Because this column is devoted to promoting Catholic fatherhood, this is a special feast day: the Feast of Saint Joseph. The following is an updated version of a column that John wrote a few years ago.
Men in history are often remembered for things like winning a battle, governing a country, composing a symphony, writing a masterpiece, or inventing a life-changing device. Today, the Church honors a man who did none of these.
Even in his own time, in the eyes of much of the world, this small-town carpenter was insignificant. But his greatness did not lie in his business profession. His greatness and holiness were manifested in his relationships as husband and father; so much so, in fact, that the example of his life will forever be the paragon of these callings.
His name is Saint Joseph.
Considering the importance of Saint Joseph and the fact that he was the head of the Holy Family, some find it curious that he is mentioned so little in the Gospels. The Gospels do not record a single word directly spoken by St. Joseph. And yet, perhaps this lack of words speaks volumes. St. Joseph listened carefully to God’s agents, and then faithfully and boldly executed God’s commands.
As Pope Leo XIII wrote:
“…In giving Joseph the Blessed Virgin as spouse, God appointed him to be not only her life’s companion, the witness of her maidenhood, the protector of her honor, but also…a participator in her sublime dignity. And Joseph shines among all mankind by the most august dignity, since by divine will, he was the guardian of the Son of God… he guarded from death the Child threatened by a monarch’s jealousy, and found for Him a refuge; in the miseries of the journey and in the bitternesses of exile he was ever the companion, the assistance, and the upholder of the Virgin and of Jesus…”
For all the differences, there is a parallel between Saint Joseph’s calling and the calling of every Catholic husband and father.
We fathers are called by God to do much the same things that Saint Joseph did: protect our children from harmful forces and influences; be a loyal and faithful companion of our wives; support our families in a way that glorifies God; and recognize that the hardships and suffering that come with fatherhood help us on the road to perfection. We must remember to identify ourselves by our calling as a husband and father.
Sometimes we are tempted to forget.
Sometimes, we are tempted to prove our importance to the world. We want our name on the door; we want the corner office; we want to be the boss. We spend so much time looking for respect outside the home that we often forget that our wives and children would respect us, if only we gave them the chance.
But you will not find a job that equals the importance of your job as a father. Your role as a father is more important than your job—your fatherhood is more important than anyone’s job. You have been chosen to prepare immortal souls for eternal life with God.
St. Joseph never looked outside his family for approval or for a sense of accomplishment—and neither should we.
Accomplishment is right there waiting for us.
You want to know what accomplishment looks like? It’s the chocolate ice cream covered smile of a seven-year-old boy, whose father took him out for dessert, instead of remaining at the office.
It’s the bright-eyed gaze of wonder of a three-year-old girl who turns the pages as her father reads The Cat in the Hat for the fiftieth time.
It’s that confident look in your wife’s eyes that says: “I know I chose the right man” as she watches you take your children to Holy Communion and kneel down before the Presence of God. Meditating on St. Joseph should remind us that there really is no greater calling for us men than husband and father.
Today, the Catholic Church honors Saint Joseph. Let us honor Saint Joseph in our own hearts. Let us ask for St. Joseph’s intercession, to remind us that there is no role more important than the one God has already blessed us with: fathers and husbands.
St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen.
St Joseph Image CC Ralph Hammann