By Susan Ciancio
Today we celebrate the feast day of one of the most important men in Catholic history—a man who has no recorded words in the Bible but whose actions speak louder than any words ever could. Today we celebrate St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus.
We don’t need to hear the words of St. Joseph to understand the kind of man he was. We have read about his actions. We know that he was gentle and compassionate, for upon hearing about Mary’s pregnancy, he decided that, instead of shaming her, he would end the engagement quietly. We know that he was obedient, for when an angel appeared to him and told him that Mary was carrying the Son of God, Joseph married her and raised Jesus as his own son. We see another example of this obedience when he followed the commands of the angel and fled to Egypt in the middle of the night, and again when they safely left that country. We saw Joseph’s love for Jesus in the fear he exhibited when Jesus went missing at the age of 12. We know he must have felt relief upon finding Him in the temple.
We know all of that without words. And while words are important, we know that actions are much more so. Our actions define who we are as children of God.
So when we look inward into our own families—to the husbands we want for our daughters or to the fathers we want for our children or want to be for our children—we need look only as far as St. Joseph as our model.
We understand that the family is the foundation of society. And, as faithful Catholics, we know that a strong husband and father is integral to a healthy family. That’s why it’s so important to follow St. Joseph’s lead.
How can fathers use St. Joseph’s example to build a culture of life in their families and beyond?
Treat your wife well. The best gift you can give your children is to love their mother. Speak kindly to her. Do nice things for her. Compliment how she looks in a new dress or how well she cooked a new meal. Hold her hand. Put your arm around her. Let your children see that you value her and that you take the effort to do little things to make her happy. When they see you doing these things, they will be more likely to do them—for her and others.
Teach your children. Joseph taught Jesus the trade of carpentry. We can only imagine that they had hours of conversation during those times. He likely passed along his wisdom, his thoughts, and his dreams. Do the same for your children. Take time to teach them to make something, draw something, fix something, or create something. While you work together, talk about your hopes and dreams. Listen to theirs. Talk about your faith and the importance of family. Encourage them and build them up so that they learn to treat others with respect and compassion.
Protect your family. Joseph took care of Mary and Jesus. He guided and protected them from the dangers of the world. Guide and protect your family from today’s dangers—from a culture of death that envelops so much of our society. Help them see the dignity and value in all people so that they learn how to protect others as they grow.
Act with charity, especially when angry or upset. Frustrations in life are bound to happen. Just remember that harsh words hurt, and children easily repeat them. It’s normal to feel upset when things go wrong, but it’s how we deal with problems or setbacks that defines us. Teach your children to deal with the difficult times in life with class and dignity. Let your actions be the example they can then use as an example for others.
Pray as a family. Lead your family in nightly prayers. At various times during the day, say a quick prayer of thanks for the blessings in your lives. Teach your children new prayers. Say the Rosary—or a decade of the Rosary—as a family. Let your children see that a strong man values his faith. This will give them the strength they need to stand up for Christ’s teachings.
Let your family see you living your faith. Read the Bible or books about Catholicism. Go to confession regularly. Volunteer at church. Make Christ the focal point of your life. Follow the 10 Commandments faithfully. When your children see you doing these things, they will feel more comfortable doing them as well.
As we celebrate St. Joseph’s feast day today, say some extra prayers for your family. Ask St. Joseph for his guidance and intercession. He knows the struggles we sometimes face. He understands hardship and adversity, for he lived them too. He will take your prayers to the foot of his foster Son, and together they will help guide you along the path as you build a culture of life in your family and community.