“Call no man on earth your father.” This verse from today’s Gospel (Matthew 23:1-12), is sometimes used by a few of our Protestant brothers to criticize our custom of calling our priests “Father.” However, that text should be read in the proper way. Otherwise, what do we call our paternal parent? It certainly would not be respectful to call him by his first name. What Jesus is talking about is pride and trying to impress others through position, knowledge, and acting as a person of importance or holiness by assuming a title. We also might remember that St. Paul in his letters referred to himself as a father to some of the churches he visited (1 Cor. 4:14–15). It is hardly likely that he would have gone against the will of Jesus by calling himself “father.” When we call our priests, “Father,” we acknowledge the roles they have in the church—to be good fathers leading, teaching, protecting, and feeding their spiritual children with the Word of God and the Eucharist.
In recent years, some have betrayed their trust and hurt their children. It is a terrible tragedy. Still the vast majority have served their spiritual children well. Let us pray that more young men will respond to our Heavenly Father’s call to the priesthood and serve as spiritual fathers to his family on earth.
- Fr. Carl