Priestly fatherhood is prolific fatherhood!
This is true in the light of the sheer numbers of spiritual sons and daughters for whom a priest is called to be father. The sheer influence of the priest’s fatherhood ‒ the very numbers of supernatural children that many priests are blessed to have ‒ should send any priest or seminarian to his knees to ask God for strength to fulfill his responsibility to so large a family.
Moreover, in addition to being father to the souls entrusted to his special care by the authority of the Church, he has to remember that his fatherhood is catholic for he was ordained a priest within the Catholic [universal] Church: it extends far beyond the frontiers of parish or college. Like the God-appointed leaders of the Old and New Testament, he must have a strong sense of responsibility for all of God’s people: “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?” (2 Cor 11:28-29) Or as St. Bernard said of St. Malachy of Ireland: “As if he were the father of all, so did he live for all. He made no distinction of sex or age or condition or rank. He never failed anyone, for his heart overflowed with sympathy for them all.”
That is why the Ignatian priest on account of his identity is never a European, African, Asian or American. He is Catholic to the core of his being. His heart feels a father’s love for Catholics wherever they are, whatever their race, no matter their color. Whatever is Catholic interests him. His eyes spontaneously search first for news items about the Church even if the events are occurring at the other side of the globe.
Moreover, no matter where he travels, no matter whether his travelling companions are non-Catholic Christians or even non-Christians, he is always father for like the Lord he remembers that “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold” (Jn 10:16). Like the Redeemer he says: “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out” (Mk 1:38). As St. John Chrysostom put it, “Every priest is in a way the father of everybody; it is right then that he take care of all, just like God, whose representative he is”.
Hence, the power of God’s question to the man who has heard God’s call: “Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one man,or to be priest to a tribe and family in Israel?” (Book of Judges 18:19)