Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

6/15/2014 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In this article, we will focus on the qualities of St. Joseph, who is often called the Umbra Patris, the Shadow of God the Father, to try to understand the characteristics of human fatherhood which find their origin in God and the Father, and which are honored by Americans on this day.

Drawing from the traditional Litany of St. Joseph and the writing of the Popes on St. Joseph, we hope to sketch some of the virtues of human fatherhood.  As Leo XIII said in his encyclical on St. Joseph, "Fathers of families find in Joseph the best personification of paternal solicitude and vigilance."  This was confirmed by Blessed John Paul II, who in a meditation on St. Joseph, observed that St. Joseph is "a perfect incarnation of fatherhood in the human and at the same time holy family."

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

6/15/2014 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Father's Day, St. Joseph, Fatherhood, Andrew M. Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - It may be said that fatherhood is the vocation of all men.  Though "Father's Day" focuses on the fathers of human families, fatherhood itself is a broader concept.  Fatherhood is, in fact, a highly analogical word.  That is one reason the term can be applied to God the Father, from whom all fatherhood, in heaven and on earth, is named.  (Cf. Eph. 3:14-15)

Fatherhood is a relationship that is much more than biological fatherhood.  We understand that when we commonly acknowledge St. Joseph to be a father to Jesus, though he was not his biological father.  As Pope Benedict XVI noted in 2009, St. Joseph "is not the biological father of Jesus, whose Father is God alone, and yet he lives his fatherhood fully and completely."

In this article, we will focus on the qualities of St. Joseph, who is often called the Umbra Patris, the "Shadow of God the Father," to try to understand the characteristics of human fatherhood which find their origin in God and the Father, and which are honored by Americans on this day. 

Drawing from the traditional Litany of St. Joseph and the writing of the Popes on St. Joseph, we hope to sketch some of the virtues of human fatherhood.  As Leo XIII said in his encyclical on St. Joseph Quamquam pluries (No. 4), "Fathers of families find in Joseph the best personification of paternal solicitude and vigilance."  This was confirmed by Blessed John Paul II, who in a meditation on St. Joseph, observed that St. Joseph is "a perfect incarnation of fatherhood in the human and at the same time holy family."

A father acts justly.  Justice is one of the four cardinal virtues which every father must nourish and practice.  A father treats those with whom he comes in contact, in particular those who are members of his household with justice.  St. Joseph, the Scriptures say, was a "just man" (Matt. 1:9), and so sought a way to handle Mary's "'astonishing' motherhood" with justice.  (JP II, Redemptoris custos, No. 3)  While just, St. Joseph was also open to the equities of mercy.  He was also aware that, in applying justice, the just man must consider all extenuating circumstances, even the most unexpected circumstance of Mary's conception by the Holy Spirit.

A father is chaste.  We call St. Joseph "the most chaste spouse" for a reason, and he exhibited heroic chastity.  However, all men are called to chaste living.  Chastity in marriage means, above all, conjugal fidelity to one's wife.  More broadly, however, it means also rigorous conformity with the Church's teaching of human sexuality, including rejection of the modern ills of unnatural sex, artificial contraception, and pornography, as these are destructive of the marital relationship and the family and are intrinsically anti-life and so unbefitting to a virtuous man.  This purity is spiritually required, as only the pure in heart shall see God.  (Matt. 5:8)

A father exercises prudence.  St. Joseph, we pray in the Roman Missal at the Preface for the Solemnity of his feast, was placed "at the head of his family, as a faithful and prudent servant."  Prudence, which might be defined as "right reason in action," is called by St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bernard of Clairvaux the auriga virtutum or charioteer of virtues.  It is a habitual disposition to dispose "practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it."  CCC § 1806.  For its proper exercise, it obviously requires maturity, discipline, obedience to the natural moral law, and openness to God.

A father exhibits strength.  The strength exhibited by a father is not necessarily physical strength, but moral and spiritual strength, that is, the internal power, force, vigor, and moral stamina of human character required to do right when difficult and avoid evil when temptation beckons.  In short, a father has the virtues of fortitude, the strength to do good in adversity, and temperance, the strength to avoid evil when tempted.

A father is obedient to God and to his family.  Obedience to God, is, of course, essential to any human life.  There is also a sort of obedience that a father owes his family.  Though the father is the head of his family (Eph. 5:21-25), it is important to recall that such authority is ordered to giving one's self up for the benefit of the body, as Christ to the Church.  Obedience to this duty gives rise to the subjection by the father of his own good for that of his wife and family.  He gives of himself in an act of "complete self-sacrifice," like St. Joseph, who gave to Mary "a husband's 'gift of self,'" without reserve.  (Redemptoris custos, No. 20).

