St. Joseph is the patron saint of fathers, and the ideal saint to feature for Father’s Day. As the step father of Jesus, the Messiah, and the husband of Mary, the Blessed Mother, Joseph stands out as the father above all other fathers in the New Testament. It was an indescribable honor for him to stand in for God the Father to bring up the Son of God. In order to respond to such a high calling, Joseph lived an exemplary life, and set the standard for every father who came after him. Fathers who want to live their vocation well should take their cues from Joseph.
St. Matthew paid Joseph a great compliment when he describe him as a “righteous man” (Mt 1:19). A righteous person pays extra special care to observe God’s laws. Joseph kept God first at all times. He obeyed the Commandments. He spoke reverently and respectfully about God. He did not curse and swear. He was in the custom of attending the synagogue every Sabbath (Lk 4:16), and he went to the Temple in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover every year (Lk 2:41). He spoke the truth and was faithful in marriage. Modern-day fathers should strive to imitate Joseph and be righteous and upright in the same ways.
An angel appeared to Joseph several times, first to tell him to take Mary as his wife (Mt 1:20), then to flee to Egypt (Mt 2:13), and finally to return home to Israel (Mt 2:19-20). The angel represented God, so every time the angel spoke it was really God who was speaking. Joseph listened attentively, trusted God’s word, and did exactly what God wanted without delay. This is a high standard for the father’s of today, but Joseph is living proof that it is possible to listen to God, trust, and obey.
Religious artists frequently portray Joseph holding the child Jesus tenderly in his arms. The spirituality behind these magnificent art pieces presumes that Joseph spent quality time with his son; had a deep affection for him; and displayed his love with his warm, gentle, respectful physical touch and embrace. Modern dads, please do not be afraid to show your love to your sons and daughters. Hug your children as infants, youngsters, adolescents, and adults. Do not leave any doubt in their minds that you love them. Give them your time and your full attention. Let them know of your deep affection.
Joseph was a carpenter (Mt 13:55), or more likely, a stone mason or construction worker, an industrious person and an extremely diligent worker. Religious artists often depict Jesus and his father Joseph working together in the carpenter’s shop. Joseph took the time to teach his son the skills of the trade; he was his teacher, mentor, and role model. Dads, spend time with your children working on projects. Give them good example. Provide sound advice. Teach them what you know. Set them on the right path to be good Christians and make constructive contributions to society. Joseph is the patron saint of fathers. May his holy life and great deeds be an example to inspire the fathers of today.
Father Michael Van Sloun is pastor of St. Stephen in Anoka.