Father’s Day is an especially appropriate time to look to St. Joseph, the patron saint of fathers and families.
On March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, Pope Francis said that "St. Joseph is venerated as the ‘guardian’ of the Holy Family, and in this role, he serves as a model for all fathers."
The workshop is an easy place to see how St. Joseph combines his provider-protector roles. His daily work provided for his traditional Jewish family.
Father Larry Toschi of the Oblates of St. Joseph is the pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Bakersfield, Calif., and author of Husband, Father, Worker about St. Joseph.
"Joseph is the one who nourished and provided for Jesus — and fed him," he explained. "St. Joseph does protect Jesus from the beginning, when he takes Mary as his wife, so he’s protecting by his role as husband — protecting Mary on the way to Bethlehem for Jesus to be enrolled and providing a place for Jesus to be born, even if only in a stable. That’s critical."
Then comes the flight into Egypt, where Joseph continues to protect his Holy Family.
"St. Joseph teaches men to integrate work with family and fatherhood with family," affirms Father Toschi. "He teaches how to work with right emphasis. Work is centered on the Lord. The motivation and the purpose is to serve Jesus."
Joseph’s vision of work earned him the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker a month before Father’s Day. He "gives the whole context for providing," the priest explained. St. Joseph’s work was "an expression of love for Jesus and Mary."
Faith supported Joseph’s role, which Pope Francis explained on St. Joseph’s March 2014 feast day: "Joseph … quietly imparted to Jesus that wisdom which consists above all in reverence for the Lord, prayer and fidelity to his word and obedience to his will. Joseph’s paternal example helped Jesus to grow, on a human level, in his understanding and appreciation of his unique relationship to his heavenly Father."
It is this kind of leadership that David Clayton is putting into practice in his family — and that he is presenting as a goal for fathers and families as co-author of The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Prayer in the Home.
"Part of the man’s role is to be the leader of prayer in the family," said Clayton, who is artist in residence at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, N.H. Clayton is an internationally known artist and creator of the "The Way of Beauty" blog and program.
In simple terms, as Christ is our advocate with the Father, so, "analogously, the father is the representative, the advocate for the family in prayer," Clayton explained.
Fathers must be "taking the responsibility of praying on behalf of the family."
In his case, he prays the Liturgy of the Hours to the degree he can and invites his family to join him.
Fathers committed to prayer "reinforces the idea that prayer is a masculine thing," he said, "and that, leading it, I am visibly head of the family in the first and foremost way the Bible describes," like Joseph was. (Find Clayton’s prayer pointers at TheWayofBeauty.org.)
Clayton leads his family in prayer at their home’s "domestic shrine," where sacred images are gathered for the family to focus on, including their 2-year-old daughter, Victoria, who "faces the corner and puts her hands in prayer. So this visual example of prayer is transmitting a sense of the faith to even a 2-year-old," he explained.
"When we go into the chapel at the college, there is a large visible cross that I painted; and even at 2, Victoria immediately looks up and says, ‘Jesus,’" Clayton added. "She knows that simply because she has seen us at prayer in the morning and especially in the evening."
"The child learns first in the home," he observed. "We’re modeling our home on the Church." When children go to church, "Mass reminds them of what they saw at the icon corner and their father leading the prayers."
As a father, he believes it will not only "help form the society of my family," but will once more establish prayer as a masculine thing to do.
The Clayton family enjoys praying the Rosary and other devotions.
Clayton always invokes the help of St. Joseph daily for himself and his family, mindful that he "may fulfill my role as advocate to the Father and as the chief provider and protector of the family."
From his devotion to St. Joseph, Jason Godin, the associate editor of the Knights of Columbus’ Fathers for Good website, sees the titles of provider and protector as interconnected.
With them, St. Joseph models a character of commitment with presence and prudence, exhibiting right judgment in action and conduct, Godin said.
"He doesn’t talk," Godin said, "but it’s from that silent action where men can find ways to practice that right judgment in their lives. It’s not easy to do. Silence may require biting your tongue. When one of your children misbehaves after you’ve repeatedly told him not to, I think it can accomplish more having that moment of silence before speaking" than immediate action, in order to develop the right response to the child.
In addition, Joseph’s example is important to emulate in the workplace, including being silent in the face of gossip, Godin said. "Having that moment when you don’t gossip can help build a better workplace."
Above all, Godin said, Joseph is an example of integrity, "which requires silence, but also exercising right judgment."
Pope Francis, in his inauguration Mass homily in 2013, made another observation about men being protectors like St. Joseph: Protection includes "keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts. … We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness."
The Gospels show Joseph as "a strong and courageous man," yet with a heart of "great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak, but, rather, a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love," the Holy Father explained.
Joseph is also a "protector because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason, he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping," the Pope continued. "He can look at things realistically … [to] make truly wise decisions."
St. Joseph, provider and protector, pray for us!
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.