A father is faithful to God and to his family.  Joseph remained faithful to God, and scrupulously complied with all his religious and familial obligations.  As Pope John Paul II put it: "In the course of that pilgrimage of faith which was his life, Joseph . . . remained faithful to God's call until the end."  Fidelity, along with offspring and the sacrament, is, of course, one of the goods of marriage, and the father will honor that with all the strength of his being.  He has promised that fidelity until death parts him and his wife, and he abides by such promise with great fidelity.

A father is patient.  Here, we might do no better than quote Fr. Francis Xavier Lasance and his book on Patience: "The patience of St. Joseph was tried by a series of tribulations, and in the midst of it all, Joseph was calm and re­signed. He understood that tribulations are the crucible in which God purifies the virtue of those whom He loves, that the way of the cross is the only one which leads to heaven, that all the just must pass along it, and that Jesus never visits a soul without taking His cross with Him."

A father loves poverty.  Things, things, things will not be at the forefront of a father, who will reject consumerism and materialism.  Fired by the "bond of charity," a bond cemented by love of God and of his family, a father will have spiritual poverty, and so imitate the Holy Family's "poverty of Bethlehem, then in their exile in Egypt, and later in the house of Nazareth."  (Redemptoris custos, No. 21).  St. Joseph shows us that material wealth is not life's end; rather, material wealth is to support the spiritual part of man.  "Joseph, content with his slight possessions, bore the trials consequent on a fortune so slender."  (Quamquam pluries, No. 4). 

A father works.  What Blessed John Paul II said of St. Joseph should be said of all fathers: "He is a man of work."  "Work," for the father, is "the daily expression of love."  Whether one is a carpenter, as was St. Joseph, or a financier, or anything in between, the value of hard work, of labor, of its role as a "human good which transforms nature and makes man in a sense more human," will be recognized.  (Redemptoris custos, No. 22.) 

A father glorifies in home life.  A father will see home life as the life of the "domestic church," as Vatican II's Lumen gentium wonderfully put it.  Indeed, here also, a father can imitate St. Joseph, who, as custodian of the "divine house which [he] ruled with the authority of a father, contained within its limits the scarce-born Church."  (LXIII, Quamquam pluries, No. 3)  It is this, indeed, which makes St. Joseph the patron of the universal Church.

A father guards virginity.  In his encyclical on St. Joseph, Pope Leo XIII described St. Joseph as "the model and protector of virginal integrity."  (LXIII, Quamquam pluries, No. 3)  By his example, and by his custody, St. Joseph, the most chaste spouse, guarded and protected his own virginity and the virginity of Mary and of Jesus.  Through his example, we learn that virginity is a great good, not because marriage or properly-ordered sex is evil, but because it is a voluntary giving up of a great good for an even greater good.

A father is the pillar of the human family.  Nothing in the family will occur without his being present.  He will gives solace to those who suffer in the family.  He will offer hope and care to those who are ill.  He will love those in his charge unto death.

A father provides his family with physical sustenance.  Like St. Joseph, who "regularly by his work . . . earned what was necessary . . . for nourishment and clothing," a father will provide for the physical needs of his family.  (LXII, Quamquam pluries, No. 3)  A father who, though capable, fails to provide for his family, is "worse than an infidel," as one translation of St. Paul's first letter to Timothy put it.  (1 Tim. 5:8). 

A father provides his family with spiritual sustenance.  Like St. Joseph, a father should develop a "deep spiritual closeness arising from marital union and the interpersonal contact between man and woman," one that has its "definitive origin in the Spirit, the Giver of Life."  (Redemptoris custos, No. 19).  Like St. Joseph, a father should listen to God's direction.  He must develop a sense of silence and learn the art of contemplation.  "In the silence of daily events," Pope Francis said recently in a catechetical address on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, "St. Joseph, together with Mary," had "one common center of attention: Jesus."  St. Joseph learned to contemplate God, which is to recognize the Lord's "constant presence in our lives," together with the ability to "stop and converse" with the Lord, and "give him space in prayer."

