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HomePerspectivesMary Beth BonacciThe great 'love, love, love' of the Father

The great ‘love, love, love’ of the Father

Happy Father’s Day!

You also may want to send some congratulations my way. For what may be the first time in my 30+ years of writing this column, I remembered to write about a special day in advance of that day, so that you could read about it in a timely manner.

This, of course, is a difficult day for me to overlook. It’s my first Father’s Day without my Dad. And I’m not gonna lie. It feels pretty strange.

My Dad was the greatest father ever. To my mind, anyway. For my entire life, there were two things I always knew. First, I knew was that he would do anything for me. He would climb any mountain, make any sacrifice, endure any trial, just to make sure I was okay and safe and had all I needed. When he was in his early 90’s and lived across the street, he used to come over every week and bring my trash cans into the garage. A small thing, but not insignificant for a man of this age. And in his late 90’s, when he lived with me and didn’t get around well, he would stand at the door and watch me bring the cans in. He was making sure I was safe. I’m not sure what he would have done if something happened. I think he might have summoned some kind of superhuman strength and clocked my assailant in the face.

The second thing I knew was that he loved me soooooo much. Every time I left his presence, he would say, from the depths of his soul “I love you, love you, love you.” Multiple times a day. Thousands of times total, I am sure.

But I’ve been thinking about a day, probably just a few months before he died, that was different. I told him that I had to leave for a while. But this time, instead of the usual triple “love you”, he looked at me for a long time. And then he said, slowly, from a place that seemed even deeper in his soul, “I love you more than I love myself.”

I don’t doubt for a minute that he meant that with every fiber of his being.

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There is so much I miss about having him here with me. But the one comfort I have found has been the thought that somebody who loves me that much is up in Heaven, praying for me. Of course, I believe with the Church that the prayers of the elect have particular power with God. And I have already seen little signs that Dad is listening. Last winter, just a few weeks after he passed away, I lost a parking lot ticket stub in a snowstorm. Without it, I was going to have to pay an exorbitant “no ticket” penalty. A friend and I both searched over and over again, in blinding, blowing snow. Finally I asked Dad to pray that we would find it. I immediately felt drawn to look yet again inside the car, but from the other side. And, lo and behold, there was the ticket, wedged between the passenger seat and the door.

Dad came through for me.

After that, I had a brief, fleeting thought: Now I will receive everything I pray for! Because my Dad loves me!

But then I remembered that my Dad who loves me so much is in Heaven, where he sees a much bigger picture than I do. And it occurred to me that he would know the plans of the Heavenly Father. And that, if answering a specific prayer in the way I wanted wouldn’t actually be what was best for me, or be in accord with God’s perfect plan, then of course Dad wouldn’t want it to be answered that way. The prayer would be answered in the way that was best for me — not in the way my limited brain wanted it to be answered.

And my next thought was, “Wait a minute? Why did I need my Dad to die to realize this?”

Here’s the thing: even when my Dad was still here with me, I already had a Father in Heaven. And he already loved me. In fact, from the first moment of my existence, He has loved me far more than my earthly father ever could. That is hard for me to believe, knowing how fully and beautifully my Dad loved me. But it is true.

So this is exactly what has been happening all along, with or without my Dad. My Heavenly Father, in his love for me, has already heard all of my prayers. And he has answered them. Not always, or even usually, in the ways my limited perspective could see or understand. But in the ways I most need — ways I will probably neither see nor understand until I join both of my Fathers in eternal light.

I said in my Dad’s eulogy that, in seeing the love of our earthly fathers, we get a glimpse of how much we are loved by God the Father. My siblings and I were very blessed in that regard. We saw fatherly love lived out up close and personal, every day of our lives. But apparently I needed both of my Fathers to be in the same place before God the Father’s love finally became real to me.

I also said in his eulogy that, although I know the love of God the Father is far greater than any human can imagine, there is a part of me that can’t believe he could possibly love me more than my Dad did.

But he does. And he loves you with that same love, regardless of your situation vis a vis your earthly father.

A lot of us tend to dismiss God the Father as the Old Man in the Sky. He’s the “God of the Old Testament,” the vengeful one always smiting people. But that is a gross, twisted distortion. He is first and foremost and above all a father, and he loves us with the ultimate protective, providing and fatherly love.

I know that Mother’s and Father’s Days can often be difficult for those of us who aren’t parents, and/or who no longer have parents. But please, please, regardless of whatever else you do on Father’s Day, remember this: The God of the Universe is your Father. He is all powerful. He created everything and holds it in existence. And that same all-powerful God loves you. He sees everything that is happening to you, and everything you are going through. He wants what is absolutely best for you. He wants a relationship with you. And, most of all, he wants to spend eternity with you.

In other words: He loves you, loves you, loves you.

Mary Beth Bonacci
Mary Beth Bonacci
Mary Beth Bonacci has been giving talks on love and relationships across the United States and internationally for . . .well . . . her entire adult life. She was among the first Catholic speakers to introduce audiences to St. John Paul II’s beautiful Theology of the Body. She is the founder of Real Love, Inc., an organization dedicated to promoting respect for God’s gift of human sexuality. Her book Real Love, based on the Theology of the Body, has been translated into ten languages. She is also the author of We’re on a Mission from God, writes a monthly column for Catholic newspapers and contributes regularly to the Catholic Match Institute blog.
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