This coming Friday would have been my father’s 60th birthday. He lost his battle with cancer a little over three years ago.

What follows is something I wrote back in 2015[1] as the first anniversary of his death drew near. It’s a short reflection that will hopefully help remind you of two things: (1) of the great impact that our relationship with “Abba”[2] can have in our spiritual lives and (2) of the great impact that we can have as spiritual fathers in the lives of others, if we strive to reflect His Fatherhood.

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“My dad is no longer here with me on earth, and yet he continues to teach me the ways of God. At the onset of losing your dad everything is dark; the situation makes no sense. You often find yourself asking, “Why is God taking from me the father that I love?” As time moves forward, however, God’s Providence begins to pierce the clouds overhead. What seemed like a terrible situation, suddenly becomes a moment of God’s mercy.

Our fathers are given to us for a particular purpose in the plan of God. They are meant, by their love and example to reflect the one and only Father, Who dwells in unapproachable light. Every father on earth is called to be the image of God the Father in Heaven.

The thing that troubled my father’s mind the most in his last days of life was the fact that he was not going to be present at my brother’s graduation and my priestly ordination. His love for us, his sons, was so great that it pained him to know that we were not going to have our father there to celebrate with us. He was concerned more for us than for himself. In this, his heartache, he has taught me a simple truth about God the Father: the Father wants to be a part of every moment of our lives. He concerns Himself about our good, whether in great or simple moments; He wants to be present to us. This is God’s love for us as Father. And this is what my father’s love continues to teach me about the love of Our Heavenly Father.
Even in his eternal rest, his fatherly example still lives to teach…and to love.”

James Douglas Etheridge

(October 6, 1957 – August 12, 2014)

Fr. Christopher Etheridge, IVE

Seminary Formator – Chillum, MD


[1] Dated: 04/27/15
[2] “I could sum up the Our Father by telling you, ‘Never to be discouraged; you have a Heavenly Father.’…And it would be well occasionally to think of yourselves as little children, because remember no ‘old people’ are going to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So, we have to become young and if you think yourself young you will begin calling the Heavenly Father in your mind and soul, ‘Abba’” (Ven. Fulton Sheen, Family Retreat Talk on the “Our Father”).

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