Thursday, March 19, 2015

Reflection on St. Joseph and Fatherhood

Today is the Solemnity of St. Joseph, and instead of doing a Ten, I figured I would write about something that was a little closer to the heart - a saint that has come to mean a great deal to me personally, as well as what it means to be a father. The two (at least in my mind) are greatly interconnected. The Ten will resume tomorrow. -- J.L.

Growing up in a Catholic family and in a Catholic environment, St. Joseph was always an afterthought. Yeah, he was Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly (or foster) father, as I had been taught, as well as the third person of the Holy Family. And every Catholic school kid remembers putting “J.M.J.” at the top of each paper, but there was no doubt which “J” stood for “Joseph.”

Getting into theology as a course of study, I began to look a little closer at St. Joseph and what he was entrusted to do: model himself as a sacrifice for the greater good of the Holy Family. Everything was geared around raising the Son of God in the flesh and being the provider for him and his Most Blessed Mother. He exhibited much fear with discovering Mary’s pregnancy, but he eventually overcame that. The undertaking of the great responsibility came at the expense of his own pursuits and desires, and provides for us a model of doing for those who are at their most helpless, a point Jesus made toward the end of his public ministry (Matthew 25).

I’m sure that some Catholics look at Joseph as a good (or even great) man for some of the reasons above. I’m also sure that for most, their experience regarding him is limited to the Christmas play and the Nativity scenes under the tree. For much of my life, that was me as well.

And then she happened…

One Day Old
“She” being our beloved daughter, Gabriella, whom we adopted in 2012. A long-standing prayer was answered, we finally had our child, and much of the pain and bitterness of many years subsided (although, believe me, we are never going to forget it). We couldn't have adopted her without the love, prayers, and support of so many friends and family members. She’s almost three now, growing like a weed, and always has a mouthful to say. Quite frankly, life is much better with her, warts and all, than it ever would have been without her.

So, the question becomes: what does that have to do with St. Joseph?

The answer lies in my affinity for the great (and silent) saint; he, too, adopted a Child, and made Him his own son. Joseph raised Jesus as if He were his own flesh and blood, taught him and helped formulate the man he would become. Gabbie is not our flesh and blood, but she was an angel delivered unto us (part of the rationale for her name). From Day One through the present, we have proudly watched her grow while we eat together, laugh, play, get frustrated, watch TV, and pray together (yes, we even have a routine for the praying).

On the Road At One Year Old!
People tell me how lucky she is that she has us for parents. That’s not entirely true: we are the lucky ones. Or more to the point (as my grandmother reminded me on the phone last week), we are blessed to have her. I don’t know what the future holds or whether there will be any other children, but there is no doubt that if she is the only one, she is truly a blessing from above.

St. Joseph had the most difficult task of all time: being the most (by far) inferior member of the Holy Family. He had a perfect wife and a perfect Son, and it was his responsibility to lead, protect, and provide. Whenever I am getting frustrated in my own failings as the man of the family, I look to what he had to do and the circumstances in which he was and remind myself that whatever my issues are, they can’t possibly be that difficult to overcome. Every father should look to St. Joseph as a model of dedication and paternal love, but as an adoptive father, I particularly identify with him in ways that most other men do not.

(Pretend) Driving Daddy's Car
As cool as Father’s Day in June is, I regard March 19th as the real Father’s Day, and in some countries (such as Italy, Spain, and Portugal), it is Father’s Day. Its proximity to the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) also makes for a nice bonding and combination between Father and Mother while reminding us of the greatest model of all in the realm of the domicile: The Holy Family.

St. Joseph is a hero, a model, and an inspiration of what I can be, and what I should strive to be, especially as a dad. I only hope that I can achieve even a modicum of what he demonstrated in his faithfulness to God and Family.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray For Us.

St. Joseph, Pray For Us.

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