The leaders of other congregations will often go by the title of: minister, elder, parson, pastor, priest, chaplain, officiate, etc. However, the Catholic and the various Orthodox Christian Churches have traditionally referred to their priest as: “father”.
The title of “father” comes more evident and understandable when the parish sees itself as a reflection of this world…as well as…the Kingdom of God being established here on earth. This is why; when Jesus was trying to express a way to understand God…He looked at His experience as a human being and chooses the family unit as a model of the heavenly reality. (When you think about it, St. Joseph must have been a singularly amazing man. As the hymn so rightfully testifies: “…and Joseph’s love made ‘father’ to be…for Christ… God’s Name.”
What is the quality of “father” which makes a priest tremble as he hears the same title calling him to attention…and to serve?
I remember one of the most difficult religion classes I taught was on the Trinity. A few weeks before this particular class – one of my students was hospitalized because of a beating she received from her drunken father. Since each of us has one (and only one) father…God taught me a lesson on understanding a Good Father … and that of a false representation of a man who fathers a child. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit…a loving God — fell on deafened ears that year.
What are the qualities of a father…beyond the physical aspects? Well, similar to the character Tevye (Fiddler on the Roof): he is the one who, as provider and protector, must take in the specific (detailed) facts as well as be the one who looks from a distant place to look back…and prays. He must take it all in and digest every morsel. And, in the end…as a good and prudent father…must be ALONE and take all the hits, all the blame, all the criticism, all the responsibility when making the final decisions on matters of his family. So, no, I really am not your pastor…we have only one pastor: Bishop Paul Swain – Successor of the Apostle. (He gives me his authority in his parishes). I am Father Kevin Doyle, a priest of God. (You who are good fathers, yourselves, understand my office…my duties.) And, God planned from the beginning of time to have me be your priest to serve these parishes as His representative.
When a decision has to be made, I must take in the specific (detailed) facts as well as be the one who looks from a distance…and prays (all the time). Seeing in the past, present and future…I am the one who takes all the hits, all the blame, all the criticism, all the responsibility when making the final decisions on matters of his family. And, a family can have only one father. At this moment in time, let me be Father Kevin and everyone else be the children of God. (Trust God put me here for a reason.) Have faith as a Catholic…mean what you say when saying: Father Kevin. I will, like St. Joseph, protect His greatest treasure until death do us part…or the Second Coming (or the bishop moves me).