HPIM3124Good morning to all of my readers at Catholicmom.com. By the time you are reading this article, I will be participating in the annual Doughnuts with Dad festivities at my daughter’s grade school, Saint John the Beloved outside of Wilmington, Delaware. Most of the time when I write columns it usually involves heavy topics of Catholic theological points about the Sacraments or Church architecture and design and so on. Today, however I would like to spend some time talking about the great gift I have in being a Catholic Dad. While the column is in no way a prelude to a new website, perhaps CatholicDad.com, it is an opportunity to reflect on the gift of fatherhood as part of our great Catholic spiritual heritage.

Catholic fatherhood is perhaps the last thing I ever thought I would be part of when I was in college and graduate school. That’s because I had been studying to be a Catholic priest and biological fatherhood was not part of my plans at that time. However, one never knows how God’s plans are different from your own personal plans. Needless to say, I never got to being a Catholic priest, but I am a Father of the most important type…a parent. Becoming a biological father was perhaps the most transformational aspect of my life. Well beyond the sacramental commitment of marriage, fatherhood made me realize I was responsible for another person’s life, spiritual formation and Catholic education from the moment of her birth. What an awesome and humbling task that is and continues to be on a daily basis.

While my daughter Kathryn enjoys the daily activities of being a fifth grader in our local Catholic school, (http://stjohnthebeloved.com ), my wife and I worry about her spiritual development as a young Catholic. We send her of course to Catholic school, participate in the Sacraments and watch her with great nervousness whenever she does her, "tour of duty," as an altar server. Every time she serves at the altar, I get a chance to help out and light all of the candles around the altar, because she cannot reach them yet. In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be exercising my ministry as an instituted acolyte by helping out a fifth grader light candles. However, little things like lighting candles are what being a Catholic Dad all are about. Whenever we study for a religion test, talk about being Catholic or just have some fun times together as father and daughter, I think of the great gift of fatherhood and the grave but daily very enjoyable task of just being a dad.

When I attended grade school, days for "Doughnuts with Dad," never happened. My father did not have the chance to participate in my primary grade school activities because things like this were never included in Catholic schools in the 1960’s. It was a lot different then as well, my Dad was out being a good dad in other ways, namely working odd shifts as a Philadelphia policeman and providing for his family. He really didn’t come to school events, he was too busy being a provider. As a 2010 Catholic dad, I am thrilled to have the chance to participate in activities at my daughter’s school. Of course, the added incentive of doughnuts and coffee has an additional appeal, but the greatest satisfaction is the happiness my daughter experiences when she brings her "Dad," to school events like this one.

Catholic parenthood has many facets that are rewarding and some that are also difficult. Doughnuts on a Tuesday morning with my daughter at school is one that is priceless. From a theological perspective, it permits me to understand even in a small manner the intense relationship, the Father had with the Son, Jesus Christ and how deeply intertwined they were in their total existence and relationship. Doughnuts with Dad also permits a glimpse of the deep relationship Mary and Jesus shared during the years before the public ministry, and how painful it must have been for Mary to share in the events that led to Calvary. Finally, doughnuts are just a sublime example of the foster relationship of great pride, Saint Joseph must have felt towards his exceptionally different foster son Jesus, as they shared the details of working at the trade of carpentry together, perhaps over a Judaic equivalent of a modern doughnut and a cup of coffee.

When I studied the theology of grace in my seminary years, I was taught that graced moments were special moments that happened in a miraculous manner through the most natural of events. Well, as a Catholic Dad, I am very grateful to experience the graced moments of Catholic fatherhood over a cup of coffee and a glazed doughnut at my daughter’s Catholic grade school. Such moments, while small ones, are reflections of God’s grace working among all of us in a loving and mysterious manner. I am pleased and thankful to be a witness to the graced moments that are part of being a Catholic Dad.

Copyright 2010 Hugh McNichol