Wednesday, 2 November 2011

'Call no one on earth your father...'

'Call no one on earth your father...'

Some find this saying of Jesus rather perplexing despite the fact Jesus is clearly not speaking literally.

A protestant minister once told me adamantly that he could not call me 'Father' and quoted this very verse. I asked him what his people called him and he replied 'Pastor'. This, of course, means Shepherd, in Latin, so I asked him if he would not agree that we have only one Shepherd 'and he is in heaven'?

Even the English word 'Mr' is derived from the word Master.

In a parish I supplied in recently a parishioner asked me what I preferred to be called: Father or John? I reflected for a moment and answered 'Father'. She screwed up her face disapprovingly and said 'Don't you think that's .. um .. putting yourself on a pedestal?'

Her car was behind her, full of what I assumed were her grandchildren, and I asked her if they called her grandma or Bev (not her real name)? She was taken aback and energetically replied 'No, they call me Nan!' And so I asked her 'Don't you think that's putting yourself on a pedestal?' To give her credit she immediately saw (and accepted) my point.

Thirty-two years ago I gave up a very satisfying life as a secondary school teacher to become a spiritual father to God's Catholic people. All I can say is that I am grateful to all those who acknowledge and remind me of this fact by calling me 'Father'.

And, as one parishioner recently told me, 'When we call you Father we remind you of your responsibilities towards us.'

4 comments:

cgms said...

Dear Fr John,
I thought your response to the woman who didn't want to call you Father was brilliant. Thank you and God Bless you for upholding the priesthood.

Your brother priest

Fr Christopher

Maria said...

I am proud of you to tell people call you 'Father'. You are a spiritual father to us and lead us to God.

Anita Moore said...

Yes, you are indeed a father. Some time ago I did a post on this very subject.

Anonymous said...

I applaud your position on what is sometimes a vexed question. Why do so many priests seem to forget or deny their spiritual fatherhood?

Bless you for your fidelity to your sacred calling.