Learning About the Father From My Own Father

Learning about the Father from my own father

Joy Clough is a retired Sister of Mercy living in Chicago. In Learning About the Father From My Own, she shares how she is still learning from her father.

An important lesson in my life is one that I’m still learning. It involves welcoming and trusting God as a loving father, rather than as a severe judge or “divine tester.”

…Then, one day when I felt particularly distraught, I found myself yelling at God (yes, out loud) that “my father wouldn’t do this to me.”

And there it was. Right out there, reverberating in the air, echoing in my own ears. My father wouldn’t do this to me, and God my Father wasn’t doing this to me either. I was doing it to me.

The father doesn’t weigh his love for his child; he simply loves. The child doesn’t think about trusting its father; it simply does. Oh, is that what Jesus meant about “unless you become as little children”? Hmmm. I’m still learning.

Be sure to read her whole story Learning About the Father From My Own

My personal experience

As I reflect back on my 80 years of life I realize how blessed I have been and what I have learned from my father (and mother… but that is another story.)

One particular incident rushed back to my mind. I think I was in eighth grade. Perhaps it was the beginning of my teenage rebellion.

A friend of mine (easily) talked me into playing hooky from an afternoon in school. Who would know? The only problem was that I left my book bag in the schoolyard. Of course, by the time I got home, Sister has already called expressing concern about whether I was sick!

My mother was waiting! But then my father came home. To this day I can not forget the look of pain on his face. He was a very gentle and loving man. He was not angry. He was just so disappointed and hurt by what I had done. That look was the worst punishment he could have given. (As I write this I can still feel the emotions!)

As you may suspect I am still unpacking that look. It taught me so much about his love for me … and his hopes.

Lessons for all of us

Whether we are fathers, biologically or spiritually, we can learn much from our fathers (and others).

But as I reflect on it from the vantage point of more than 65 years of Vincentian formation and trying to live the charism of St. Vincent I realize that we are all called to live the lessons that Sister Joy and I learned.

I am also painfully aware that there are many who were not as fortunate as Sr. Joy and I were.


  • What lessons have I learned about me being the image of God in the lives of others?
  • How can I be sensitive to those who were not blessed with living images of God?

P.S. I never missed another day of class, even for sickness, in my years of high school and higher education!

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