Mirroring St. Joseph
Five Ways Dads Can Make Every Day Father’s Day
Father’s Day can be either a 24-hour breather from the culture’s war on fatherhood or a call to arms for men to follow in the footsteps of St. Joseph.
“Learning what true fatherhood is should be the aspiration of every Catholic dad,” said Sam Guzman, founder and editor of The Catholic Gentleman (CatholicGentleman.net) website and communications director at Pro-Life Wisconsin.
He himself wants to be a model father for his two young sons. “I want them to have an understanding of who God the Father is,” he said, noting the serious epidemic of fatherlessness in our culture and how that affects how many view God the Father.
But men can learn to imitate God the Father in a practical way by studying and imitating St. Joseph. Servant of God Father John Hardon taught that St. Joseph is by heaven’s design the model father, the icon of God the Father in the Holy Family.
Example in Action
Being an example through action is the prime way Guzman believes fathers should imitate Jesus’ earthly dad, who was a quiet moral example as head of the Holy Family.
“As a father, children will be watching your example of piety and pursuit of holiness much more than your words,” he said. “You can tell them all the right things, but unless you are truly living a devout life yourself, loving God with your whole heart, mind and soul, it will ring hollow. They won’t take you seriously. So set an example through your actions.”
Love Your Wife
For Msgr. Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Church in Washington, “The first gift every father could give to his children is to love their mother and to make any sacrifice necessary to remain faithful to her, to cling to her and make sure the marriage is strong.”
“St. Joseph was probably pressured not to go through with this marriage to Mary,” noted Msgr. Pope, who blogs for the Washington Archdiocese at Blog.ADW.org. But once “he heard from God to cling to Mary, he did so at great social cost and worked through whatever difficulty it would cost.”
This is exactly what St. John Paul II affirmed in Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World): “With his wife a man should live ‘a very special form of personal friendship.’ … Love for his wife as mother of their children and love for the children themselves are for the man the natural way of understanding and fulfilling his own fatherhood.”
Father Paul McDonnell is of similar mind, noting that St. Joseph is referred to in the Roman Missal as “Husband of Mary.”
“That’s very important for men to see, because the breakdown of family begins with the breakdown of marriage,” observed Father McDonnell, provincial superior of the Oblates of St. Joseph (OSJUSA.org) in Santa Cruz, Calif.
“St. Joseph reminds us of discovering the presence of God in marriage and in the family.”
Keep Priorities in Order
“St. Joseph put his vocation of husband and father before his career,” emphasized Msgr. Pope. He was asked to flee to a different country — Egypt, in order to protect Jesus — leaving in the middle of the night, and did not think, “What about my job? My career!”
“There are, unfortunately, many who have yet to get that struggle right: that vocation is more important than career,” observed Msgr. Pope.
Father McDonnell pointed out that men need to look to what God is asking of them as a husband and father and put that into a spiritual context: “That is the call of St. Joseph today for fathers.”
As St. Joseph did everything for Jesus and Mary, so should men follow his example and do everything for Jesus and Mary as he did, affirmed Guzman.
The Bible calls St. Joseph by the Greek work tekton (builder), clarified Msgr. Pope. He imagines, as does Church Tradition, that Joseph handed that trade on to Jesus. “A good father would recognize the skills in his children, hone their skills and teach them the value of good hard work,” explained Msgr. Pope.
As a dad with small children, Guzman recommends playing with one’s kids and taking an interest in their hobbies — his youngsters enjoy playing with trains, and he often joins them in the fun.
“Paying attention to them and caring about what they care about is a tremendous gift,” he said. “It can be an act of love to God himself because I’m going to sacrifice my time.”
Do God’s Will
The importance of living as God wills is a necessity for a father, too.
“St. Joseph obeyed as soon as he knew what the Lord’s will was — without hesitation,” said Guzman.
“As men striving for holiness, we need to have that same attitude of obedience to the Lord God. It might even be your wife asking you to please take out the trash or your boss telling you to do something. Do it; don’t wait.”
“Nothing was more important to St. Joseph than finding, following and fulfilling God’s will in his life,” said Rick Sarkisian, author of Not Your Average Joe (LifeWork Press, 2004) and the founder and president of Valley Rehabilitation Services, Inc., which specializes in vocational and career guidance. “Seeking God’s will and purpose goes for all of us.”
Sarkisian ties this attribute into the quality of living well the present moment. “St. Joseph was a beautiful example of someone who lived in the now, constantly seeking God’s will and purpose of his life as it unfolded, day by day.”
Joseph used a three-step “divine guidance” system, Sarkisian added: God’s word, the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and the events and circumstances in daily life — as we all should.
Living in the now, as St. Joseph did, “keeps us in the only place and time we can experience God: the present moment,” he added.
In an Angelus address in 2013, Pope Francis said: “Joseph was a man who always listened to the voice of God. … And his full interior availability to the will of God challenges us and shows us the way.”
Explaining the importance of doing God’s will should be a lesson fathers teach their children.
As Guzman said, “We can explain the importance of obedience. The saints were obedient to God’s will in every circumstance. If we can teach our children the importance of obedience in a loving way and why it matters, it will go a long way in their relationship with their heavenly Father.”
Affirmed Msgr. Pope, “Every father can and should give that gift to his family: I’m going to obey God, and this household is going to obey God, according to Joshua (24:15).”
The humility of St. Joseph is also a lessons for dads.
“What strikes me is the humility of St. Joseph,” said Father McDonnell, who is also rector of the Shrine of St. Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer. As he provided for the Holy Family very humbly, “without seeking any compensation, he totally trusted in divine Providence.”
Sarkisian added, “It’s about trust. St. Joseph puts full trust in God’s providence, that God would give him everything he needed sufficient for each day. In that kind of trust, we can experience great inner peace, joy and true happiness, even during unexpected downturns in our lives.”
“St. Joseph did what God wanted and was the man God wanted him to be,” he said. “Ultimately, he became an incredible model of authentic, true manhood for life.”
Joseph Pronechen is the
Register’s staff writer.