Can you imagine what a great father he might have been?

Jeff was saying this to me watching footage of Pope Francis. Father, grandfather, yeah, I could totally see it.

When a young couple brought the Offertory up at Palm Sunday Mass, the wife was carrying their infant child. When I showed video to Jeff, as they approached he said, “You know Francis can’t wait to kiss that baby!” He said it lightheartedly and with the joy of a father who has kissed his own babies.

Many of the men I know now that I knew way back in high school who discerned the priesthood are, instead, husbands and fathers (one did become a priest and the Diocese of Omaha is blessed to have him!). And I remember not having the chance to be a biological father being a stumbling block to many a young man I knew back then. It was the men who, as they grew, realized that joining the priesthood was not so much giving up biological fatherhood as accepting spiritual fatherhood, who became priests or are becoming priests (at least in the Roman rite).

I think of many great priests I have known through my lifetime and feel blessed to have known them. And I realize I would not have known them if they had become husbands and possibly fathers. Instead I know them as “Father” and that is something very special as well.

Yes, if his childhood sweetheart had not broken Jorge Bergoglio’s heart, he might have been a wonderful father and grandfather. But because she did, we are all reaping the benefits. We are all his children now and he is our Holy Father. We are all hearing his guidance and feeling his love. Just as we did (and still do) Benedict’s and John Paul II’s. And all those babies are getting his kisses and blessings. And so are we.