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The Catholic Moment: Oh, Daddy!

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June 7, 2011

By Jeanne Hunt

Abba is the name Jesus used for His father. It can mean “Daddy” in Aramaic. It may seem a bit immature for a grown man to call his father “Daddy.” My kids outgrew “Daddy” around eight years old when it was not cool to talk like a baby. But not our Jesus. He couldn’t think of dear ole’ Dad in any other way than “Daddy.”


So, there must be more to this than baby talk. After all, Jesus had enough legitimate reasons to be called on the carpet by the Pharisees than by pushing for talking like a three-year-old.


Jesus was trying to do two things: 1) shock the socks off His listeners and 2) insinuate that only a child can presume to speak in such intimate terms. But then, let’s take this slip of the tongue to a deeper level: Jesus wants us to claim His father as our father. So, Good Ole’ Abba is my Daddy, too. Not only that, but we’re now part of something much bigger: If St. Augustine is right and “we become what we have eaten,” then many of us human beings become “Abba” to one another. Are you still with me? The only way we can know the mercy, love and tenderness of Father God is when we experience a reflection of it in one another.


This realization led me to look back on my life and see all the men who showed me what a father’s love is all about. I think of them as making my Abba list. These guys are not just interested in spiritual stuff. Many of them taught me other things, like how to find night crawlers, how to slow dance like you mean it, where the best seats are at the ballpark and, of course, how to make a great Manhattan. We all need those Abbas to bring us to wholeness and holiness. Mind, body and spirit need nurturing in equal parts. In fact, what these men taught me was to find the sacred in the ordinary things. Whether it was finding night crawlers or catching a baseball in the cheap seats, God was delighted to join us.


There were spiritual mentors as well: Gene, who gave me my first copy of Merton when I was 16; Tom, who challenged me to embrace my vocation; Richard, who taught me that the Scriptures are an ongoing conversation with the Divine; Carl, who revealed God’s sense of humor; and John, who showed me how to love a good friend.


I suspect you have an Abba list as well. As Father’s Day approaches, I invite you to take advantage of the occasion by reflecting of all those men in your life who have fathered you. Many of us cannot sit down with our birth fathers on this day. They may have long since gone on to heaven. In fact, we can even feel sorry for ourselves if Dad has died recently and we have to cope with a grief-filled Father’s Day. Herein lies the grace of the day: After you make a good Abba list, take time to send a message to a few of your Abbas. E-mail will do, but a card or hand-written note will become a lasting treasure.


“Dearest Jim, you gave me strength when no one else cared….” “Don, those fireside chats with a healthy Manhattan were the best life lessons I ever received….” “Hey, Uncle Fred, I still have that baseball we caught in old Crosley Field….” “Father Paul, your homilies turned my life around….” 


Hunt is the catechetical and evangelization advisor for St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications.


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