It was sharing time. My first-grade teacher gathered the children in class and we sat, cross-legged in the sharing circle. “We’ll go around the room,” she told us, “And tell what our parents’ jobs are.” The other children shared about parents who were nurses and engineers, waitresses and bus drivers, construction workers and business managers.
When it was my turn, I proudly announced that my mom was a mother at home, and my dad? Well, my dad was a “philosopher.”
My teacher’s amused expression told me that I had shared something unusual, but I did not understand what. Only later did I realize that the word I should have used to describe my father’s profession was “professor.” Even today, though, I would argue that “philosopher” is a better fit.
I remember attending sleepovers in grade school and marveling at my friends’ fathers who went bowling, watched television, or read the newspaper in the evenings. My dad read books. Constantly and voraciously. Tall bookcases around our house were stacked to the ceiling with his books. Not just philosophy books, but every kind of teaching book you could imagine – about art, religion, astronomy, history, language, anatomy, entomology, auto mechanics, physics, bread baking, botany, and psychology.
In later years, as a college student, I would seek out my father’s copies of the books I was studying in class. Whether it was a Shakespeare play or a classic novel, my father’s red-pencil notes in the margins guided me through the process of discovering what was truly great about anything I read. I heard his voice in those notes. They taught me background, insight, and— most importantly — an enthusiasm for learning new things.
The example my father set with his love of learning has been one of his greatest gifts to me. An even greater gift he and my mother gave to all of their children, however, was the gift of faith. My dad — philosopher, scientist, and intellectual — is a daily communicant, a regular at late-night adoration, and one of Mother Mary’s most devoted sons. He who never rests in his dogged pursuit of truth and reason finds peace at last in his Catholic faith. He loves Jesus, Mary, and the Catholic Church. He believes.
The strength of my own belief is a gift of my father’s faithfulness. His unwavering example convinces me that the truth is worth building your world around when you have the good fortune of finding it. Thanks to my father, I do have real faith. I hope to be as good at sharing it with my own children as he has been at sharing it with me.
At Catholic Digest, we are grateful for the gift of all kinds of good fathers. In this month devoted to fathers I would like to thank all the dads who feed their children’s faith and inspire them toward a lifetime of learning!