On March 19 the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Joseph—foster father of Jesus. According to Richard E. Vatz, professor at Towson University in a Washington Times article titled, The social costs of fatherlessness, "there is no root cause more consequential in producing permanent violence, poverty and related life dissatisfaction issues than fatherlessness."
Saint Joseph provides the ideal for what it means to be a kind and loving father and man. More than ever this world needs strong men to be role models for their families and communities.
The foster father of Jesus's example of silence, humility, and patience will equip men with the tools necessary to foster meaningful and lasting relationships.
Silence leads to sanctity
Guess how many words of St. Joseph did the Evangelists record in the Gospels? If you guessed a whopping ZERO than you are correct my friend! Though included in the key infancy and adolescent scenes of Jesus' life the foster father of our Lord said nothing!
The old adage "actions speaks louder than words" applies more directly to St. Joseph than arguably any other person in history-- as we can only analyze his actions. Cardinal Robert Sarah in The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise plainly stated, “Man must make a choice: God or nothing, silence or noise." Using Sarah's logic Joseph not only clearly, but overwhelmingly choose God!
Joseph's ability to heed the Angel's message to flee the wrath of King Herod demonstrates a complete trust and dependence on God. The noise of life yanks me in different directions-- all away from God. Looking to the silent saint as a role model helps to remind me of the importance of asking the Lord for help.
Humility overcomes Hubris
Hearing that you must play “second fiddle” naturally causes humans to react in various manners. Being the “B team” certainly just not connote a positive image in sports, politics, and work. Some people downplay the role of a foster, or step-parent. “I am not the real, or official dad” is a mantra that may go through a stepdad’s head—especially on hearing the news that children are a package deal with his so-to-be spouse.
The movie Stepdads comically portrays the real life challenges men have to face in modern mixed family units. Both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed that movie, but not merely because of the comedy. Rather, its message rang true that mere biology does not suffice for parenthood, let alone fatherhood. Love is the hallmark of fatherhood.
True love involves the virtue of humility. According to Peter Kreeft, “Humility is not an exaggeratedly low opinion of yourself. Humility is self-forgetfulness.” St. Joseph accepted the responsibility of raising Jesus Christ as his own even though he and Mary never had sexual relations.
As a just man, Joseph obeyed God’s will and married Mary. St. Pope Paul VI in his homily for the Feast of St. Joseph in 1969 used the word humble six times in referring to the foster father of Jesus. More specifically, the recent canonized pontiff wrote, “Saint Joseph is the model of those humble ones that Christianity raises to great destinies, and he is the proof that in order to be good and genuine followers of Christ there is no need of ‘great things’; it is enough to have the common, simple, human virtues, but they need to be true and authentic (Emphasis added mine).” St. Joseph’s simple, humble, and hidden life act as a good model for fathers, and men in general, that avoiding the drama of sin is possible and worthwhile!
Model for Workers
Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy remarked, “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” Although St. Joseph’s lifespan may be up for debate, his levels of patience certainly could not be argued. Being a carpenter by trade, I am most confident that Joseph was quite patient. I can barely do a house project without cursing let alone craft with wood.
Men typically associate themselves with the work that they do. “Where do you work?” is almost always the first question I am asked (and that one that I ask) when meeting a new guy either at the parish, neighborhood, or at work outings. St. Pope John Paul II articulates the value of work best in his Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos,
If the Family of Nazareth is an example and model for human families, in the order of salvation and holiness, so too, by analogy, is Jesus' work at the side of Joseph the carpenter. In our own day, the Church has emphasized this by instituting the liturgical memorial of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1. Human work, and especially manual labor, receive special prominence in the Gospel. Along with the humanity of the Son of God, work too has been taken up in the mystery of the Incarnation, and has also been redeemed in a special way. At the workbench where he plied his trade together with Jesus, Joseph brought human work closer to the mystery of the Redemption (no 22, Emphasis added mine).
Due to Original Sin, humanity suffered (still suffers) a fractured relationship with God. The Mystery of the Incarnation involved God becoming man in the Person of Jesus Christ. Divine Love selected Joseph of Nazareth to be the legal and foster father of Jesus Christ and protector of Mary. St. Paul VI declared in his Homily on Saint Joseph, “Because of that function which he [Joseph] performed in regard to Christ during his childhood and youth, he has been declared Patron or Protector of the Church, which continues Christ’s image and mission in time and reflects them in history”.
May all men reflect upon the silent, humble, and diligent example of St. Joseph the Worker, and Foster-father of Jesus and ask the Holy Spirit to be graced with opportunities to be holier versions of ourselves!