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Joseph Shows the Way


by Soren Johnson

St. Joseph’s humble, decisive witness speaks volumes to our culture today

Joseph Shows the Way

St. Joseph is depicted leading Mary and Jesus into Egypt in this mosaic at the Coptic Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in the Cairo suburb of Maadi. Tradition holds that the Holy Family rested at this site. (CNS photo/Dana Smillie)

As Catholic fathers, one of our main responsibilities is to pass on the faith to our children. We do this best by living the faith in an engaging way and by attending Mass with our family. But we also need to teach our kids the basics of the faith at a young age and make sure their Catholic knowledge grows as they do.

In teaching about Jesus and Mary, a summary of Gospel stories and a review of the mysteries of the rosary provide an excellent primer. What can we say about St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and adoptive father of Jesus, who has no words recorded in the Bible? In our online age in which every stray thought can be texted or tweeted, we can present Joseph as a model for our times — a man of action who goes against the tides and trends of the world.

As we approach St. Joseph’s feast day March 19, consider these five “countercultural” qualities of Joseph that can be instructive to our children, as well as to us.

Attentive. Our kids are bombarded by distracting media, yet they long for peace of heart and mind. As Pope Francis has observed, Joseph was “constantly attentive to God” and responded with courage to heavenly messengers who told him to put aside the opinion of others. St. John Paul II also said that because of his attentiveness, Joseph had the “power of making great decisions.” Our children, too, can do great things with St. Joseph at their side.

Humble. Social media, as forums for idealized personas and perfect images, are not noted for fostering humility. With a little guidance, our children can see through the online posturing and appreciate the value of honesty, the foundation of humility. Setting aside his own plans in order to follow God’s will, Joseph “lowers himself and takes this great responsibility upon his shoulders,” explains Pope Francis. St. Joseph teaches us that humility does not mean passivity. Rather, his hidden life was defined by integrity and strength.

Protective. Our kids can feel vulnerable amid what Pope Francis calls a “throwaway culture,” which does not respect the dignity of the human person — especially the unborn, the poor, the elderly, the sick and others on the periphery. In the face of harmful influences such as cyberbullying and online pornography, we should appeal to our children’s desire for protection. St. Joseph was the guardian, or custos, of Jesus, and he is now the patron of the universal Church. As a father, show your children that you stand strong with Joseph.

Hardworking. Although life today is vastly different than in the time of St. Joseph, the demands of hard work are still essentially the same. “Work was the daily expression of love in the life of the family of Nazareth,” wrote St. John Paul II. While our virtual age seeks pleasure first and is quick to demean or outsource menial labor, Joseph the carpenter rolls up his sleeves and reveals the dignity of human work. He is an example of someone who knows that hard work can be its own reward.

Loving. Our world is filled with distorted images of love that can cause our children great harm and heartache. Joseph is an antidote. Love for him was not red hearts and arrows but self-giving for the good of others. He also expressed a “tenderness,” notes Pope Francis, a “strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love.” Through St. Joseph, your kids can learn the true nature of love that is rooted in his care for Mary and Jesus.

Presenting St. Joseph with these countercultural virtues, we fathers should seek to imitate him in our own lives. That will be a win for our children, our families and ourselves.

SOREN JOHNSON is associate director of the Saint Thomas More Institute of the Diocese of Arlington and a member of Holy Family Council 6831 in Leesburg, Va.