The Glory of Fatherhood

Can we just talk a minute about how awesome Saint Joseph is?

He barely shows up in scripture in the very beginning of Jesus’s life. He has no speaking role at all. And, when he does show up, usually he ends up doing something less than perfectly… to put it nicely.

For example, the angel has to tell him to marry Mary. The only shelter that he can offer Mary to give birth to Jesus — the King of Kings! — is a stable. Which, in the Holy Land, probably meant some sort of dingy cave full of animals. Soon after, he has to take everyone and rush to Egypt to run away from Herod because there is no way that he can protect his family otherwise. Then, in his last appearance of the gospel, he loses(!) Jesus, of all things!

And so, in the gospel narrative, his life is full of events in his life that can be easily be looked upon as failures. A failure to adequately provide. A failure to adequately protect. A failure to even look after and guide his son, Jesus.

And yet, this is the man that God Himself chooses as father.

So, what does God see in St. Joseph that we do not see?

While I can’t give you a definitive answer, I can offer you an image of what God might have seen in St. Joseph with this artwork:

The Ministry of Saint Joseph, by José de Alcíbar, c. 1771. 	Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City, Mexico. Via IllustratedPrayer.com
The Ministry of Saint Joseph, by José de Alcíbar, c. 1771. Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City, Mexico.

At the very top is God the Father, with a halo around His Head to indicate the Holy Trinity. He is sitting on a globe, symbolizing His Kingship over all, and He spreads out His Hand, lilies falling out of them to indicate His gift of peace. He is also speaking words, but the words are indistinguishable — alas! Though, likely it is words to of who He is. Next to God the Father is the Holy Spirit, represented as a dove. Then, close by, is Jesus as an infant. And who is holding Baby Jesus? His adopted father, St. Joseph!

While holding Baby Jesus in his right arm, St. Joseph is writing the word “SCIENTAM” with his right hand. In this case, the word “scientam” means “knowledge” in a singular sense. And so, the picture depicts St. Joseph as loving father and first teacher of the Christ Child.

And this is effectively the vocation of St. Joseph as the father of Jesus.

Now, I only described part of the picture: the part with God, represented in the Holy Trinity, and St. Joseph. What is the bottom part?

At the bottom right, there are three priests depicted, who were donors of the work, which they commissioned in thanksgiving of a new place for their headquarters after their other headquarters had been destroyed in an earthquake. (The perils of living in the Ring of Fire!)

But on the left are other people who are looking to Jesus for help and intercession.

St. Joseph may have struggled in his vocation as a father many times, but he never stopped listening to God’s voice. When God told him to do something, no matter how hard God’s command seemed to be, he would do it faithfully anyway.

And so, his importance was ultimately in not what he did, nor was it tied up in who he was, but rather his faith in God and his willingness to follow God, no matter what.

And, through following his vocation as a father — no matter how difficult it was and how ultimately unglamorous it was — he ended up playing an important and irreplaceable role as a father in bringing others to Jesus.

Now! Being a father is tough. As a father, you are called to provide for, protect, and guide your children along life. And that is a tough, tough job. Just ask St. Joseph! He failed at it many times. Nor is it glamorous. In fact, sometimes it can be back-breaking and grueling work to be a father.

It can be hard.

And yet, in the eyes of Heaven, fatherhood is so important that God is Father to all. And, when He came down as a human in the form of Jesus Christ, even God wanted a father for Himself.

May we bless and pray for our fathers and the other fathers in our lives as they go through their daily labors, especially on this solemnity in which we remember and honor the most blessed spouse of Mary and Jesus’s adopted father, St. Joseph.

And may we pray that fathers everywhere always remember to listen to God, just as St. Joseph did.

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of three, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer

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