Recapturing the vocation of Fatherhood (Part 2)

In my last column, I questioned why self-giving love has become so arbitrary in our national consciousness about Fatherhood.

Of course in the Catholic imagination, reflection on the “vocation to fatherhood” immediately brings to mind the example of St Joseph, the foster father of Jesus Christ, and officially the “Patron of the Universal Church”!

Why is it that Saint Joseph has this special title, and commands such an influential place in the Catholic imagination when it comes to thinking about the vocation to Fatherhood? No doubt being the husband of Mary the Mother of God, and the foster father of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, goes a long way towards explaining this. However, this is not the full picture when it comes to understanding why the Church holds him in such high esteem.

Joseph was a man who listened to the voice of God in his life and took action. He did not hesitate to take Mary as his wife (Mt1:24), and when he set out to Bethlehem, he did so unflinchingly and without complaint (Lk 2:4). Further, when God told him to flee with the child for safety, his response was total and complete (Mt 2:13-14).

St Joseph is a model of the courageous and heroic Fatherhood that we so desperately need today. He inspires us to understand Fatherhood as a vocation that sees men lay down their lives for their wives and children, putting their own needs second to them.

Of particular relevance to our modern day reality, St Joseph inspires men to understand their vocation to fatherhood as being more important than work or career.

Take for example the situation St Joseph found himself in having to flee Bethlehem. He was warned by the angel in a dream: Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt (Matt 2:13). Of course one can imagine that Joseph would very likely have wanted to go back to Nazareth, where he had business prospects, networks and opportunities. However, his actions show that he clearly understood that his career came second to his vocation to fatherhood.

It is similar to the vision for Fatherhood that Tim Hawkes described:

“How to love: A father loving a family doesn’t just mean going out and dragging a dead mammoth into the cave. Neither is it fulfilling the, “just wait till your father gets home” role. Love should be expressed in more ways than providing and correcting. It needs to be expressed in time with the family and interest in them. It needs to be expressed in tenderness and respect.” (“What every Dad must do if we’re to defeat violence” – The Australian, 6 Jan 2014)

Am I really prepared to seriously think through my career decisions, with the immediate needs of my family front and centre?

Do I really need that higher paying and more demanding job to enable me to afford a bigger house, or should I firstly make sure that I have the time and emotional energy to spend quality time with my wife and children?

Should I retire to the couch to watch TV after a long day, or instead, take the time to sit with my son for an extended time, reading him stories before bed?

How does the Catholic vision for Fatherhood expressed in the person of St Joseph inspire and challenge you?