May is for mothers… June is for fathers. Well actually, June is a special month for many people: graduates, brides and approximately 8 percent of the population celebrating birthdays, statistically speaking. But let’s take a look at the most commonly shared celebration of June, namely Father’s Day, and discover this year’s coincidental convergence of festivities.
Sonora Smart Dodd is the woman credited as the founder of the official American national holiday of Father’s Day. When Sonora was 16, her mother died while giving birth to her sixth child. Sonora was the only daughter and shared with her father William in the raising of her younger brothers, including her new infant brother. She always held her father in great esteem and after listening to a sermon about Mother’s Day at her Episcopal church in Spokane, Washington, she was inspired to create a holiday to recognize her father, William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran and single dad to six children. She approached the Spokane Ministerial Alliance and suggested her own father’s birthday, of June 5, as the day to honor fathers. The Alliance chose the third Sunday in June instead. She held the first Father’s Day celebration at the YMCA in Spokane on June 19, 1910. A quick glance at a calendar reveals that this year the third Sunday of June, Father’s Day, in fact falls on the 19th, coincidently marking to the very day the anniversary of its founding 112 years ago.
We can add another layer of celebration to this year’s June 19th. Otherwise known as “Juneteenth,” it represents a very important day in African American history. Sometimes called “Freedom Day,” it is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It has also been called “America’s second Independence Day.” It was on June 19, 1865, that Union soldiers arrived in Texas announcing the end of the Civil War and that all slaves were free. Imagine the countless number of dads both black and white who rejoiced that day as they began the return to their families to the north and south…among them a man named William Jackson Smart.
Sadly, in the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic, there will be all-too-many empty chairs at the dining room table on this year’s Father’s Day. This calls for a special moment of prayer for fathers both living and deceased. And what better and more appropriate prayer than the one Jesus gave us when asked by his disciples to teach them to pray. The “Our Father,”– those opening two words alone provide food for hours of meditative thought. First, we are addressing God as our Father, and rightly so, for as the loving Creator of the human race we owe Him our very existence and all that sustains us. As we are calling Him our Father, we are simultaneously thereby stating that we are all brothers and sisters, together in the family of God. Paint the mental picture of God’s family being represented by our own, the beautiful image of members holding hands around the table, honoring fathers with the words of the Lord’s prayer. After all, it is “Our Father’s Day!” No coincidence there. Happy Father’s Day to our Vincentian family and beyond!