Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Guest Essay from Malta: On Fathers Day. My Three Fathers

By Douglas W. Kmiec
June 20th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In truth, there is only one way for any of us to be saved and it is by the acceptance of Our Heavenly Father.  The story of Saint Paul is that we are saved, the Pope wrote some years ago "not by the sword of the conquerors but by the sword of those who suffer.  Only following Christ leads to the new brotherliness, to the new city."

FLORIANA, Malta (Catholic Online) - Modern life being what it is, you might expect to find an essay entitled "My Three Fathers" to supply just another over-sensationalized tabloid story.  This is not that tale.  Nor is this essay a remembrance of "My Three Sons," a delightful 50 and 60-ish television sitcom, starring the made for television widowed father, Fred MacMurry, three young boys ever in need of their mom, and as I remember, a dog. 

No, the present essay deals with three fathers who are far more sensational than anything conjured up by the media of today or yesteryear -- indeed, these fathers are sacred.   Walter Kmiec, 87, died gently in his sleep a few weeks ago.  Dad's body over the previous six weeks had been discovered to be ravaged by a fast-spreading cancer and then doubly weakened when the regimen of chemo and radiation proved well intentioned, but fruitless. 

My older brother, Warren, thoughtfully and lovingly cared for Dad during this treatment period, and while it fully exhausted him, care-giving to a terminally ill father is a grace unsurpassed, and the two of us here salute the thousands who day after day with no fanfare or notice care for a seriously ill relative or friend.

Dad wanted, and deserved, to die at home -- where our dear mother and Dad's bride of 60 years had passed five years before. While Dad could no longer walk or even support himself, Warren and I lovingly "danced with our father" from bed to commode to chair and back again.  Dad was a big man, and while the sight might be humorous to contemplate, I can tell you, we saw each awkward opportunity for what it was:  a genuine way to embrace our father a few more times before he slipped this earthly exile. 

In the final week, home hospice care came around the clock and commendably followed father's living will drawn in reference to the Church's teaching and witnessed so profoundly by the late Cardinal Bernardin.  On May 20, the unstoppable cancer would shut down a combination of systems vital to life, and in the night, as Tennyson wrote, "God's finger touched him, and he slept."

The Second Father?

Why Benedict XVI, of course.  Recently, the Holy Father visited the Republic of Malta where each day I am privileged to come in contact with the descendants of those who welcomed St. Paul in 60 A.D. with "uncommon kindness."  The Pope came to formally celebrate the anniversary of St. Paul's Arrival, but of course, the media largely only wanted to talk scandal.  The people of Malta didn't let them. 

The President of Malta welcomed the Pontiff to a country deeply in love with the faith, and the Holy Father returned that love in abundance to those who met him at the airport, to the tens of thousands who worshipped with him at the open-air Mass, to the young people with whom he cruised upon the bay or to those packed along the waterfront waving pennants and delighting in chanting and singing his name. 

Throughout, one witnessed a Pope caring deeply for others.   The Pontiff extended special concern for those adults who recounted abuse decades earlier as a child.  On his own time, with his own quiet charism of forgiveness, the Holy Father met the victims of abuse before the Eucharist in the chapel of the Papal Nuncio on the island.  To believers, Christ was truly present, and even this most ugly of sins was overwhelmed by the Spirit.

In greeting the Pontiff, I could not help but contrast in my mind the red carpet and military band and dignitaries greeting

Benedict XVI with the far less comfortable shipwreck of St. Paul nearly two millennia ago. As sharp a contrast as that image may be, there are several definite similarities between Paul's shipwreck here 1,950 years ago and Benedict's arrival. 

In both instances, Malta extended a welcome of "uncommon kindness," and in both instances, there was suffering in the Church.  Paul's shipwreck occurred during his journey of captivity on his way to endure a trial for his teaching of the Gospel.  Pope Benedict XVI comes at a moment when the grievous and inexcusable behavior of a few has brought distress to many. 

Nonetheless, as I greeted the Pope, I did not see despair, but hope, in his eyes.  "On behalf of the President of the United States and the American Embassy," I said, "we welcome you to this extraordinary place of "faith and family."  The Holy Father smiled and softly thanked me as Bishop Grech who stood behind him inquired whether I had received a recent letter from him.  "No, not yet," I said.  Well, thank you, said the bishop for having the courage to speak out declaring in public press that the scandal was irrelevant to the love of the Church.  (See Times of Malta, April 11, 2010).

Such declarations, you might think - and you would be right - are not the usual utterances of a diplomat.  As much as it distresses some of my colleagues for me to speak of these matters, I take my example from the Paul described in Benedict XVI's writing, where he noted that "[Paul] was not a diplomat.  When he made diplomatic attempts, he had little success.  He was a man who had no other weapon than the message of Jesus Christ."

Malta historically, said the Pope, has been a defender of the faith defeating many foes of Christianity.  Today, the formidable foe of faith - "secularism" lies just north of Malta in southern and Western Europe and to the south in Africa, where the challenge is those who have sought to stir hatred - wrongly -- into Islamic belief.  There is a need, said, the Holy Father, to carry on the inter-faith dialogue for which Malta is so well situated at the cross-roads of Christian, Muslim and Judaic thought.

Our Heavenly Father

In truth, there is only one way for any of us to be saved and it is by the acceptance of Our Heavenly Father.  The story of Saint Paul is that we are saved, the Pope wrote some years ago "not by the sword of the conquerors but by the sword of those who suffer.  Only following Christ leads to the new brotherliness, to the new city."

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and with Dad's memory strongly laying claim upon my heart (and may it ever be so), may this Father's Day for you be a happy and blessed one.

-----------------

Douglas W. Kmiec is the  U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Malta; the views expressed are not necessarily those of the President or the Department of State.

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)