The day plays with me. Teasing, messing with me! As soon as I sit down to eat my dinner the doorbell rings. When I make a mug of tea the phone rings. Toast goes cold and ice-cream melts in the tub. I go out the back to sit in the warmth of the sun that has been shining all morning and immediately it ducks in behind the clouds!
I remain in the sacrament of the present moment. God and all of life in the moment, the present reality. When you stop to take notice, the noise is astonishing – the amount of noise going on every single minute, noise that we usually move in, that we are part of – until we step back from it.
All the cars driving up and down, an unbelievable number of motorbikes that render all other sounds mute. In the briefest gap in the traffic someone’s hammer echoes, a rasping drill, the cry of a single seagull on the church roof, the chorus of a hundred more bouncing off the houses, the flapping of pigeon wings. Hidden beneath and emerging now and then the sweet and delicate sound of birdsong.
Surrounded by all of these sounds there is silence within and peace. And even the sun emerges again hot on my skin, a therapeutic treatment. I put my head back and close my eyes. Let my thoughts surface and float.
Life is on my mind. Human life. The beauty of it and the trauma of it. The trauma sweeping the world recently, a violent reminder that Black Lives Matter. It shouldn’t have to be said, we shouldn’t need to be reminded but we become indifferent to the violence visited on lives that we do not see. Black Lives are created in the image and likeness of God. I say this too that Every Life Matters because, Every Human Life is created in the image and likeness of God. This is a forgotten truth in our time. Every vulnerable life matters and is worthy to have us kneel in its presence at all times.
Old Life Matters. It was infuriating in the early stages of this coronavirus pandemic to discover that the official figures for Covid-19 deaths did not include the elderly who died in care homes or in their own homes. It was as if these lives did not matter to the authorities, that they literally did not count. The counting was corrected but it laid bare a deep-seated disregard of the elderly, a disregard that remains even if the counting has changed.
Life in the Womb Matters. This issue has emerged again recently as Westminster has imposed drastic abortion laws on Northern Ireland against the will of the majority of the people and their Assembly. But we have become indifferent to the violence visited on Life in the womb, life created by God in the image and likeness of God. Life that belongs to God.
And I’m thinking of Fatherhood. The Fatherhood of God and our fatherhood. Father is giver and protector of life, a basic instinct for life runs deep in him, especially in any man of God; an instinct to defend and protect life; an instinct that may be buried deep inside him but it is there and it is being called forth by the Holy Spirit.
Father’s Day is coming up and all the experiences of fatherhood come back to me. Next to marriage, fatherhood is a man’s first, his most natural calling, a life-long testament of loving that God has created him for. So many fathers have been an inspiration in my life, have been icons of God the Father in whose image they are created. Not least the Dads of this parish.
During the week I read an article about Damien Duff who is giving up his job as coach with Celtic, a decision that was very difficult but which he took in order to do right by his family. “I’d love to be a brilliant coach… but I think it’s more important at the minute that I’m just a brilliant dad.”
And maybe that’s the core of what needs to be said on Father’s Day and it might be something that the lockdown made us realize – the importance of family having lots of time together, for Dads to have time at home that they can’t normally have; that a man is defined, not by his career but by fatherhood. Quality time spent with his children, playing, testing boundaries, stretching rules, adventuring the risks of life together so that the child may learn how to deal with what life throws up.
I think of my own Dad and the emotional, spiritual inheritance that has come to me, the very life that he was instrumental in giving to me; his abiding presence within my life all the years he lived.
With the sun warm on my face I ponder my own fatherhood as I myself have become father. Fatherhood has grown in me over the years and no longer do I recognize myself in terms of the title Fr., rather Father has become my name and nature. And, though I will never be anyone’s Dad, Father is who I am. The Heart of God the Father in me – not perfectly by any means but in me all the same.