Our Lord’s words were simply a strong way of saying, in the Hebrew style, that no earthly father must come before God, the one supreme Father of all, in one’s allegiance.
Christ contradicts the false argument
Christ said, “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Mt 10:37) His words were not intended to forbid a boy to call a parent ‘father’ and if you may call the man on earth to whom you owe your earthly life, and education, and constant care, ‘father’, so you may call ‘father’ that man on earth to whom you owe your spiritual life.
“Christ’s words were not intended to forbid a boy to call a parent ‘father’.”
St. Paul contradicts the false argument
Also Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For if you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, by the gospel, I have begotten you.” (1 Cor. 4:15). He knew quite well that in thus calling himself their spiritual father in Christ, he was not violating any commandment of Christ.
Priests as spiritual fathers
In a purely spiritual sense a priest does all for the life of grace in a soul that ordinary parents do for the natural life of the children God gives them. It is the priest who gives spiritual life to souls at the baptismal font. He educates those brought forth to life in Christ by their baptismal rebirth; he teaches, warns, corrects, and advises his spiritual children, and nourishes them with the bread of life in the Sacraments.
“Having no family, the priest belongs to every family; and all in his parish, men, women, and children look up to him as their spiritual guide and friend.”
Priests belong to every family
When souls go out of this world to meet God, it is the priest who is at their death-beds, soothing their last hours, allaying their fears, and consoling them as no others could do. Having no family, the priest belongs to every family; and all in his parish, men, women, and children, love him and venerate him, and look up to him as their spiritual guide and friend, summing up everything in that term of supreme respect and reverence-‘Father’.
True Catholic meaning
Catholics rightly, therefore, call the priest ‘father’, not to the exclusion of their Father in heaven, but as a manifestation on earth of the supreme Fatherhood of God in the spiritual order, even as an earthly parent is a similar manifestation of that same Fatherhood in the natural order.
(Source: Radio Replies, Fr. L. Rumble MSC & Fr. C. Carty MSC, 1937)
Semper Excelsius is a website for the defense of the Catholic faith through instruction and informative articles. Its focus is on explaining the rich history and traditions of the holy Roman Catholic Church, while defending her teachings against false assumptions and doctrinal errors.