“This is how you are to pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.”
– Matthew 6: 9-10
As we reflect on the role of fathers during the month of June, I’ve tried to pray more intentionally for the needs of my own father. As a self-proclaimed “daddy’s girl,” even at 55 years of age, I’ll admit that my image of a heavenly father who offers unconditional love and mercy has been largely formed through the terrific relationship I’ve enjoyed all my life with the man I still call “Daddy.”
In recent months, I’ve prioritized daily “check in” telephone conversations with my father. My mother’s health has taken a difficult turn, and Daddy and I both want—and need—daily dialogue. Although thousands of miles separate us, our time together each day—even if only for a few moments—is a mutual blessing that sustains us in the moments when we can’t physically be together.
While it’s easy for me to associate “God” and “Father” in a positive way, I know that not every believer shares this same frame of reference. Even St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s relationship with her earthly father was unsettled. When her mother died only three years after her birth, Elizabeth Ann’s affectionate and respectful relationship with her father was strained by the pressures of her father’s remarriage, his busy career, and his frequent travels. But at the tender age of 14, she wrote this about God as father:
“Joy in God that He was my Father. Insisting that He should not forsake me. My father away, perhaps dead; but God was my Father, and I quite independent of whatever might happen.” (The Soul of Elizabeth Seton)
In a later passage of this same reflection, the saint remarks:
“God was my Father, my all. I prayed, sang hymns, cried, laughed, talking to myself of how far He could place me above all sorrow.”
For those of us who mourn the passing or absence of an earthly father this month, Mother Seton reminds us that our relationship with the Holy Trinity offers us the affection and love of a Father who knows every fiber of our being. And Jesus Christ, who Himself called God “Father,” offers us the words to pray when hurt, conflict, or grief renders us voiceless:
“…when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you…Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:5-8
We are invited into a prayerful union with God, our Father, any place, any time. Our Father sees us. Our Father hears us. Indeed, our Father knows our needs even before we speak them.
St. Elizabeth Ann, even as a young girl missing the physical proximity of her earthly daddy, experienced the love of God the Father powerfully. Expressing that relationship in her private prayers, nurturing it through the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and sharing that unconditional love with those around her, became her life’s mission. As counsel to her sisters, Mother Seton once reflected:
“The greatest pleasure/consolation a Father can receive is from the docility of his children and their tender affection – the cheerfulness with which they fulfill his commands and the willing obedience they render him – thus God who is more a father to us than all the Fathers in the World can ever be to their children, desires nothing so much of us as to be served with holy cheerfulness and gaiety.” (CW3a, p. 473)
As we pray this month, uniting ourselves with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for our fathers living and deceased, let us remember the consolation and love of our Heavenly Father, and let us also pray intentionally for the physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing of all Godfathers, spiritual fathers, religious men, and priests.
God the Father is always ready for our daily “check in” calls—those docile, affectionate prayers we offer in the midst of our busyness. As Mother Seton knew and taught daily in word and deed, we are truly never alone, even when life’s challenges are most daunting. Our Heavenly Father is there, present, loving, merciful.
This article was originally published in 2020
LISA M. HENDEY is the Founder of CatholicMom.com, an award-winning international speaker, the host of the weekly “Lisa Hendey & Friends” podcast, and the author of several books for adults and children including “I Am God’s Storyteller”. Discover her work at www.LisaHendey.com and connect with her on social media @LisaHendey.
This reflection was originally published in June 2019.