When I was in the Eight Grade here in Dothan, our parish, St. Columba, was sent a new Assistant Pastor, a tall, sandy-haired Irishman; Father Patrick Maher. Throughout my high school years, Father Maher was present. I don’t mean ‘just there,’ or nearby. He was really present. He cared. To a teenager, caring is all important. There were already strong, loving men in my family, and Father Maher was added to their fold. When I became engaged to my husband George, I told Father Maher, “He’s a lot like you, Father.” And when we married, Father Maher performed the ceremony. Father Maher was the first person who used the words I’ve kept inside me all these years. “God is madly in love with YOU.” And if we know that, we know our purpose here. To be loved entirely, calls for us to love in return.
Years later, when George and I moved back to Dothan, another priest named Patrick came to St. Columba; Father Patrick Gallagher. When my own father suffered from heart disease, Father Gallagher was a rock for him, and for us all, to lean on. In my mother’s grief, he was there. In my own confusion, he was there. And when my father died, he came immediately and told us what to do. Always, he was there. He was Present. And to this day, he still is. To say that he is supportive of my ‘new career’ as an author is such an understatement. I am so grateful for his confidence in me.
Now, the third ‘Patrick’ is a father, too; but he’s not a priest, he’s my son. And he’s a single father. I have two, strong sons who are fathers of little girls. My son Chris is lovely story for later. Today, my son, Patrick, is the example–another example of the Presence of a father to his child. This ‘Patrick’ has learned to put one he loves ahead of himself. He’s learned to be a ‘double parent,’ no easy task. Like the two Patricks above, he is present. Not ‘just there,’ not just nearby. He is really and truly present to his little daughter who loves him entirely. This is the way of three fathers named Patrick. This is the way God loves us.
Copyright 2013 Kaye Hinckley