Sunday, December 31, 2006

St. Joseph and Fathers

I love to listen to Christian preachers on the radio the way some people love to listen to secular talk radio. Since I live in East Tennessee, there are ample opportunities for this, one of the blessings of living in this beautiful and still boldly christian state. Sometimes I find myself arguing out loud with them in the car. I’ve actually been at stoplights where the people in the car next to mine have stared at me with their mouths open. Yes, that’s me waving my hands in the air and ranting out loud. Luckily, there are kids in the backseat, so I don’t look too crazy.

I love to listen to preachers because sometimes they actually get it right. Unfortunately, more often than not they get it wrong. Take St. Joseph, for instance. I was listening to a preacher on Christmas talk about the Nativity story, how Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem for the census and how poor Joseph spent all day trying to find shelter for his very pregnant wife and how poor Mary was so uncomfortable. This particular preacher really brought the whole experience into human terms, noting that they were far from their home and friends and familiar sights, that the city was crowded with people from all over also there for the census, and how the manger in which Jesus was born really wasn’t much more than a cold, dark and wet cave, and not the warm, fire-lit, hay strewn barn that we mostly see depicted. I cheered with admiration when he noted how the last thing you would want to do in a cave with no ventilation is build a fire, so that the fire that warmed them must have been at the entrance and that the ground was muddy and hard-packed by animals’ hooves and covered in things much more unpleasant than mud. I thought of how any man would feel very ashamed at not having been able to secure better digs for Mary, and how Mary needed him so much, and how the two of them together, in their poor and beautiful and mysterious way welcomed the Savoir of Mankind into the world that night. It was all very meditative and moving and then suddenly came to a screeching halt, like the needle-drag on those old vinyl records, when he spoke about their ages.

We know that Mary was a virgin about the age of 14 years when the angel Gabriel appeared to her at the annunciation. The preacher waxed about wondering how it must of felt, to be a young girl of 14 years of age, to be visited by such glory. And then he wondered how Joseph, a kid of about 15 or 16 years of age might have felt…and that’s when I nearly coughed up my Starbucks.

While it is true that we don’t have the ages of Joseph and Mary included in the canonical scriptures, we do have the non-canonical books which state that Mary was of 14 years of age and that Joseph was an older man, had already been married, whose wife had died. The children from this marriage are indeed the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ referred to in the bible. As Catholics we are not called to view these non-canonical books as scripture, however from a historical viewpoint they are the oldest and most reliable accounting of the details of Mary and Joseph’s ages at the time of Christ’s birth. Why is this such a big deal to me? Because as Mary is a role model for any Christian woman, Christian men can and should be looking to St. Joseph as a perfect example of a Christian man and father. To say he was only a kid of 15 or 16 is inaccurate. Which leads me to a second point…

Somewhere in the last generation or so, we seem to have misplaced fathers. Speaking as a woman, I should clarify that and say that we have, in our misguided attempts at so-called “equal rights” and the advent of the sexual revolution, we have basically told fathers that they aren’t needed anymore, and that they aren’t necessary. We have pushed away the vital role of fatherhood, and having been pushed away and labeled as unnecessary, I believe a lot of men are lost as to what their roles are in the family. I learned most of what it means to be a woman from the woman that raised me. Is it wrong to say that most men learn what it means to be a man from their own fathers? If so, what of the man who’s father was absent from the home and was afforded no good male role model? Society will tell you that fathers are an extra, a bonus if you will. I read a statistic recently that stated 80 percent of inner-city children live in a household where the father is absent. It is no great exaggeration to say that we are a fatherless generation.

Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary, a virgin who remained a virgin throughout her entire life. From a secular standpoint, Joseph was not “needed” for conception or for marital union, but only served as bread-winner. In reality, the Holy Spirit brought forth Christ’s deity, the Virgin Mary his physical humanity, but St. Joseph taught Jesus the nuts and bolts of being a man and living and interacting with other men in the world. He was vital, and so are today’s fathers. This great and godly vocation, which mirrors God’s Fatherhood to us, serves as protector, spiritual director and partner. God elevated the role of father by charging St. Joseph with the loving care of His Son and His spouse. We as women have been arrogant in our belief that we can and should be mothers AND fathers to our children, which is evident in the cycle of fatherless boys who in turn become absent fathers themselves.

You will find a real man at True Knights .

2 Comments:

Blogger Sarah said...

Beautiful, just beautiful. In watching my husband become a father, I have deepened my devotion to St. Joseph, and I have read statistics too that support your observation about what the lack of a father really does to a household and family.

7:31 AM  
Blogger Laura H. said...

It is no great exaggeration to say that we are a fatherless generation.
Which is why you will continue to see destruction among those who seek what they lack in material goods and unholy relationships. We all naturally seek our Father in heaven, but being fatherless on earth would, as it seems to me, certainly increase our natural desire to a point beyond the norm.

This is a beautiful post.. makes me wonder how I forgot about coming here!! Your link is being moved into my main blog link line.. instead of a sub-line. ;)

Btw - I love how you pointed out the elevation in holiness the role of the father received when God entrusted to St. Joseph's care His Son and His Spouse! So often we focus on the elevation of women because of Mary's role of bringing the Savior into the world but we often forget to praise and support the role of the Father, elevated, as you said, by God in His entrustment of the two to St. Joseph!

Nice post.

10:18 AM  

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