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In the Spirit: Faith of us fathers

Image: Father and child walking on the beachby Brian J. Plachta
 
Remember when your first child was born? When the nurse laid that tiny infant into your arms? My first reaction was awe. Then tears of joy flooded my face.
 
Eventually though, as my wife and I left the hospital with our new baby in tow, I realized, “Oh, my God. I’m responsible for raising this child, physically, financially and spiritually.” I said to the nurse as she
guided us into the car, “Aren’t you coming with us?”
 
It’s an awesome responsibility – being a dad and raising our children. I often wonder if St. Joseph went through similar emotions as he gazed at Jesus cradled in his arms that Christmas morning. Did he wonder, “How am I going to do this?
 
Perhaps like St. Joseph, one of the most important jobs we have as fathers is to introduce our children
to God. To model the love of God as earthly fathers so they might come to know and trust God. And as
they mature, we’re tasked with guiding our children as they tackle the deeper questions: “Who is God?
How do I communicate with him? How do I do this thing called life?”
 
As I began raising my children, I looked at the simple ways my father passed his faith onto me. In the church pew on Sundays, I felt safe leaning against my dad’s strong arm. I felt like I belonged. I was part of something bigger than myself. Dad said going to Mass was a time to thank God for the gifts he gives us – food, shelter, love, life itself. It was also a time, he said, to bring to the altar our practical needs, the things we wanted to ask God to help us with – things like an upcoming test, our fears about what we’re going to do with our life, our concerns about who we should ask to prom.
 
Dad told us we could bring anything to the altar and place it there for God’s help, because God loves us and wants us to be happy. And when we opened our hands to receive the Eucharist, we were asking God
for more of himself, more of his grace and more of his wisdom to learn how to live this thing called life.
 
My father drove my sister and me to Catholic Central each morning. When we got into the car, he’d turn
off the radio (despite our protests) and we’d drive in silence. Dad looked peaceful. It seemed as if he were talking and listening to someone. His mouth didn’t move. But, it appeared he was plugged into something more important than a blaring radio.
 
One day, I asked him what he was doing in the silence. His response, “I’m saying my morning prayers.
I’m talking with God.”
 
My dad’s simple faith practices shaped and formed me. They taught me by example what having a relationship with God is all about.
 
Dad died from cancer when I was 16. During my formative years when he was alive, he set the stage for me to know and find comfort in the God he worshipped and talked with each morning. Now as an adult, I
enjoy going to Sunday Mass, as well as sitting in silence each morning. And sometimes, I hear Dad’s voice along with that of my Heavenly Father.
 
I invite my children to go to church with my wife and me each Sunday. And I let them know that what I
call “quiet time” is an essential part of my daily life – it’s the foundation that connects my heart with God.
 
So, how can we as dads pass our faith on to our children? Perhaps one of the best ways is to do as my father did – live it. Deepen our own faith, and practice it daily. Then, with God’s grace and a bit of elbow grease, our children will also embrace the faith of us fathers.
 
Brian J. Plachta is a writer and spiritual director. He practices law at Plachta, Murphy & Associates. He and his wife have four adult children. His blog posts can be found at brianplachta.net and on Facebook at facebook.com/WisdomSpace.