Work, faith, fatherhood: Reflection on St. Joseph – Part 2
St. Joseph demonstrated many fatherly attributes, namely, love, tenderness, surrogacy, and mentorship. Pope Francis who described St. Joseph as a tender and loving father noted that, “Joseph saw Jesus grow daily ‘in wisdom and in years and in divine and human favour’ (Lk 2:52). As the Lord had done with Israel, so Joseph did with Jesus: he taught him to walk, taking him by the hand; he was for him like a father who raises an infant to his cheeks, bending down to him and feeding him (cf. Hos 11:3-4).” In other words, he introduced Jesus into life and reality. Surrogacy was evinced “In his relationship to Jesus, as the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father who watched over him and protected him.”
For the above virtues, we have to venerate and consecrate St. Joseph by acknowledging that “he is your spiritual father, and you want to be like him. To show it, you entrust yourself entirely to his paternal care so that he can lovingly help you acquire his virtues and become holy.” And the urgency of the moment has been captured by Pope John XXIII who noted that: “ Now is the time to consecrate yourself to St. Joseph! God is telling his Church that, in order to defend marriage and the family, elevates morals, recover lost ground, and win souls for Jesus Christ, we need to bring St. Joseph onto the battlefield. He is the Terror of Demons! With his powerful spiritual fatherhood, incredible love for his spiritual children, and constant intercession, the Church can be renewed as a light to the nations, a beautiful city on a hill (see Mt 5:14-16)!”
However, the life of St. Joseph teaches us some enduring lessons. One is the importance of fatherhood. As Rowland noted, “If you want to attack the logos, you need to attack fatherhood. If you want to attack the priesthood, you need to attack fatherhood. If you want to attack the family, you need to attack fatherhood. She further noted that, “A society without fathers runs the risk of becoming a world of irresponsible people.” Indeed, it is a world of narcissists where people follow no other law than their desires would hold sway. Two, we encounter “Christian realism which rejects nothing that exists. Reality, in its mysterious and irreducible complexity, is the bearer of existential meaning, with all its lights and shadows.” Three is the need to nurture the passion and nobility of St. Joseph in ourselves because “Joseph accepted Mary unconditionally. He trusted in the angel’s words.” And four, the dignity of labour.
St. Joseph was a carpenter who earned his living by the trade and dramatises what it means to eat bread that is the fruit of one’s own labour. It is the means for sustenance of the family and also means of participating in the work of salvation
We now know that St. Joseph is the patron saint of fathers, natural and spiritual including the priests. He is the father of the fatherless. Indeed, St. Joseph is the concourse of “all patriarchal, royal and princely dignity.” Saint John Chrysostom drove the point home when he remarked that St. Joseph is “at the service of the entire plan of salvation.”
This talk began with prayer, and let us end with the prayers of St. Teresa of Ávila: “O holy protector of the Holy Family, protect us children of the Lord Jesus Christ; keep far from us the errors and evils which corrupt the world; assist us from Heaven in our struggles against the powers of darkness. And as you once protected the Divine Child from the cruel edict of Herod, now defend the Church and keep it safe from all dangers and threats.”
Professor Akhaine delivered this paper delivered in Honour of St Joseph, Father of Christ at the Instance of the Catholic Men Organisation, Agbara Parish, Agbara, Ogun State, June 20, 2021.
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