Last week I had the privilege of venerating the major relics of St. Maria Goretti at my local parish. It was a powerful experience, and I was struck by the reverence shown by my fellow parishioners. The Knights of Columbus stood guard as children knelt before the reliquary, pressing prayer cards to the glass. All was silent save for the rattling of rosary beads. Several nuns were crying.
At some point, every child comes to the realization that her father isn’t Superman after all. As it turns out, Dad is not all-powerful; he has weaknesses, fears, demons. Dad is a father among fathers, not the father.
In one sense the young child’s belief in paternal omnipotence is a delusion, and overcoming this delusion is surely a sign of maturity. But we should not be too hasty to dismiss the child’s perspective. In many ways, her image of fatherhood is much truer than ours.