Today’s find: Paternidad*

Sometimes my son the Jesuit says things that I simply do not understand.

I thought about that this morning when I stumbled across an article Chris had written recently for The Jesuit Post, in Spanish.

It always amazes me when our (now-adult) offspring do things like that — when they use their God-given gifts in ways I never would have imagined for them growing up.

And that got me thinking about a father’s influence on his children: So often, it’s hard to know if you’re doing it right — if the example you provide is on the right track. When (or if) you ought to be giving advice. When it’s time to let go…or when it’s time to hold them close.

Twice in the past couple of days, we’ve heard gospel stories that touch on this theme. On Friday, there was Mark’s account of the call of the Apostles, in which he notes that John and James were called ‘Boanerges, that is, sons of Thunder.’

Today, in Matthew’s telling of the same event, we learned their father’s name and occupation: ‘They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.’

In effect, we see that Jesus was calling those two apostles to abandon the family business. A business run by a man called ‘Thunder’. With a nickname like that, I imagine Zebedee could have raised a stink if he were so inclined. He could have said, ‘Not today, sons:  Get back in the boat. We’ve got real work to do!”

And here’s an ugly truth about such paternal instincts: It’s costing the Church religious vocations. I learned that from an old high school friend of mine a little over a decade ago, when our son first entered the Jesuit community. My friend, now the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix, was a vocation director at the time —  so he made it onto the distribution list for my ‘proud papa’ announcement of Chris’ decision. And he wrote a ‘thank you’ note back to me, observing that parents were often the biggest obstacle to his work as vocation director.

Parents, he said, often talk their kids out of the idea of exploring religious life. The Spirit puts the notion on the young person’s heart…but then Dad or Mom says, ‘Have you really thought this through? Wouldn’t you rather be a doctor…a lawyer? Wouldn’t you rather take over the family business?’

Like I said, it’s not easy to know if you’re doing it right when your children come of age…and start floating those kinds of ideas and questions before you.

I DO know, though, that I’m glad Zebedee’s heart was open to the idea of his sons taking a different path than the one he’d mapped out for them. We are all richer because of his generosity. At the very least, we all benefit every time we read from the Gospel or the letters his sons wrote at the dawn of Christianity.

So thank you, Zebedee: Through your example of parental influence, I’d say that you too became a fisher of women and men!

* According to Google Translate, paternidad is Spanish for ‘fatherhood’.



Let us pause now…to remember that we are in the presence of the Holy One.

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5 thoughts on “Today’s find: Paternidad*

  1. Mike s

    I think parents often the biggest obstacle in their children’s life. . . I feel we all find it hard to let go of anything. . .even though I think that is what we are called to do. . . I have pointed out that they didn’t come with an instruction manual but I probably would not have read it if provided. . .for me it is hard to remember that we are blessed beyond measure

    mike s

    • Well, we probably don’t set out to become obstacles…we just do our best to provide the nurturing and direction they need…but the correct path is not always obvious, is it? And the blessings continue to come, despite our shortcomings as parents!

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  3. L. E. Barnes

    That reminds me of the story of St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists. When he was a young man, an uncle offered to arrange a profitable marriage for him and groom him to take over the family business, insisting that was God’s will for Paul’s life. Thankfully, Paul didn’t heed his uncle’s advice, however sincere his uncle might have been. He went on instead to follow the calling he had received from the Lord and founded a new religious order that has members around the world. Sometimes relatives and friends think they know what’s best for our lives, but they might in fact be blinded by their own biases, ambitions, or preferences.

    I suspect a big reason–if not the BIGGEST reason–that parents these days are often the chief obstacle to their children pursuing a religious vocation is simply that they’re having fewer children; therefore, if a child chooses a religious vocation, that jeopardizes the parents’ chance of having grandchildren. This is yet more of the handiwork of the ‘contraception culture’ that spilled over from secular society into the Church.


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