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The Childhood of Christ, Gerrit van Honthorst, c. 1620

Father’s Day is celebrated in the United States on the third Sunday of June. It is a day to celebrate fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society, especially in the foundation of society, the family. Unfortunately, there is a father absence crisis in America. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 19.7 million children, more than one in four, live without a father in the home. The consequences of this are devastating and a major factor in nearly all social ills in America today.[1]

Here are some facts on the astounding impact fathers have on their children:

  • Involved dads improve their children’s overall emotional and social well-being
  • Children with involved dads are less likely to be mistreated
  • Children who live with their dads do better in school
  • Adolescent/teen boys who live with their dads are less likely to carry guns and deal drugs
  • Involved dads reduce moms’ parenting stress
  • Children with imprisoned fathers are more likely to have depression
  • Children living without their father in home are 47% more likely to live in poverty
  • Men with absent fathers are more likely to become absent fathers themselves
  • Women with absent fathers are more likely to have children with absent fathers
  • Boys have fewer behavior problems and girls have fewer psychological problems when they have involved dads
  • Infant death within the first 28 days of life is four times higher for those with absent fathers than those with involved fathers
  • 92% of parents in prisons are fathers

We are failing as a nation in promoting father involvement with their children. We are also failing in teaching fathers how to be good role models for their children. Thankfully, the Church holds up to us St. Joseph as the model and exemplar of fatherhood. Let’s look a little closer at St. Joseph and what we can learn from him as the foster father of Jesus.

There are no words of Joseph recorded in sacred Scripture. It does reveal to us the character of Joseph however. Father Frederick L. Miller in his book St. Joseph: Our Father in Faith describes his character and its importance to all believers in Christ.

Saint Joseph is a model of wholehearted love of Jesus Christ and his virgin Mother, an example of perfect fidelity to the will of God. He is a teacher of holiness in marriage, chastity for the sake of the kingdom of God, the sanctity of human work and contemplative prayer. By his example, Saint Joseph teaches Christians how to love and serve Jesus Christ and live and die in his presence. He is a model for all the faithful: the laity, married and single, consecrated religious, and clergy.[2]

God beautifully provides for us in Scripture two stories of the mystery of the Incarnation. One is presented to us in the Gospel of Luke (1:26-38) through the eyes of Mary and the second in the Gospel of Matthew (1:18-25) through the eyes of Joseph. St. John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer) says that these two Gospels should be read together. Mary and Joseph had an identical response of faith in God to the message of the angel. Both were strengthened in their mission of bringing the Redeemer into the world by the words of the angel, “Do not be afraid.” Both respond in obedience to what they have heard. They both contemplate on the mysteries revealed to them and the role they are to play in God’s plan for humanity.

Have you contemplated on God’s plan for you as a husband and father? What is God asking of you? Like St. Joseph, you are to be the guardian of your family and with your wife, you are to be the first teachers of the faith to your children. Children learn by seeing and doing what they see their parents doing. Are you a good role model of an active faith life for your children?

“The accounts of the Annunciation to Mary in the Gospel of Luke, and to Joseph in Matthew’s,” says Fr. Miller, “reveal that God accomplished his greatest work through the cooperation of two human beings through obedience of faith.”[3] Your faith is of the utmost importance in determining the future faith life of your children (see our blog post from Father’s Day 2019). The study quoted in this post found that it is “the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.” [4]

Be a man of obedient faith in God like St. Joseph. He is a powerful intercessor for your family. Seek his guidance for your mission as husband and father.

May God bless you richly this Father’s Day and always.

Prayer to St. Joseph for Fathers
St. John XXIII

St. Joseph, guardian of Jesus and chaste husband of Mary, you passed your life in loving fulfillment of duty. You supported the holy family of Nazareth with the work of your hands.

Kindly protect all the fathers who trustingly come to you.

You know their aspirations, their hardships, their hopes. They look to you because they know you will understand and protect them. You too knew trial, labor and weariness.

But amid the worries of material life your soul was full of deep peace and sang out in true joy through intimacy with God’s Son entrusted to you and with Mary, his tender Mother.

Assure those you protect that they do not labor alone. Teach them to find Jesus near them and to watch over him faithfully as you have done.

[1] National Fatherhood Initiative, quoting 2017. U.S. Census Bureau data, children living without a biological, step, or adoptive father; internet: https://www.fatherhood.org/father-absence-statistic#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20U.S.%20Census,U.S.%20Census%20Bureau. (accessed June 18, 2020).

[2] Frederick L. Miller, St. Joseph: Our Father in Faith (New Haven: Knights of Columbus Supreme Council, 2008), 5.

[3] Ibid., 13.

[4] Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner, The Demographic Characteristics of the Linguistic and Religious Groups in Switzerland, by of the Federal Statistical Office, Neuchatel; study appears in Volume 2 of Population Studies No. 31, a book titled The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in Certain European States, edited by Werner Haug and others,” (Strasbourg: Council of Europe Directorate General III, Social Cohesion, January 2000).