Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

6/15/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (

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."


By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (

6/15/2014 (1 year 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


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More Living Faith

'I HAVE GIVEN YOU FULL WARNING.' Dark Days - Did Pope Francis just predict the END OF THE WORLD? Watch

Image of

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Pope Francis has invoked Mark, Chapter 13 as a warning that we may be approaching the end times. He suggested that what he has seen appears to fit the end times as described by Jesus. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis has warned that we could be in the ... continue reading

Unbelievable exorcisms: Why is everyone obsessed with them? Watch

Image of Sixty-eight percent of Americans believe in the presence of angels and demons (The Possession).


Despite the growing belief that religion is losing its influence, people continue to firmly believe in the necessity for exorcisms. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to a Pew Research Survey, 68 percent of Americans believe angels and demons exist on Earth. ... continue reading

Come together this Thanksgiving with a beautiful prayer Watch

Image of Each year thousands of families celebrate Thanksgiving, but make the food their priority. This year, make God and all He has given us your priority.


Each year, millions of people across the United States rush to grocery stores and prepare to visit their families in celebration of Thanksgiving. Visiting loved ones and enjoying a specially prepared meal are both wonderful parts of celebrating, but don't forget to ... continue reading

Pope Francis: Jesus is weeping over a WORLD AT WAR

Image of Pope Francis mourns a world at war.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has made it clear, Jesus is weeping over a world at war. It has become obvious that this is a time of extreme danger for all people around the globe. No population is safe from terror. The threats aren't just from terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al ... continue reading

Oxford to begin study of Catholic relics. Here are 5 macabre relics people venerate from around the world Watch

Image of The skull of St. Thomas Aquinas.


The veneration of relics in the Catholic Church has been one of the most debated practices in the faith. While such veneration is actually common in the human experience -even Communists did it with the body of Lenin, the veneration of relics in the Church is the ... continue reading

Nine bishops, one abbot, dine and dialogue with peace activists Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

During the recent U.S. Catholic bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore, several bishops and one abbot, decided to skip dinner at the downtown Marriott Waterfront hotel, and walked several blocks to an inner city parish to share a simple meal with about 30 peace ... continue reading

Woman turns her cancer over to Jesus Christ - survives, thrives Watch

Image of Heather King shares her struggles in her new memoir,

By Mary Rezac, CNA/EWTN News

Heather King never cared much for doctors. Los Angeles, CA (CNA) - It's an attitude she partly inherited from her mother, "who classified ginger ale as a medicine, considered Novocain a snobbish extravagance" and somehow managed to avoid a visit to the doctor's office ... continue reading

Top 5 ways to find joy Watch

Image of Find happiness in spite of the darkness.


It is easy to fall prey to depression and sadness with everything that has been going on in the world these days. The trick to maintaining a positive attitude and living in the joy God has for us is as easy as following five simple steps. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading

Want to lose the War on Christmas? Surrender Advent Watch

Image of What millions of Christians do a day after expressing thanks for what they already have.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Want to lose the War on Christmas? Surrender Advent. We Christians have gone out of our minds, arguing about Starbucks cups and greeters who (correctly) say "Happy Holidays" in place of "Merry Christmas." In all the bustle of the season, we have forgotten that Advent ... continue reading

The one easy thing you can do everyday that will profit your faith

Image of Reading Catholic Online every day can provide you with the Catholic outlook on the world you need.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There is one thing you can do every day that will profit you in many ways. It requires no work and the most minimal effort. It will inform you, inspire you, and ignite your passions. That thing is to visit Catholic Online every day. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading

All Living Faith News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • 'Body lifted from the ground': Young Central American woman dies ...
  • Prayer For Faith HD Video
  • St. Eligius: Saint of the Day for Tuesday, December 01, 2015
  • Pope Francis does the unthinkable following emotional tragedy in ...
  • Parents' Prayer For Their Children HD Video
  • Daily Readings for Tuesday, December 01, 2015
  • Opium, heroin or cocaine: What drug is YOUR country known for?

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

Gospel, Luke 10:21-24
21 Just at this time, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said, 'I ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for December 1st, 2015 Image

St. Eligius
December 1: Eligius (also known as Eloi) was born around 590 ... Read More