Other Husband & Wife Articles

Did St. Joseph Have It Easy?

 

By Devin Rose

When my wife gave birth to our first biological child late last year, I got to take off two weeks from work for paternity leave, which I looked forward to as an “extra vacation.” And it might have been just that, but for the fact that we have three adopted toddlers who needed to be taken care of in addition to the newborn.

To complicate things, baby Edmund was colicky and required my wife’s constant attention, so the full brunt of caring for our other three fell upon me.

Now I consider myself a decent father, albeit a bit inexperienced, but the thought of flying solo with all three of our toddlers for two weeks was not my idea of great time. To be blunt, I feared that I would not have the patience to stop myself from blowing a gasket on day one, so I turned to St. Joseph for inspiration — surely he was a father from whom I could get some encouragement — but when I thought about his fatherhood responsibilities, they seemed significantly easier than mine.

Consider that he had only one child, Jesus, who everyone knows was absolutely perfect in every way, and his wife was the Immaculate Mother of God who never once committed a sin during her entire life. It seemed to me that he had about the easiest job of any father before or since! Maybe I couldn’t identify with him after all.

But as I thought about his responsibilities more, I realized that I had it all wrong. Because his son was the Son and his wife was the Woman, the new Eve, the need for him to be a virtuous man was that much greater. I realized that my fear of not having the patience and love to take care of my children was a fear of not having the virtue needed to be a good father to them, the father that God was calling me to be.

It didn’t end there. Imagine St. Joseph’s concern when God told him to take Mary to Bethlehem when she was due any day. His role as her husband was to protect her at any cost, yet God was commanding him to put her (and her child) in harm’s way, and he had to trust that our Lord would help him fulfill his duty.

And after Christ was born, he was told to flee to Egypt to protect Jesus from being slaughtered by Herod. He decisively and faithfully responded by leading his family to this far-off land, full of foreigners and strange gods. God wasn’t letting Joseph off easily; instead, he was a stranger in a strange land, with no friends, no family, and nowhere to run if they were threatened in this alien place.

Our greatest fear as fathers is the thought of failing to protect our families. St. Joseph, the father par excellence, was alone in Egypt with the mandate from God himself to guard his Mother and his Son, to provide for them from the work of his hands, and to listen for the call to return home at the right time.

I re-examined my own responsibilities in light of these new insights and realized that, while challenging enough for me, these responsibilities were not anywhere near as difficult as St. Joseph’s were. So I then knew that could look to him as my model and ask for his prayers. Joseph was as tough as nails, decisive, wise, prudent, and faithful — all of the virtues and qualities that I desire for myself as a husband and father. God chose him to be the father of his own Son, to be the earthly father of Jesus in every way, save biologically, so in him we find a powerful image of God the Father. Our Lord has entrusted to each of us a great challenge as well: to rear our sons and daughters faithfully and lead them to Christ, in whom they will become children of the heavenly Father.

The two weeks spent caring for my three children were not easy, and a few times I did blow a gasket, but those failures helped me realize my need for grace to be a good father. My own steam only takes me so far — the rest, God must supply, and this is actually good news. I take heart in knowing that, just as St. Joseph was never left without divine aid, God’s help is never lacking for us when we ask for it.


Devin Rose is a 31-year-old software engineer and lay apologist who blogs at St. Joseph’s Vanguard. He and his wife, Katie, live with their four children in Austin, Texas.