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

3 Biblical ways to achieve small victories in our Walk with God Watch

Image of Walk with God.


Life struggles are inevitable but to look at them more than just a bump in the road is like putting rocks in your backpack before a hike. God doesn't want that - our journey to Him is meant to shape us in a way He planned for us. Little by little, we achieve victories ... continue reading

Families 'free us from the sea of loneliness and indifference,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of After recently concluding a series of catechesis on the family as a lead-in to this year's synod gathering, Pope Francis explained that he would start a new catechesis on the

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

Family rescues us from indifference and loneliness and teaches us the essentials of life, Pope Francis said - adding that as the family of God, the Church has the same role and must evaluate how to live this out. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - "Like Saint ... continue reading

Respecting life the Gospel way Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

For the sake of our salvation, we need to pay serious attention, and act with purpose, to what Jesus teaches here in Matthew's Gospel: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will ... continue reading

Young girl blessed by Pope Francis during visit to U.S. believes the 'miracle has begun' Watch

Image of Julia Bruzzese was blessed by Pope Francis.


12-year-old Julia Bruzzese, who has been experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease, suffered from sudden paralysis that doctors are still unable to explain. However, following a blessing from Pope Francis, the young girl seems to be healing. NEW YORK, NY (Catholic Online) ... continue reading

'God did not create us to live in sorrow or to be alone,' Pope Francis says of marriage Watch

Image of Pope Francis' comments were made during his Oct. 4 Mass marking the official opening of this year's Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family.

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

Pope Francis formally opened the synod of bishops Sunday, telling participants that the union between a man and woman is the foundation of God's plan for the family, and a solution to the many forms of loneliness in today's world. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - ... continue reading

FULL TEXT: Family synod prayer vigil, Pope Francis's full address Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Presiding over a prayer vigil in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis led the beginning of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, at the Vatican. Drawing tens of thousands of the faithful, many were present in the Square since the afternoon for a ... continue reading

Vatican issues statement in regards to monsignor's declaration of homosexuality Watch

Image of


The director of the Holy See press office has issued a statement in response to Vatican official Msgr. Krzysztof Charamsa's declaration in a recent interview that he is homosexual and has a boyfriend. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - Msgr. Charamsa, 43, granted a ... continue reading

Guardian Angels are always by our sides, Pope Francis says Watch

Image of Pope Francis explained that when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, God could have left them to fend for themselves. Instead, as an act of love and mercy, the Lord sent with them an angel to guide and protect them.


Each of us has a Guardian Angel who, acting on behalf of God, advises us and protects us from evil, if we only listen to him, Pope Francis said during his homily at Mass on Friday. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - "May we ask the Lord for the grace of this ... continue reading

Top 5 Bible verses to turn to when you're angry Watch

Image of What does the Bible have to say about anger?

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What makes you angry? Maybe you don't like the way your boss talks to you at work or your spouse spends too much money. What do you do when you feel anger coming on? Who do you turn to? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - When we get angry we can say or do things we ... continue reading

Megachurch Pastor's new book tells people to 'get over themselves' Watch

Image of Pastor Kyle Idleman (YouTube).


Megachurch Pastor Kyle Idleman claims that to live life, "everyone simply needs to get over themselves" to truly "experience abundant life with Jesus," a theory he promotes in his new book The End of Me: Where Real Life in the Upside-Down Ways of Jesus Begins. LOS ... 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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Joel 4:12-21
12 'Let the nations rouse themselves and march to the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 97:1-2, 5-6, 11-12
1 Yahweh is king! Let earth rejoice, the many isles ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 11:27-28
27 It happened that as he was speaking, a woman in ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 10th, 2015 Image

St. Francis Borgia
October 10: Francis was a young nobleman at the court of the King of Spain. ... Read More