Wednesday, March 19, 2014

St. Joseph and the Crisis in Fatherhood

Two things always drive me nuts in the often gilded but not always accurate hagiography concerning St. Joseph; 1. When he's pictured as a 97 year old man, 2. When he's referred to as the "foster-father" of Jesus. Let's focus on the second for now.

"In this family, Joseph is the father: his fatherhood is not one that derives from begetting offspring; but neither is it an "apparent" or merely "substitute" fatherhood. Rather, it is one that fully shares in authentic human fatherhood and the mission of a father in the family."
- Blessed John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos, 21 

What a comfort this quote is for an adoptive father's heart. We all feel it deeply, we know it intrinsically. The children we adopt are our own, they become our own, and we are owned by them... we are their fathers. No other labels, tags, or adjectives are necessary. This truth, echoed by our Blessed John Paul in his exposition on St. Joseph, is essential to understanding true fatherhood today, even as it suffers so many diabolical attacks. 

People of Faith propose that the “Father from whom all fatherhood on earth is named” has stamped something of His essence into our very existence (cf. Eph 3:14-15 (Blessed John Paul II, Letter to Families, 15). Fatherhood, and motherhood, is deeper than biology. Too often, we find men who are in fact biological fathers, but fall terribly short of the vocation and vision of what authentic fatherhood truly is! Scratch the surface of the crisis in biological fatherhood, the father wound, the absentee father, the weak or the dominating father wound, and it will reveal an even deeper hole in the realm of spiritual fatherhood. 

In his catechesis on the human person, the Theology of the Body, Blessed John Paul II writes that “Christian celibacy (in which Joseph gave himself to God and his bride, Mary) “must lead in its normal development to ‘fatherhood’ or ‘motherhood’ in the spiritual sense... in a way analogous to conjugal love.... On its part, physical generation also fully corresponds to its meaning only if it is completed by fatherhood and motherhood in the spirit, whose expression and fruit is the whole educational work of the parents in regard to the children born of their... union.” (TOB 78:5)

Let's pray on this great feast of fatherhood for a renewed vision and application of the truth of what being father means; to guard and protect, to care for and cultivate the gift of femininity and new life. This is our task, our privilege. And Joseph teaches us this in every action and decision he made for the Holy Family. St. Joseph, Patron and Guardian of the Universal Church, pray for us!!

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

As soon as I ready your number 2 and then your reflection, it was a huge light-bulb moment. I've always bristled a bit at that description of St. Joseph, as Jesus foster-father, as it somehow lessened his role in Jesus' life - yet he is upheld as a patron of foster and adoptive fathers, so it didn't seem right to drop the "foster" either.

Sometimes it's the obvious staring me right in the face that I totally miss. I need to learn to start trusting my gut when something doesn't fit quite right and digging in to figure out why.

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