Late last year, Pope Francis proclaimed a “Year of Saint Joseph” and issued the Apostolic Letter ‘Patris Corde’ (With a Father’s Heart). As we celebrate Father’s Day in this unusual season of restrictions, questions about the future and, for some, a certain level of anxiety in caring for our families, what can we learn from this great, yet very ordinary man?
Pope Francis depicts Joseph as ‘the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence’. We have no record of anything he said, and very little is actually known about him. Yet he played a huge part in the history of salvation and the life of the Church and is held up as a model to all fathers. The letter is well worth reading, but here are a few points especially relevant to us this Father’s Day weekend:
“Fathers are not born, but made. A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child.” What are some of the lessons we can learn from Joseph, who loved and raised a child not even his own?
Fatherhood is defined by love, not DNA. Jesus ‘saw the tender love of God’ in Joseph. Through him, Jesus came to know his heavenly Father’s loving kindness and compassion. The relationship we have with our children will greatly influence their image of God. Is it one of closeness and tenderness? Do we show love, kindness and mercy when they mess-up? How present are we to them?
Joseph led his family with a strength that came from total trust in God. He overcame personal disappointment and embraced the path God had for him, even when he did not understand. Like Mary, he gave his own ‘fiat’, his own daily ‘yes’. He trusted that God held the bigger picture and followed God’s lead.
We too, as fathers, sometimes face uncertainty, difficulty, and disappointment. Joseph teaches us to be ‘creatively courageous’ – to engage with the realities we face, trust in God and dig deep for resources we may not even know we have.
To be a father is to give yourself for the sake of those the Lord has entrusted to your care. This is our true vocation. As children grow older, we need to always keep in mind that fatherhood is not about us, but about giving them space to be who they were meant to be. It means setting them free to live their own life, rather than trying to live it for them. It means becoming “A father who realises that he is most a father and educator at the point when he becomes “useless”, when he sees that his child has become independent and can walk the paths of life unaccompanied.” Ultimately, our children have one heavenly Father, and we have been entrusted with their care for a season.
Fatherhood is a life of service – often hidden and silent, like Joseph. We work hard to provide for our families, protect them as best we can, pray for them and at times worry about them. But let’s not forget that we do not walk alone – our heavenly Father is close to us. He is the source of our strength, the One we turn to in our own time of need. We are called to be fathers, but we will never stop being God’s beloved sons. With Pope Francis, we ask St Joseph to pray for us, that we may always know the Father’s love and be loving fathers to our children.
An everyday father.