Guest column by Joshua R. Shasserre, J.D.,
Executive Director, Catholic Foundation
My grandfather, Theodore “Ted” Shasserre, will celebrate his 90th birthday on Father’s Day. By merit of both his age and his character, he is a member of the Greatest Generation. Growing up amidst the Great Depression, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces at nineteen and served in the Pacific Theatre. He returned home, married Betty Simpson, and together raised six children while taking over the contracting business he inherited from his father. When our family gathers this weekend he will be joined by 16 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. It is truly remarkable to witness the fruit of one holy marriage that spanned nearly 65 years.
Throughout my life, I have known my grandfather to have both damaged knees and the strongest grip of anyone I have ever met. These physical attributes have conveyed meaningful and lasting lessons to me. Despite the pain in his knees, whenever I have joined my grandfather at Mass I have always known him to kneel. This simple action, the willingness to endure pain, is a witness to the primacy of Christ and His presence in the Holy Eucharist. I have never known my grandfather to embrace, but the strength of his handshake simultaneously transmits his affection and engenders respect. Receiving my grandfather’s handshake when my wife and I adopted the first of our three children was an outward sign of an interior transformation to the awesome responsibility of fatherhood.
Although these examples from my grandfather are merely physical, they are invaluable to me because the virtues they convey, sacrifice and integrity, are integral to authentic fatherhood. Without personal sacrifice by a father, how are his spouse and his children to truly understand their incalculable value? Without personal integrity by a father, how is he to maintain his spouse’s trust and his children’s respect? These virtues silently conveyed by my grandfather are the same as those vividly portrayed in the Gospels by the silent St. Joseph.
I am often impressed by the virtuous imitation of St. Joseph by my friends who, though no older than I, exhibit such a remarkable and attractive example of authentic Catholic fatherhood. This Father’s Day, it is the very fact that we have fathers whose example is worthy of imitation, that should be cause for celebration. Since they are not keen on ties, perhaps my simple gift to my father and grandfather will be letting them know that they are virtuous and worthy of imitation.