Patris Corde – with a Father’s heart. This is the name of a recent letter that Pope Francis wrote about St. Joseph. The foster father of Jesus models fatherhood for us in such a powerful way: his absolute trust and courage that led him to abandon everything to do what had to be done to protect his family.
The name of Francis’s letter points us even more deeply to his witness. Even though Jesus was the Son of the heavenly Father, Joseph still embodied the Father’s love to him in an earthly and human way. Francis explains how he was a “father in the shadows”:
“The Polish writer Jan Dobraczyński, in his book The Shadow of the Father, tells the story of Saint Joseph’s life in the form of a novel. He uses the evocative image of a shadow to define Joseph. In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way. We can think of Moses’ words to Israel: “In the wilderness… you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as one carries a child, all the way that you travelled” (Deut 1:31). In a similar way, Joseph acted as a father for his whole life.”
This is the ultimate vocation of every father: to love as the Father loves. To embody his eternal gift of himself to the Son, which he then offers also to us in the world. We, as fathers, are meant to pass on this love that we have received.
Francis also reflects that “Fathers are not born, but made. A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child. Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person.”
A father is one who lives for another. We should never think primarily of our own needs, of what we want, but what our family needs. Our lives our not our own. Like St. Joseph, we have been entrusted with others and our mission is to care for them and bring them to the safety of salvation.
For this Father’s Day, we could engage in an examination of conscience based on this profound truth of being a shadow of the Father’s love. How have we experienced love from others? How did it impact and change us? What are ways that we have lived up to that gift or have refused to pass it on? Am I man who lives for myself first or do I truly put the needs of those in my care first? What do I need to do to embody the Father’s love more fully? How can I become a man for others?
Who’s been the king of your Summer? Start overcoming Summer sloth today by reading through 2 Samuel with us and following King David’s example!
Dr. Staudt serves as Director of Content for Exodus and as an Instructor for the Lay Division of St. John Vianney Seminary. He is the author of How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization (TAN), Restoring Humanity: Essays on the Evangelization of Culture (Divine Providence Press) and The Beer Option: Brewing a Catholic Culture Yesterday & Today (Angelico Press). He holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Ave Maria University and B.A. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN). He and wife, Anne, have six children and he is a Benedictine oblate.