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Looking for modern St. Josephs

The Church will celebrate the solemnity of St. Joseph , the second greatest saint after Mary, on March 19 and that has me thinking about the need our Church and society has for strong men, especially fathers.

Man’s purpose was given to him in the Garden of Eden, when God entrusted Adam—the father of all men—with guarding and cultivating the garden. The Jewish people believed that the Garden of Eden represented all of creation, and so man’s mission in the garden had universal implications.In a 1958 radio message to American Catholic schoolchildren for Lent, Pope Pius XII offered a wonderful reflection on how these qualities were present in St. Joseph.

He said, “Day after day, at home and in the carpenter’s shop, his eyes rested on Jesus; he protected Him against the dangers of childhood; he guided His advancing years, and by hard work and with religious devotedness he provided for the increasing needs of the Mother and the Son…. And there was Joseph, modest, self-effacing, yet exercising authority over that family. How holy he must have been! Under his fatherly protection and ceaseless, tireless care the young Boy grew into manhood.”

We need men like this! It seems that the number of people, young and old, who tell me about feeling abandoned by their fathers, is growing. Young women have also mentioned how hard it can be to find potential husbands who are both strong in their faith and their masculinity.

At the end of January, Pope Francis addressed this issue at his Wednesday general audience. “In our day, the problem no longer seems to be the invasive presence of the father so much as his absence, his inaction. Fathers are sometimes so concentrated on themselves and on their work and at times on their career that they even forget about the family.”

But if we return to the Garden of Eden, we see that men are called to more than just work. Men are called to first cultivate their heart so that it becomes wise, and then to teach those they are responsible for to do the same. The author of Proverbs, writing to his own son, put it this way: “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. My soul will rejoice when your lips speak what is right” (Proverbs 23:15-16).

Scientific research supports the importance of fathers being involved in their children’s lives. A study by the U.S. Department of Education in 2000 found that the involvement of parents in their children’s lives was strongly tied to how well they did across a spectrum of measurements for success.

As a society and a Church, we need men like St. Joseph. We need men who respond with courage when God calls them to take a leap of faith, as St. Joseph did when God asked him to wed Mary. Although we know little about his life, we do know that God chose him to be the foster father of his Son, and that speaks volumes.

St. Joseph was the one who God asked to lead Jesus and Mary to Egypt to escape Herod’s persecution. He was the one who modeled the manly virtues for Jesus.

God is calling every man to learn how to protect and cultivate every aspect of creation. As we approach the solemnity of St. Joseph, I invite the men of the Archdiocese of Denver to renew their pursuit of wisdom, courage, perseverance, faith and integrity. If you have not yet participated in That Man is You or Families of Character in your local parish, I encourage you to do so. If your parishes do not have the program, then check with your pastors and look into starting one.

Finally, do not fail to ask your Father in heaven for the grace necessary to fulfill your high calling, and turn to St. Joseph to ask for his intercession.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
The Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila is the eighth bishop of Denver and its fifth archbishop. His episcopal motto is, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5).
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