dad-behind-churchFather’s Day brings a lot of things with it—and not just unwanted neckties, hastily purchased Father’s Day cards and a free afternoon of beer and baseball for Dad. It brings out the statisticians, too.

They can be a sobering bunch, statisticians, and rightly so; the effects of fatherlessness are enormously sad. But there’s one stat we hear in Christian circles that brightens the third Sunday of June considerably.

We’ve all heard it said that a kid with a father who’s devoted to his faith is far more likely than the opposite to remain faithful over the long run. Of course, we’ve all heard lots of things, supposedly supported by one study or another. But where’s some real-life evidence for this one?

I’m glad you asked! (See what I did there?)

I’d like to share some personal experience backing up that particular finding. I hadn’t thought about this for a while until a recent Sunday Mass, when I saw a little girl run from her mother during communion and over to her father, an usher, squealing “Daddy!” through her pacifier.

That took me back to a memory…one I only have because my mother told me about it. Mom was always doing or saying important things in my life. You might remember her saving said life with guitar lessons in my last post.

When I was a toddler, my father ushered at church all morning on Sunday and then came home to pick up the family for noon Mass. As my mother used to tell it, during Mass, I would occasionally bolt from the pew and charge down the aisle toward the narthex (not that we used fancy words like “narthex” back then; I ran to the back of the church). Mom didn’t worry about me for the same reason I wasn’t scared to leave her—we both knew that Daddy was at the end of the aisle.

You know what that means. Don’t you? It was probably 1962 and Vatican II was still in session. It means that keeping kids under control during Mass was hard even when Mass was a more solemn event than it is in Novus Ordo times.

As the ancients wrote, Etiam Missa religiosissima parvulum subsistere non potest, si patrem ejus videre desiderat. “Even the most reverent Mass cannot stop a small boy if he wants to see his Daddy.” Or something ancient-sounding like that.

Holy-Name-Parade

Now, as I said, that memory is only truly mine in the retelling—a memento from my mother. But the image of my father as a guy who believed church to be important has been vivid all my life. I’m sure he wasn’t a saint, but every Sunday, that guy who spent his days moving meat and produce on a loading dock was dressed so nicely he could have been mistaken for mayor of Jersey City.

From a photo of him standing near the church in his Sunday best, to another of him marching in rented tails in the annual Holy Name Parade, to the “Usher” tie clip he wore to Mass (and which my mother kept in her jewelry box), my father remained a model of manly devotion to his faith for me over the years, even though he died when I was five.

He was 42.

So, for all of you dads out there who sometimes wonder if the flying circus that is your attempt to get the family to Mass on Sunday is really worth it, trust me—it is.

Happy Father’s Day, everybody! And if you’re so inclined, I’d like to share a song about my mom and dad. My attempt at a country rocker and you can find it right here.

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