Blog Post

Three Dads, Three Lessons

by Ellen Mongan

As Father’s Day approaches, my mind races to memories of what I learned from my three best dads. Life is full of learning experiences. I try to learn something from everyone I encounter. I have learned the most from the three most important fathers in my life, my dad, my father-in-law and of course my husband. I hope this article spurs you on to remember what your dad has taught you.

God, the Father, uses our earthly father’s to instill respect, honor and obedience into our character. A healthy fear of your dad, teaches you to have a healthy fear of the Lord. An unhealthy fear of your earthly father can, unfortunately, affect your relationship with God the Father. When we can trust our dads to love us no matter what, we learn about God’s agape love. When we have been shown that our father will never leave us or turn his back on us, trust is built. This trust can easily lead us to an abiding trust in God. Then this enables us to approach our Heavenly Father’s throne of grace each day in prayer, ready to learn from Him. Just as we were molded by our earthly dad, we are willing to be formed in Christ.

What about you? What stories are imbedded in your soul? What lessons did you learn from your dad or dads? How did your relationship with your father affect your relationship with God?

The Father of My Children

A dad, as one Father’s Day card said, “Is a super hero who wears an invisible cape.” I will never forget those words written in that card which our “baby girl” gave her dad. The card was soon tossed in the trash but not the memory of that proud smile on my husband Patrick’s face when received. This moment remains in my heart forever, tucked under honoring.

Our four daughters feel the same: their daddy “hung the moon.” They proudly state, “We are all daddies’ girls.” I love when any of my seven children honor my husband. You see, I promised when we were joined together in the sacrament of matrimony, to love honor and cherish my Patrick, all the days of his life. When I said my vows, I meant every word of them.

Patrick deserves to be loved, honored and cherished. I think all fathers do, especially dads with a large family. You see I know what is in the job description. Sacrifices made when raising children will only be discovered by them when they have children of their own. Parents are a team, each one giving one hundred percent to build family, also known as the “the little church.” We have tried to build it well. We have dedicated our lives to passing down the faith and teaching them to do what is right.

Now as parents of seven adult children, our main role is to support, guide and pray. Often the children call me to intercede for them or their friends; I am blessed to do so. However, when they need spiritual wisdom, everyday guidance, or medical knowledge, it is their dad who answers the call. It shows in a tangible way their respect and honor for him. Somehow, drawing from his training as both a physician and a permanent deacon, he provides a solution. If he does not, he spends time researching the subject until he does. I am always amazed at his dedication to be there for his offspring. He is faithfully committed to being a “family first” kind of guy.

I am very thankful that when we said our vows, we meant them. We chose to honor one another in word and deed. Our vows stated before God and man, then lived out, protect the unity of our marriage.

It was my husband who was the spiritual head of our “little church” and all followed his lead. He began the day with family prayers, and sent the children off to school with a blessing. The discussions around the dinner table were led by him. It always included current events from a Catholic approach. He prayed over each child as they closed their eyes to sleep. It was in the home that our children learned to honor and respect their dad.

It was I, however who led the cheer each night welcoming him home from work. The words, “Daddy is home,” set the toddlers scrambling to meet him at the door. The family could not wait to greet him. They still jump for joy when he arrives on the scene. Now the grandchildren add to the applause. Although they never saw him put on his invisible cape, and draw from his super powers, I did. I still see it today. It is Christ in him, “his hope of glory.”

Lesson One: If you teach a child to honor their mother and father it will serve them well all the days of their life. It will bear good fruit of a long good life. Patrick taught me that if you want to be respected and honored you must be a man of integrity, faithful to God and family. You must stand for God even if you stand alone. Having a godly father helps a child to know God.

My Father-in-law

Where did my husband learn to be a dad? From his dad of course - Bill Mongan. “Like father like son,” often becomes a reality. His dad’s words and actions formed Pat’s character even at an early age. He lived what he was taught. He then passed the life lessons from his dad down to our children. I am very grateful for his good formation.

This was one of the many reasons we loved, honored and respected Patrick’s dad. It came natural for us to do, with my father in law, Bill. Once you got passed his hard outer shell, a softer, more tender side was apparent.

Bill taught my husband, “If you are going to do a job, do it right.” Bill lived that message all the days of his life, whether he was seated in the bombardier spot aboard of an Air Force plane or at the head of the dinner table next to his wife. He was the head of his castle and no one questioned his authority.

As Bill aged, that tender side became the only view you saw. Never was it more visible than when his wife, Fran, was dying of ovarian cancer. Bill embraced the cross that they carried lovingly together. He never left her side until the final goodbye. What none of us knew, including Bill, was that he was carrying a cross of his own at the same time, stage four lung cancer. As she was dying, his dedication to his wife was evident. He did the job of caregiver for his beloved, just like he approached every other task in his life, he did it right. He missed her so. Two months later Bill joined Fran, the wife he adored.

Lesson Two: Dedication and love of one’s spouse can give you the perseverance to face any challenge. If you do a job, do it right!

My Father

What side of your brain dominates, left or right? Many times, this is a topic of conversation. I, who have a tough time discerning left from right, was glad to know I am right brained. I received my right brain and creative genus from my dad. I often joke with my husband, “I am the right brain and you are the brain who is left over.” We laugh at our private joke because everyone knows my husband is “Einstein” brilliant. His left brain is a gift to the world.

What did my dad teach me? My dad, William F. Manfredi, taught me that you do not have to fit a mold, blend, or keep up with the Joneses. Dad never blended. He was a “square peg in a round hole” and did not care what the Joneses thought. Dad was comfortable in his own skin. He loved who he was, just as he was. Daddy did not try to impress anyone at all. My dad was both a nuclear chemist and a freelance artist, which made him left and right brain, a genius by definition.

Dad was fearfully and wonderfully made, and lived each day to make a difference in this world. His words were as profound and unique as he was. His philosophy for life was, “Your life is an empty canvas. You can paint on it whatever you want. Paint a masterpiece!” Daddy encouraged me to paint my own masterpiece!

Lesson Three: My dad’s words, “Paint a masterpiece,” formed my life. These words taught me to live each day to the fullest. I live my life fully alive. I purpose each day to make a difference in this world.

How about you? What did your best dads teach you? Did they teach you the importance of honoring? Did they teach you agape love? Did they teach you to be yourself? Remember my daddy’s words, “Life is an empty canvas. You can paint on it whatever you want to.” Are you painting a masterpiece of your own? Make your dads proud, your earthly daddy and your Heavenly Father. Create a work of art that brings glory to their names. Your life is a gift, so give life to all you meet!

©Ellen Mongan. All Rights Reserved.

Ellen Mongan is a Catholic writer, speaker and the host of WOW Radio Podcasts. She is married to Deacon Patrick Mongan, M.D., and they have seven children, one baby in heaven, and thirteen grandchildren. She goes where God calls her to go, and does what God calls her to do with His grace.