God Is Calling
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

By Fr. Hau Vu

As a priest, there are so many titles people can call us by, such as teacher, healer, shepherd, doctor; however, no title is as deep and meaningful as “Father.” Our fatherhood flows forth and is drawn from the Fatherhood of God. Therefore, the people of faith call all priests “Father.”

Jesus told his disciples, “And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven” (Matt 23:9). This verse is sometimes used against Catholic priests denouncing the use of the title “Father.” However, don’t we call all dads “father” as well? If that is the case, shouldn’t we call no one “father” then, if that is really what Jesus was saying? Are we all disobeying God by calling our dad “father” as well? Thankfully, this is not the case. What Jesus was trying to get at was the truth, which is that all fatherhood finds its source in God the Father. God is the perfect Father in whom all priests and men with children find their source. As priests, we too participate in that Fatherhood through Jesus Christ.

Jesus, being the Son, is also truly God. He told us: “I and My Father are one” (Jn 10:30). His oneness with the Father allows all priests to also be called “Father” because he said to his disciples, “…I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (Jn 14:20). As priest, we share in that oneness of Jesus, in persona Christi Capitis, “in the person of Christ the head.” Christ the head means that he is the Father of us all. As Father, he loves and his love creates life.

When we look at God the Father, he created the world out of love. His love knows no bound, and creation continues to flow within this continual direction of generative life. The Fatherhood of priests has this nature. When priests celebrate the sacraments and lead others to Christ, they are participating in God’s creative nature. God produces more children when a priest, in the person of Christ, anoints and consecrates his people to himself. In that respect, we can say that God’s children are the priests’ children because God has ordained them to be his representatives on earth. This is known as spiritual fatherhood.

It can be said that spiritual fatherhood is more like the fatherhood of God because it is more like how God creates a soul. There is, in a sense, a spiritual birthing, when human life first begins, and that birthing is given an exterior manifestation when that child is baptized. The child’s life is grafted onto Christ and made one with Him. As priests, we are given this identity as a father because our duty as a father is to not only see God’s children happy on earth, but more so to see them happy forever in heaven.

Therefore, priests have the duty of providing, guiding, teaching, forming, protecting and raising their spiritual children, just like a natural father does to his biological children. As a spiritual father, priests have the responsibility of nurturing the divine life in the souls of all. However, priests are not the source and giver of that divine life; we are just the instrument that nurtures the soul through all the means Jesus Christ gives to us. Our ministry is dependent entirely on Jesus.

Jesus Christ is the source of all paternity, whether spiritual or biological. It is when we look at Jesus Christ that we are able to see priests as our fathers. Their life is truly a sign of God the Father who continues to create life by laying down His own. Priests do the same when they are first ordained until the time they die, and perhaps even after, as saints.

Fr. Hau Vu is Director of Vocations in the Diocese of San Bernardino.