St. Joseph: A True Father

A year ago at the Inauguration Mass of the Pontificate of Pope Francis, the occasion being the Solemnity of St. Joseph the Spouse of Mary, the Holy Father meditated in his homily on the humility and fidelity of the Patron of the Universal Church.   A few weeks later, the Pope issued his first decree ordering that the name of Joseph be added to three Eucharistic Prayers.   With all the attention given to any hints of reform the Pope may be undertaking, quietly and powerfully the presence of St. Joseph has gone mostly unnoticed.   Perhaps it is fitting, since his vocation was one hidden in obedient service of true fatherhood.  

Sacred Scripture speaks sparingly of St. Joseph but the Gospel of Matthew records a testimony of his powerful witness, “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” (Mt. 1:24).  What did the angel command him?   What did Joseph do so faithfully and obediently?   He responded promptly with generosity to the vocation of fatherhood, one that only the “just man” was prepared to fulfill for Jesus as his father among men.  

We can point two aspects of Joseph’s exercise of his paternal authority that serves as an example for all fathers.   The first is his diligence in fulfilling his role as protector.   Joseph was commanded by the angel to take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt for Herod was attempting to kill the child.   Joseph understood that one of the most important roles of fathers is to protect their children from harm.   While our thoughts turn to physical harm, of which many fathers perform heroically, the higher calling is to protect their children from the harms and dangers of sin.   Sin’s effects can a have catastrophic impact our souls and our happiness, for this reason one of the most important responsibilities is to guard their children.   Our modern society deemphasizes the need for strong and heroic fathers, so often men are reduced to inept bystanders.   St. Joseph reminds us of the need for courageous fathers who are vigilant for the sake of those God has entrusted in their care.  His custodianship of the Holy Family serves as an example to all fathers. 

The second characteristic of Joseph’s example is that of Joseph’s faith.    Joseph was a man dedicated to God, even known for his faithfulness.   This aspect of his fatherhood is a quality necessary for especially for fathers today.   Only when men dedicate themselves as servants of God will they be able to become true Christian fathers.    “By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans and not simply to his own.” (Pope Francis Homily at the Inauguration of his Pontificate).   Fathers must be men of prayer, listening and dialoging with God.   In doing so, men draw their strength and grow in the gifts of counsel and wisdom, valuable virtues God wishes to bestow on faithful fathers.   The father as a man of faith, responds to God’s calling to direct his family toward the God he serves.   

Drawing on the inspiration of the venerable carpenter from Nazareth, men today have a true hero to emulate, a patron whose life stands as a witness to Christian fatherhood, a model of true holiness.  

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