Father’s Day can be a difficult day for men who are experiencing infertility, or have suffered the loss of a child. Cayce and I have experienced infertility for three years, and have lost one child, Christian, to miscarriage. Seeing the church filled with families, it can be tempting to give into feelings of despair and envy. While we shouldn’t dwell too long on these feelings, we must allow room in our hearts for the true feelings of pain and loss. This opening of our hearts can be painful, but it is the only way that we can allow the grace of God to work in our hearts. It’s easy to think of the Eucharist as the sacrament by which God’s grace repairs our mourning hearts, but this is not the only sacrament we have available to us. Grace is given to us every day in the sacrament of our marriages. The love between a husband and wife is a manifestation of the love of Christ for His Church, and when we open our hearts to our wives, we also open our hearts to the grace of God.
Regardless of which spouse the infertility arises from, it is important that we grieve together and open the depths of our hearts to each other. Our wives want to know our feelings and want to console us as much as we want to console them. We are made one flesh through the sacrament of matrimony, so by sharing together in the grief, we are able to heal together. This is how grace works in our marriages.
It is also important for men to have the support of other men. I attended a men’s retreat at my parish this past December. Knowing that Cayce and I run a miscarriage ministry, multiple men, many of them a decade or two older than I am, approached me to talk about their experiences with infertility and miscarriage. They told me how they wished they had had the support of other men at the time, and how they felt the expectation to just “deal with it” and be strong. The support of men who have never experienced infertility or loss is also important, and helps us to defuse the temptations towards envy and jealousy we may feel. The experience of having another father acknowledge my fatherhood lifted my spirit and reminded me that I will always be a father to the little one we lost.
The idea of spiritual fatherhood has been on my heart for the past few months. On our wedding day, we vowed to “accept children lovingly from God.” For couples experiencing infertility, what does this look like? The image of St. Joseph naturally comes to mind. Apart from the Christ Child, miraculously conceived of the Holy Spirit, Joseph and Mary had no children together. Yet Joseph was constantly open to God, discerned His will through dreams, and uprooted his whole life to protect Jesus and Mary. Are our hearts fertile ground for God’s will to take root, for the Holy Spirit to move us to action? After losing our child, any prior doubts I had about my suitability as a father were washed away. I know I am called to fatherhood, but dealing with our infertility has left me unsure of what “accepting children lovingly from God” will look like. A priest friend of mine has always counseled that in times of trial, we should not worry about what action to take or what words to say. If we trust in the Holy Spirit, we will find ourselves moved to action and find the right words coming out of our mouths. This counsel has been resting in my heart as I discern spiritual fatherhood. I have seen the ways that God has prepared a path for me in the past, and my constant prayer is that He will continue to reveal that path for me, and that I may find the Spirit guiding my words and actions towards the kind of fatherhood that He has in store for me.
That is my prayer for all of you as well.
Brian Farina is a civil engineer and has been married to his amazing wife, Cayce, for 6 years. They are parents to one child in Heaven and run a miscarriage bereavement ministry at their parish.