Priests of the Domestic Church: A Father's Day Homily | Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers | Ignatius InsightPriests of the Domestic Church: A Father's Day Homily | Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers | Ignatius Insight

In the days before global positioning systems, Mapquest, and Google Earth, men were stereotyped as reluctant to ask for directions. You know the scene: a couple is driving somewhere and, unable to find their destination, the wife turns to her husband and says, "Honey, maybe we should stop and ask for directions." The husband, dismayed that his wife would dare challenge his sense of direction, stubbornly says, "I know where I'm going!" This would go on and on until they eventually found the place or fell so far behind schedule that they would have no choice but to stop at the nearest gas station for directions.

Thanks to modern technology, those days are gone forever! In this day and age it's virtually impossible to get lost. However, a GPS may be able to get you from Portland to Chicago; Mapquest may be able to get you to your favorite downtown restaurant; Google Earth may show you the best route from New York to Australia but no amount of technology in the world will get you from earth to heaven!

What Jesus says in the Gospel is true of many men today: we are "troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd." [1] When a man would rather spend time looking at pornography or "hanging out with the fellas" than have any meaningful relationship with his wife and children, he is lost. When a man approaches dating as a conquest, where the primary goal is to "hit it and quit it," he is lost. When a man becomes wealthy at the expense of the poor, he is lost. When a man under the influence of drugs or alcohol beats his wife, passing on a legacy of violence and abuse to his children, he is lost.

Just as Jesus called laborers into the field to reap an abundant harvest of souls, He calls husbands and fathers who are lost to use the navigational tools of prayer, forgiveness, and mercy to find our way back to our Father in heaven. Just as Jesus called men to the priesthood to serve His Bride the Church, the same Jesus calls men through baptism to be priests of the domestic church, the church of the home. A husband and father should exercise his priestly ministry through "the offering he makes of himself and his daily activities." [2] This offering should be united to Christ's offering in the Eucharist "for their work, prayers, and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily labor, their mental and physical relaxation, if carried on in the spirit--and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne--all of these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." [3] The main job of the priest is to offer sacrifice, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass should lead fathers to intimate and personal relationship with God, uniting him so closely to Christ that the Eucharist becomes the very soul and center of his spiritual and family life.

The priest of the home must accept the responsibility of living "the Gospel in faith and proclaiming it in word and deed, without hesitating to identify and denounce evil." [4] Christian parents are the primary and indispensable catechists of their own children. Fathers are not only called to preach the Gospel but also, and above all, to live the Gospel by setting a good example for their children. If our children see us living the Catholic faith with fidelity and joy, then we can be sure that our example will be worth more than a thousand words and have confidence that our love for Christ will be written into the hearts of our sons and daughters. When we do this, the Catholic faith will become more than a fond memory that fades with time. A father's living witness to covenant intimacy will become his enduring legacy, a precious gift for his children, and a sure sign of hope in God's endless mercy and love.

Before any of this can happen, we fathers must have the courage to take the first big step: we must dethrone the reign of sin in our lives so that we can welcome Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives. Any man can be a daddy but it takes a real man to be a father, and the sooner we earthly fathers begin to appreciate the great gift we have been given and begin living the mission of service to our families--when we begin to make a gift of ourselves to our wives and children, and participate deeply and personally in the Fatherhood of God--the faster we will arrive at a civilization of love and a culture of life.

I remember the day my relationship with my father changed forever. When I informed him of my decision to join the Benedictines, not only was he disappointed; he was angry. What he said went something like this: "You're going to do what?!" He then reminded me: "You are the first person in the family to go to college. I spent all that money sending you to one of the best universities in the country. You studied economics and business, and instead of making something of yourself, you are going to waste your life in that monastery living with a bunch of men? What's wrong with you? What am I supposed to tell my friends?" I won't repeat what I said to him but on that day he became like Lazarus in the tomb; he became dead to me.

Many years later when my EWTN series debuted, my father received lots of phone calls: "Isn't that your son on TV?" My father, who as far as I knew only set foot in a Catholic church on his wedding day, began watching my program. Then he began watching the Mass. Then he started watching reruns of Mother Angelica. Then he started praying. My father, a professional entertainer, decided to stop singing Caribbean music and started singing and recording Gospel music exclusively. Then, like Lazarus coming out of the tomb, he called me and we spoke for thirty-one minutes and twelve seconds, which is the longest conversation we've had in almost twenty years. He spent most of the call talking to me about his relationship with Jesus.

A few months ago, I was shown the awesome power of prayer, forgiveness, and divine mercy. After years of not having a meaningful relationship with the man who destroyed our family, I met face-to-face with my father. I did not hear the words of repentance that I so longed to hear from him. Instead, this talented and gifted musician who was lost and who only now after seventy-four years is coming to faith in Jesus Christ, showed me the meaning of fatherhood by his example when he sang this song:

"O Lord, sweet Jesus, have mercy on me.
My eyes were wide open, yet I failed to see.
Dear Lord, I beg you have mercy; please, have mercy on me.
I am so sorry. Lord, forgive me.
Please show me the way.
I can't go on living this life without you.
Sweet Jesus, please tell me what to do.
Lord, I'm depending on you.
I want to live a life that's honest and true.
I will let nothing stand in my way.
Sweet Jesus, please hear my prayer.
O Lord, teach me how to pray,
I beg you, because at times I know not what to say
but when I think of Calvary I know my Jesus loves me.
Dear Lord, I beg you have mercy."


[1] Matthew 9: 36.

[2] Christifideles Laici, n.14

[3] Lumen Gentium, n.31

[4] Christifideles Laici, n.14 Articles by Deacon Burke-Sivers:

A Study In Faithful Obedience | Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers | New Foreword to From Slave to Priest
Black and Catholic in America | An Interview with Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers
Behold the Man! | An interview with Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers about his new EWTN series
Hearing and Living the Truth | Harold Burke-Sivers
The Truth and the Lie | Harold Burke-Sivers
The Meaning and Necessity of Spiritual Fatherhood | Harold Burke-Sivers

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, MTS is a deacon in the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, and the founder of Aurem Cordis, an apostolate dedicated "to promote the truth and beauty of the gospel by encouraging others to submit themselves freely to the life-giving love of the Trinity and to become living witnesses to that love in the world." Deacon Burke-Sivers gives talks around the country on spirituality, family life, lay vocations, and other topics, and has appeared on "Catholic Answers Live", EWTN, and many local television and radio programs. He has a BA in economics from Notre Dame and an MTS from the University of Dallas. He, his wife Colleen, and their four children live in Portland, Oregon.

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