STRENGTHENING CATHOLIC IDENTITY THROUGH THE FAMILY
Why Fathers Matter
“There is something powerful when a father kneels before the Blessed Sacrament, prays a rosary, goes to Mass every Sunday, or clearly prioritizes practicing the faith over any form of entertainment… In short, fathers play an indispensable role in the new evangelization.” ~ Archbishop William E. Lori
As the traditional family – modeled after the Holy Family – in consistently undervalued and attacked, the Catholic Church continues to promote marriage and family for the good of society. Having just celebrated Father’s Day, Archbishop William E. Lori reminds us in his article Why Fathers Matter of the pivotal role that fathers play in the upbringing of their children and in their coming to know, practice and love their Catholic faith.
Maria Sotolongo concludes our section on Strengthening Catholic Identity, sharing with us part of her very own experience growing up and growing in her faith with a loving and dedicated Catholic father.
As I sit here observing him, I think of who my father is, the things he’s done in his life, the lessons he’s taught his 5 children and 12 grandchildren. Details about events, stories, jokes, and sayings he has fill my mind with, and I wish I could hang on to him forever.
And I remember: “Trust the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” Proverbs 3:5-6.
I hear the bubbling of the oxygen attached to my dad. Bright summer sunshine outside our window. He coughs and cautiously rearranges his body on the hospital bed. Birds sing for us as background music. He’s received 2 blood transfusions today, as well as insulin and an IV.
My brothers and sisters are at the cafeteria and I have just a sliver of time alone, watching my dad try to sleep. He has his eyes closed most of the day. My sister describes it as if he were an athlete, getting ready for a big race, focusing, visualizing himself crossing the finish line, measuring his energy so as to not waste an ounce on unnecessary matters.
In a span of two months, my father has been stripped of things we take for granted. He has had trouble breathing, walking, talking, eating, and hearing. It’s as if all his senses are in training to fight the mass that resides in his pancreas. But what remains untouched, what no cancer can take away is my dad’s unwavering faith. This illness has magnified his belief and fortified his faith in God.
Who is my father without his faith? Who am I if not my father’s faith-filled daughter?
I am a Spaniard, a mother, a friend, a sister, and a neighbor. I belong to clubs and organizations. But beyond all I am a Catholic. I am a child of God.
“I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:18).
I believe that my identity as a Catholic is the most important way to define myself and as I get older and confront life’s challenges, I use my faith and relationship with God as the basis for every battle, every question, and every celebration.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
My dad sleeps, surrounded by an army of angels. He says that he’s been having visions of bull-fighters, (like a true Spaniard) and I think maybe they represent the cancer. But he told us that he’s replacing those images with angels. He’s focused on winning this battle.
He hasn’t wanted to eat much or even talk a lot. But what he has requested day in and day out is to receive Holy Communion. Oh daddy, may God give you strength to survive this, and may we walk outside in the bright sunshine soon!
Maria Sotolongo is a member of St. Anne’s Society and has been coming to St. John Vianney since the mid-80s. Sotolongo’s background is in Broadcasting and she has worked for NBC, FOX, and Telemundo networks. She has three young children and she blogs about motherhood, marriage and her faith at www.mariasotolongo.com.