7 Lessons From St. Joseph for Modern Dads

The wordless lessons he teaches fathers, from new dads and granddads to godfathers and expectant dads, are timeless reminders well suited for Father’s Day.

St. Joseph, pray for us!
St. Joseph, pray for us! (photo: Unsplash)

Actions speak louder than words” is a truism that applies well to St. Joseph. And the wordless lessons he teaches fathers, from new dads and granddads to godfathers and expectant dads, are timeless reminders well suited for Father’s Day.

Accept What God Allows

“He’s a strong, silent type, but his influence is undeniable,” said Mike Donovan, when asked about St. Joseph, a favorite patron. “It’s felt and seen so many ways.”

He and his wife, Deidre, both in their 30s, welcomed their fifth child in February. The new baby joins his 8-year-old brother and three sisters. Donovan’s own middle name and confirmation name, as well as the middle name of his eldest son, reflect devotion to St. Joseph.

“You can imagine that Joseph” as a carpenter “was familiar with crafting beautiful spaces,” Donovan related, before contrasting it to the reality of that Christmas night. “Here, he had to accept a situation that was less than ideal. Here is Mary, carrying this Child of significance, and you imagine that he wanted the best for them, for the Child to be born in a beautiful environment, in safety and comfort.”

Donovan continued, “Joseph realizes that he has to let go of his ideas of what is perfect to accept what God has given him, in what human terms is imperfect. But, really, from God’s standpoint, it was perfect.”

Living in New York City, this young father personally experienced this lesson from Joseph.

“I delivered my youngest daughter in the backseat of my minivan. We were on the way to the hospital, and she came in lightning speed, 52 minutes from the time that my wife began active labor to when Millie popped out in the car. I had to pull over, call 911, and deliver her myself. That particular year, this Nativity story really hit me, because I felt like these were not ideal circumstances. But it was the fullness of time that God wanted this to happen in this particular way. I was able to celebrate and to have a special moment there, with ‘being Joseph’ and accepting the circumstances which were known to God … less than perfect to me, but perfect to him. The Lord is just so good.”

Be Humble

“Joseph was a quiet, humble man,” explained Robert Tunmire, president and executive director of the Catholic Men’s Leadership Alliance and co-founder of HeroicMen.com.

Tunmire said he works on the virtue of humility with his family in Texas, trying “not to be like the boss, overbearing. I try to be this humble dad and grandpa because I’m a very ‘high D’ personality; you can be very overbearing and not very humble. And so I try to be this servant to all. I need to be the husband my wife needs me to be … the husband I want for her.”

That also goes for his interactions with each of their children and grandchildren — two daughters, two sons, four granddaughters and one grandson.

“To be the father and grandfather that they need me to be, not the father and grandfather I want, because each one of them has very, very different needs. So that’s humility.”

Work Diligently

“St. Joseph was an exemplar of hard work,” theologian Scott Hahn told the Register of the patron saint of workers.

“Today, it’s common for men to go off to work, and their children never see them working. We have to look for opportunities to model work for the next generation, to show our children and grandchildren how to work hard and sanctify our work.”

Tunmire pointed out that “Joseph wasn’t lazy.” Plenty of biblical examples support that, he said.

In Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer), Pope St. John Paul II put into a single sentence why Joseph’s example of work is so important, which fathers need to follow: “At the workbench where he plied his trade together with Jesus, Joseph brought human work closer to the mystery of the Redemption.”

Be a Protector

“Protection is a very, very critical one,” Tunmire said.

“Realize that your role as a man is to protect your family. In today’s culture, there are issues with saying that. But as a man, we’re called to protect our wife and children.”

After all, Joseph got up in the middle of the night and “fled fearlessly to Egypt, where he didn’t speak the language. It was a hostile place for him.” He went to protect his family.

Be Chaste

“He was chaste,” continued Tunmire. “He’s a model for that.”

Tunmire seeks the intercession of St. Joseph every morning and suggests men daily “ask for St. Joseph’s intercession because he was a man like no other man.”

Be Prayerful

“St. Joseph is an exemplar of prayer,” Hahn emphasized. “The Gospels show him to be a man devoted to the angels, and he is the first person we know to be devoted and consecrated to the Blessed Virgin. We should follow him in these ways.”

Lead Spiritually

“St. Joseph was called to lead his family spiritually, and so are we,” Hahn underscored. “It’s not that we’re better than the others. St. Joseph wasn’t. Mary and Jesus were sinless from conception. But we’re called to lead in ways that God has prepared us to lead — and only we can lead.”

“Joseph was righteous. He was obedient to the Law of the Lord,” Donovan emphasized. “You have Mary and Joseph living this faithful and devout Jewish life. That was a context in which Jesus was raised.” This example led Jesus to the Temple.

In light of this example, Donovan said he would like to ask all fathers, “Are your children being exposed to the faith in such a way that they can say something like that — ‘Didn’t you know that I have to be about my Father’s business?’”

Putting Joseph’s lesson into practice today, Donovan continued, means, “Go to Mass; bring your children to Mass like St. Joseph obediently brought Jesus to the places that the Jewish Law required. I’m sure throughout his life, they were faithful to go to Temple and to hear what the New Testament refers to as the sacred writings, the Old Testament. To do what the Church asks is something that St. Joseph modeled and something that we can do as fathers of our young children.”

Donovan counseled that also means taking them “to catechism [classes], to places where you can expand their faith into flame so that they can grow in love and devotion to Christ.”

To add yet another perspective, Donovan looked to a favorite scriptural passage (Acts 2:42), describing how the early Church grew as the members “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” The chapter also describes how the apostles, day by day, went to the Temple together, just like the Holy Family.

“So our job as Catholic fathers,” concluded Donovan, “is to raise our children with that hope of the people of God. For all of us Catholic men, St. Joseph is a man of significance and a role model in many ways and somebody who we can continue to rely on through prayer and intercession and his example given to us in the Scriptures.”