Pastor’s Desk ~ June 16, 2024

Dear Fellow Parishioners,

This Sunday we join countries on every inhabited continent in celebrating Father’s Day. While the Third Sunday in June is by far the most common day for celebrating it, there is a smaller group of 14 traditionally Catholic countries which celebrate Father’s Day on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, the patron saint of fathers. In several of these countries, Father’s Day has also been a civil holiday, observed by closed businesses and government offices.

As celebrated around the world, Father’s Day has several distinct sources. In Catholic Europe, Father’s Day has been celebrated at least since 1508, under the auspices of St. Joseph, the patron of fathers, and the Franciscans, who promoted it. In addition to the Catholic European immigrants who brought this custom to the United States, there were at least two separate indigenous movements from within the U.S.

One early indigenous movement to establish a Father’s Day was in response to a terrible mining accident. The 1907 Monongah, West Virginia coal mining disaster occurred on December 6, 1907, killing 361 men, 250 of them fathers. Grace Golden Clayton proposed a memorial service, to take place in 1908. “It was partly the explosion that set me to think how important and loved most fathers are,” Clayton said, “All those lonely children and the heart-broken wives and mothers, made orphans and widows in a matter of a few minutes. Oh, how sad and frightening to have no father, no husband, to turn to at such a sad time.” The memorial took place, but attracted no wider or more lasting attention.

The indigenous Father’s Day movement that lasted was in response to the success of the establishment of Mother’s Day in the early 20th century. That is the Father’s Day we celebrate today.

It is interesting, to me at least, that while Joseph is regarded as having all the necessary attributes of the ideal father, Jesus is never credited with having those same attributes, at least not in the same way or intensity. Just as their vocations differed, so did the special distinct attributes the Gospels wanted to highlight. Today we give thanks for all of our fathers, grandfathers, step-fathers and those who have been like fathers for us.

Fr. Bill Donahue

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