Joseph: A Model for Fathers
I was walking past the abortion clinic one day and happened to notice a row of vehicles parked in front. Sitting in the driver’s seats were men. Men who should have been fathers, waiting for their significant others. In one tender moment, a young woman walked out clearly not doing well, her boyfriend walked around and opened the backseat door for her, proceeding to take care of her. This moment of support is particularly ironic given that he had just subjected her to one of the most invasive and heart-breaking medical procedures a young woman could ever encounter, instead of doing the right thing and seeing the joy of this pregnancy and stepping into his role as father.
My thoughts immediately turned to that of Jesus’ earthly father, St. Joseph. It is particularly fitting that I am writing this blog as we approach the feast day of St. Joseph (March 19), because it is through Joseph’s example of quiet humility and spiritual leadership that we, as men of the 21st century, can fulfill our earthly duties of fatherhood. To rejoice, with maybe a hint of apprehension and nervousness at the words of our wives or girlfriends “I’m pregnant”, instead of the token pro-feminist response (or at least what our modern society wants you believe is considered “feminism”), “whatever you want to do I will support you; it is your body, your choice”. To stand up, accept responsibility and support the mother of your child in pregnancy and afterwards, instead of offloading the responsibility to her. To take care of her.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. It is perfectly reasonable for new fathers to be nervous and a little afraid. St. Joseph was also fearful. Now, he was fearful out of love and devotion to Mary, which is why he “planned to dismiss her quietly”.St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Joseph wanted to give the Virgin her liberty, not because he suspected her of adultery, but out respect for her sanctity he feared to live together with her.” It was not until the angel Gabriel spoke to him in a dream to reassure him of God’s plan for “Emmanuel” that he took the Child Jesus and fulfilled every aspect of his paternal role.
The late Reverend Billy Graham once said, “a good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society”. It’s not an easy task. But it is “the most sacred law of nature [is] that a father should provide food and all necessities for those whom he has begotten” as Pope Leo XIII wrote in his encyclical Rerum Novarum. Yet, our supposed ‘modern and progressive society’ seeks to strip away true fatherhood, true manliness, and to cleanse ourselves of the “patriarchy”. Which leads, as the anecdote in the first paragraph illustrates, to men who would rather drive their girlfriends to the nearest abortion clinic than take responsibility. This is the opposite of true feminism.
I turn my thoughts to those men sitting in their cars and I can’t help but wonder if they realize what they are about to miss out on. If they had a moment of clarity where they could gaze into the future they would see: the first moment he feels the child kick in the mothers womb, the first moment he holds his newborn son or daughter in his arms, or how about the moment he teaches his child to ride a bike or play hockey (imagine being the father to the next Connor McDavid or Hayley Wickenheiser!), or the moment he watches as he or she graduates University, or when he walks his little girl down the aisle. Think about those missed opportunities of pure grace and love. If only these fathers could be guided by the example of St. Joseph. The earthly man who took Jesus as his own and raised him, mentored Him, guided Him, prepared him for the Ministry He would one day fulfill. It couldn’t have been easy mentoring and raising the Son of God, but Joseph did it with a joyful and humble heart. St. Joseph was a just man. A model for all of us of prudence, obedience, faithfulness, patience and most of all humility. If these men knew St. Joseph, they would see the incredible joy and blessing that fatherhood would bring to their lives.
I have several friends who are blessed to be fathers, not to mention family members and most of them demonstrate these qualities. I suspect many (if not all) of them would tell you they embraced the idea of fatherhood with excitement but also a sense of trepidation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’d probably be a little odd if one weren’t nervous. There will always be moments of discouragement, exasperation, and frustration mixed in with the love, joy, and gratitude. At all times, but most especially during the frustrating ones, let us turn our thoughts to that of Jesus’ earthly father and seek his guidance, his inspiration, his intercession.
If discouragement overwhelms you, think of the faith of Joseph; if anxiety has its grip on you, think of the hope of Joseph, that descendant of Abraham who hoped against hope; if exasperation or hatred seizes you, think of the love of Joseph, who was the first man to set eyes on the human face of God in the person of the Infant conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Let us praise and thank Christ for having drawn so close to us, and for giving us Joseph as an example and model of love for him. Benedict XVI
As we approach the Feast Day of St. Joseph, those who are fathers, give your kids a hug and kiss, and continue to strive to be a model of love, prudence, faithfulness, humility, generosity, and joy. Be ever-present in your kids’ lives for “it is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father” (St. John XXIII). For those who hope to become fathers, keep humbly praying that God will bless you with that gift. Seek the intercession of St. Joseph to mold and prepare your heart and mind for that gift. But just as importantly, be ever-present in the lives of your nieces, nephews, the children of your friends. Be a spiritual father to them as well. May they see you as the kind of a man they should also aspire to be. Lift up your friends and family for as G.K. Chesterton once said, “the really great man is the man who makes every man feel great”.
 Matthew 1: 20.  Calloway, Donald H., Wonder 5: Just and Reverent Man, Consecration to St. Joseph page 150.  Matthew 1: 21-23.  Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, Wednesday December 28, 2011. https://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20111228.html  https://billygraham.org/story/10-quotes-from-billy-graham-on-fatherhood/  Rerum Novarum, Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Capital and Labour. 15 May 1891. https://www.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum.html  Calloway, Donald H. Consecration to St. Joseph.  Benedict XVI. Homily from March 19, 2009. 19 March 2009: Eucharistic Celebration on the occasion of the publication of the Instrumentum Laboris at Amadou Ahidjo Stadium (Yaoundé) | BENEDICT XVI (vatican.va)