terra firma—dry land that feels immovable and certain, so that a ‘walk in the park’ is just that—peaceful, calming and nourishing to our souls. Uncertainty is the consistent theme in 2020, and the times are calling for change, and we don’t have the option to not change.
Each year I remind myself it’s critical to write this blog post on Father’s Day as a father myself leading a Sacred Heart boys’ school. My role as headmaster to the Regis boys enables me to be graced with the privilege of walking with boys as they grow and mature. It also allows me the honor of establishing a partnership with Regis dads, as together, we as a Regis community form a bond that is unique and necessary, as we all search to mentor boys toward manhood. The question is a frequent one, echoing in my head when I ask myself, ‘what does it mean to be a man, in today’s world?’ I know boys are asking it of themselves daily and as they live during this ground-shifting moment in our history.
Becoming a father was the moment the ground shifted for me. I was no longer the center of my life when my daughter and son were born. The responsibilities of parenthood suddenly forced me out of my self-centeredness and into a focus on their needs and dreams. The great Benedictine monk, Bede Griffiths, had a wonderful thought along these lines when he said, “I was no longer the center of my life and therefore, I could see God in everything.” At times it takes a moment of ground shifting to see something in a new and more vibrant way.
You might be asking yourself as a father, ‘what are the silver-linings of COVID-19?’ In conversations with some of our Regis dads. they have told me “I have had time I didn’t have before with my son and family. Sure I had to move my office into my home, but I was able to have dinner with my son more often. I didn’t have to catch a flight or say goodbye to him and say, ‘see you in two weeks after my business trip.’ I had tons of time, and a lot of it wasn’t necessarily quality time, but there were more moments than usual to fully establish the fact that my love and care for my son was real and he knew it and felt it.”
The ground shifting thankfully is also moving in America’s streets to hopefully stamp out violence and racism at its roots. This year it is no coincidence that the Feast of the Sacred Heart and the observance of Juneteenth has fallen on the same calendar date in 2020. Both celebrations mark a moment of enflamed freedom where we together as a Sacred Heart community can make the love of Christ known in the world by our actions and not just our words.
The pandemic we are all living through has forced us out of our comfort zones, for better or worse, and the forced change of educational structures, economic priorities, and worship and ritual practices is helping us to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Although it doesn’t take a pandemic, stay-at home orders, nationwide street protests or remote learning to remind us that fathers are essential workers, all of these moments are telling us with graphic and tangible moments that fathers truly are essential.
Janet Erskine Stuart, RSCJ said it well when she spoke of crisis: “It is a vain expectation to hope that self-control and unselfishness will come forth at command in a crisis, when they have not been practiced in the small occurrences of daily life. The rare crises of daily life reveal us to ourselves, but we are made in the small victories of defeats every day”.
To all Regis fathers, I wish you great joy and happiness as we celebrate your essential role in your children’s lives. Happy Father’s Day!