Written by Ron Bertsch, Director of Foster Care and Adoption
As Father’s Day 2021 nears, we can reflect on what St. Joseph offers men as way of a model. Where to begin, first let me share my passion.
Joseph being the foster father of Jesus, took the role of nurturing, protecting, and caring for Jesus seriously. Stepping up for a child not his own but treating him as such. Pope Francis says, “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.” I challenge all fathers to make a commitment to be the best you can be. With St. Joseph’s intercession, I pray for more men to step up to become foster and adoptive fathers for abused and neglected orphans in our community.
What then does it take to be a great man and father? What does it take to consider God’s special calling for foster or adoptive parenthood? We can take a deeper look at some of these virtues.
St. Joseph was a man of great faith, trust, prayer, and action. He followed the Jewish law, listened to God speak to him through the visits of angels. Directing him first to take Mary as his wife and to name Jesus. The second visit gave a message for action - flee to Egypt and save Jesus from Herod’s evil wrath. The third visit instructed him to again “take action” in returning to the Holy Land. A fourth directed his return on which path to follow. Joseph trusted God because he had a relationship with God, which comes only through prayer. So, we know he was a man of prayer to be open to these angelic messages, or he would not have recognized God’s calling. Likely we will not experience angelic visits, however we are all called by God for some purpose, do we pray, listen, and act?
Joseph had to be courageous. Pope Francis referred to Joseph as having a courageous heart, being “creatively courageous” in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde – With a Father’s Heart, when declaring the year of St. Joseph for the 150th anniversary of Blessed Pius IX naming St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church. Courage was required when Joseph went to Egypt with a different language, wondering how he would communicate, find housing, and support his family. That takes courageous faith and trust in God. Let us gather the courage to be good fathers, and possibly foster/adoptive fathers.
Does a father need to be a man of self-sacrifice? Joseph was, he let his vocation of fatherhood be more important than his career. He left his job, his contacts and possibly many of his tools and workshop to lead the Holy Family out of danger. He gave everything for his family. Fathers today need to sacrifice some of their boyhood desires, and past times but can still use these interests to share and spend time with their children. Maturing and letting go of some things that cause vice over virtue.
Joseph was a man of humility and patience, not seeking his own attention but always focusing the best interest of Mary and Jesus. He enjoyed time with his family, accepting God’s will not always knowing how long or necessarily the reasons. He reaped the benefits of holding Jesus, watching him play, grow, and learn. He was blessed to have Mary and Jesus tend him on his deathbed. Let us pray for such consolation.
How did Joseph exemplify his love? He offered chaste love in his marriage to Mary, a precondition of love because it keeps eros selfless rather than selfish, loving rather than lustful. He devoted everything to his family.
Joseph was a man of work and protective over Jesus and Mary. He was more than a wood carpenter, a type of tradesman and likely a builder with stone too. He worked hard, giving honor to good honest labor. Good fathers provide for their families and take pride in their ethical work. Good fathers take action to protect them from all danger, including negative cultural intrusions, temptations, and ungodly things of the world.
The name Joseph means to “increase”, we can increase in these character virtues. I challenge the men of our Diocese to prayerfully consider becoming a mentor, a foster or adoptive father. If you discern that is not your calling, maybe you can work with DCCH and the Pro-Life Office to support other men and families who are called to this pro-life role. Could you be the ambassador in your parish representing the St. Joseph Ministry? Could you commit to pray daily for all foster/adoptive families and help spread the word of the need?
But for sure, all can strive to become the best man or woman St. Joseph models for us!