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


'Help give every student and teacher Free resources for a world-class moral Catholic education'


Copyright 2017 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for DECEMBER 2016
Universal:
End to Child-Soldiers: That the scandal of child-soldiers may be eliminated the world over.
Evangelization: Europe: That the peoples of Europe may rediscover the beauty, goodness, and truth of the Gospel which gives joy and hope to life.



Comments


More Living Faith

Healing miracle for blind man who refused to stop praying Watch

Image of Kevin Coughlin never gave up and his tenacity was rewarded by God (pix11).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A Manhattan man who went bling in 1997 kept the faith and was healed sixteen years later. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Kevin Coughlin suffered a rare genetic condition called Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON).LHON symptoms begin as a sudden, painless ... continue reading


Pope Francis honors little girl who died of cancer Watch

Image of Pope Francis reads a heartbreaking letter to a little girl who passed away from cancer.

By Elise Harris (CNA/EWTN News)

Pope Francis has again captured the hearts of the world, with a tear-jerking letter to a young Italian girl dying from cancer, which was read aloud at the girl's funeral once she passed away. Vatican City, Italy (CNA/EWTN News) - "Dear Paolina, your photos are on my ... continue reading


Fr. Stanley Rother becomes first American-born martyr Watch

Image of Father Stanley Rother was proclaimed a martyr.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Pope Francis has recognized Father Stanley Rother as a martyr. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Fr. Rother was born in Oklahoma City, OK, making him the first martyr born in the United States.In 1986, he was sent to Santiago Atitlan from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma ... continue reading


Pope Francis announces the December prayer intention Watch

Image of Pope Francis calls us to pray for child soldiers.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Pope Francis revealed his December prayer intention on Thursday, prompting millions to unite in prayer. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis' prayer intention for the month of December is to end child soldiers.End to ... continue reading


Seven bishops, one abbot, and a psychiatrist dialogue with peace activists Watch

Image of During the recent U.S. Catholic bishops  fall assembly in Baltimore, several bishops and one abbot, gathered with about 25 peace activists [not pictured].

By Tony Magliano

During the recent U.S. Catholic bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore, several bishops and one abbot, gathered with about 25 peace activists - myself included - to share a simple meal and consider the horrible emotional, psychological and spiritual wounds suffered by ... continue reading


What is the Catholic Church doing in Australia? Watch

Image of The Catholic Church is hard at work.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Catholic Church in Australia has been hard at work to establish a permanent form of change in the community and, if successful, possibly the world. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Catholic Church in Australia established a new independent non-profit to ... continue reading


'We pray with Christian hope' - Pope Francis reminds us to pray for the living AND the dead Watch

Image of Pope Francis asks us to pray.

By Elise Harris (CNA/EWTN News)

In his last set of catechesis on mercy, Pope Francis focused on the works of praying for the living and the dead, as well as burying the dead, insisting that since we are all part of one family in Christ, we must remember to pray constantly for one another. Vatican ... continue reading


The 100th Fatima anniversary brings with it three ways to obtain an indulgence Watch

Image of Invoke Our Lady of Fatima.

By Maria Ximena Rondon (CNA/EWTN News)

For the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, Pope Francis has decided to grant a plenary indulgence opportunity throughout the entire anniversary year, which began Nov. 27, 2016, and will end Nov. 26, 2017. Fatima, Portugal (CNA/EWTN ... continue reading


What happens when an atheist encounters Christ? This poet found out for herself Watch

Image of Sally Read was an atheist, now she is a Catholic.

By David Kerr - CNA

"Until two years ago, I was a really committed atheist and I really hated the Catholic Church," said poet Sally Read, as she explained how all that dramatically changed during nine months in 2010. "The whole process took from March to December, and I was received into ... continue reading


Lost tablets confirmed to speak of Christ, but is the story they tell true? Watch

Image of Do these tablets add a chapter to the Gospel of Christ?

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Researchers have confirmed the authenticity of lead tablets that discuss Jesus Christ and date to the period of His ministry. As genuine artifacts, they serve as an additional, non-Biblical source to reference the existence of Christ. LOS ANGELES, CA (California ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 11:1-10
1 A shoot will spring from the stock of Jesse, a new shoot will grow from ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
1 [Of Solomon] God, endow the king with your own fair judgement, the son ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 3:1-12
1 In due course John the Baptist appeared; he proclaimed this message in ... Read More

Reading 2, Romans 15:4-9
4 And all these things which were written so long ago were written so ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for December 4th, 2016 Image

St. John of Damascus
December 4: Saint John Damascene has the double honor of ... Read More