5 Ways to Be a Father Like St. Joseph
St. Joseph has long been seen as a role model for husbands and fathers. This is surprising for some people to learn. After all, Jesus’ true father is God the Father, and Joseph served as His foster father during His earthly ministry. Yet, despite Joseph’s unconventional fatherhood, this holy man proved to be the best role model that husbands and fathers could ask for.
This Father’s Day, if you are a father, we invite you to follow Joseph’s example of fatherhood in the following ways. If you are not a father, we ask you to join us in lifting up in prayer all those who fill the role of father.
1. Practice humility
Joseph is a notoriously silent figure in the Gospels. Although we receive some accounts of his actions, especially leading up to the birth of Jesus, we do not get a single word from Joseph’s mouth. This is surprising, given the importance men held in society in this era. The Gospels tell us more about Mary. Once Jesus begins his public ministry, we don’t receive another account of Joseph at all.
What does this mean for fathers? It does not mean that fathers should take a lesser role in the lives of their families. On the contrary, we can infer that Joseph was an extremely devoted and involved parent in Jesus’ life. What it does mean, however, is that fathers can emulate Joseph’s humility. Joseph understood that he was given a special role in salvation history, namely, raising Jesus and protecting his family. Instead of looking for attention or rewards for this huge responsibility, he quietly accepted it and put in every effort to fulfill his role.
2. Be chaste
The Church teaches that Mary retained perpetual virginity, meaning that her marriage with Joseph was not consummated. While marriages generally do not call for abstinence, all marriages do require chastity. In the case of married couples, chastity means faithfulness to one’s spouse and openness to new life.
Joseph lived exactly the kind of chastity that God asked of him. Though this probably wasn’t easy, he likely drew his strength and commitment from his devotion to God and his true love and respect for Mary. Fathers can follow his example by avoiding sexual sin not just because of the fear of punishment, but because of true commitment to their families.
3. Teach your children
Jesus learned the trade of carpentry from Joseph, which indicates that they spent a lot of time during Jesus’ formative years in a teacher/apprentice relationship. Joseph showed true investment in Jesus’ life by putting so much time and effort into teaching Him a trade. Fathers today should put in just as much effort to teach their children to earn a livelihood, understand the value of hard work, and put their God-given skills to use.
The fact that Joseph taught Jesus his own trade also tells fathers something important about how they should relate to their children. Joseph saw Jesus as not simply a child, but as a fully capable human being. Undoubtedly, he received the respect from Jesus that is expected from children to parents. But Joseph did not use his position to put himself above Jesus. Since he included Jesus in providing for the family and invited Him to join in his work, we can infer that Joseph also showed human respect for Jesus. Fathers, likewise, should respect their children.
4. Use your gifts to strengthen your family
Joseph’s foster son was fully God and fully man. His wife was born without original sin. He could have given up with the knowledge that he could never match either Jesus’ or Mary’s level of holiness. But Joseph did not do that. Instead, he took the hand he was dealt and figured out what he could do with it. God provided Joseph with the gifts he needed to protect and provide for his family. These included his skills as a worker, his humility, and his dedication to loving both Jesus and Mary deeply.
Like Joseph, fathers can identify the gifts God has given them and use those gifts in a way that best serves their families. All men will not have the same gifts or abilities. But by careful reflection and honest spousal partnership, fathers can discern how they are called to serve their families.
5. Be obedient
Obedience is not usually the first trait that comes to mind when one thinks about fatherhood. However, obedience is, in fact, an absolutely essential trait for a father to possess if is family is to have a strong foundation. This obedience is not obedience to other people, but to God.
Joseph obeyed God by taking Mary into his home. He obeyed God by bringing Jesus and Mary to Egypt for protection. He obeyed God again when he brought them back to Nazareth. Even when he might not have understood the reasons, Joseph always trusted that God was leading him in the right direction and did as he was told. All fathers should practice this same obedience to God, which will be all the easier if fathers trust in God’s plans for their families.