(Lucky) Day Thirteen. Papa!
Today was a beautiful day, lots of sun, but the mileage was a little longer--23 miles. The terrain was mostly flat, and I was using my other sneakers which I bought in Lisbon. MUCH better. This is the last day by the sea. The Camino turns south and inward and we start our approach to Compostela de Santiago. I should be there in about 9 days!
I found a church that had a Mass I could attend, and like last week I kind of got it, but certainly not the homily. It was a nice church in a small village, and the people who were gathered outside afterwards all wished me a 'buon camino'.
I realized if I were home I'd be celebrating Father's Day with everyone at church. Which led me to wonder if they celebrate it here.
So I discovered that it was the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages in Europe that instituted Father's Day on St Joseph's feast day, March 19th. Here in Spain and in most of Europe, that is still when it is celebrated.
Know how long it has been an official holiday on the third Sunday in June in the US? In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed the first proclamation of that day as Father's Day, and Richard Nixon made it a permanent holiday in 1972!! Apparently a lot of people thought it was just an excuse for sale of men's goods, and indeed there was much lobbying for it by the men's wear industry. But mothers had long had their own day, and why not the fathers?
Nonetheless, it is a time to celebrate and give thanks for our fathers, and today I was on the lookout for any along my path. I found one guy, out walking with his two dogs and his little girl on his shoulders. I stopped him and explained that it was Father's Day in America, and he knew enough English to tell me that the Spanish celebrate it in March. Then I asked him if I could take a picture and he said sure!
It got me thinking about what being a father means to each of us. Obviously one official qualification is that you have to have children. But then besides that 'ownership', what defines our ideal? Things have changed a bit in my lifetime. I've seen fathers morph from being the sole breadwinner, the disciplinarian, the head of the household in most ways-- to being more of a partner in all of those areas. Fathers are now supposed to share child-rearing, decision-making, and usually income-creating.
A lot of it has to do with a redefinition of the American male. Like most of his generation, my father was never expected to share his vulnerable, tender, emotional side with his male peers, his children, his wife--and he didn't know how to do it. Many young men are raised today very differently, and are encouraged to be 'strong like bull' but also willing to let it all hang out. It's OK for men now to cry. I have seen those younger models of fatherhood in my travels on the Camino. It appears to me that younger fathers are doing the same thing here as in the US.
Which brings me to our concept of God as father. It's deeply imbedded in Christian theology, but what happens when we see a different kind of male in our society, and different versions of father? I have personally found my understanding of God's parenthood sometimes limiting. How about God the mother/father? God the parent?
There are other kinds of fathers, of course--surrogates-- and I have had a bunch in my life. One of them was a Jesuit named Henry Haske. He appeared to be a real man's man--he loved sports, women (those he couldn't have!), drank beer...all of it. But he did also have a gentle side to him, and having him as my spiritual director revealed that to me. Our lives parted somewhat, but he always always sent me a birthday card, and I never never remembered to do the same. Then one year it occurred to me that I wanted to surprise him with not just a birthday card, but a gift. And I decided to send him...flowers. Now, I'd never sent flowers to a man before, but I thought what the heck. Henry likes flowers, so that's what I'm going to give him as a gift. It really threw him for a loop when he received them, and I know that he was grateful that I would address that side of who he was.
I've been noticing here in Spain that many older men seem to be the ones taking care of the gardens, and I wonder if that is a cultural thing. I've been praying for a lot of men in the petitions that people have given me: fathers, husbands, grandfathers especially. So besides my prayers I thought I'd send any of them who are reading this a small gift--pictures of the flowers I have been encountering on the road to St James.
Happy Father's Day to you all!