The 7 Pillars of Fatherhood | Part 1
The Fathers of St. Joseph have been meeting for a little over a year. God our Father has certainly blessed this apostolate with a generous outpouring of His Holy Spirit. Being that we’ve grown, and it has been some time since our inception, it appears to be appropriate to re-visit the FOSJ spirituality. There is a difference between a spirituality and teachings. Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh has given us a multitude of valuable teachings that all support His spirituality: self-giving love that leads to authentic communion with His Father. Jesus lived what He taught and taught what He lived. In other words, our Lord’s spirituality of self-giving love was constantly reflected in His teaching. The test of any spirituality—of any apostolate—is whether it has the quality of self-giving love—charity. With that said, the FOSJ has been sharing the teachings of fatherhood, all of which support a spirituality. Today, we will be focusing on the 7 pillars that constitute our spirituality—our apostolate as fathers. Before we begin, it is important to state that we have learned much “about” St. Joseph and his vocation as husband and father. But there is more than just learning “about” this man. If we are to become great fathers, it is crucial that we cultivate an intimate relationship with this humble, great man. This is the center of our spirituality: to have St. Joseph as our mentor, guide, friend, teacher and intercessor.
Pillar I: Embrace Your Identity – Fatherhood a Path to Glory
It is all too common that men around the world have caught the idea that fatherhood is a second rate vocation. While it is true that holy orders is “better” than marriage in that it has ontological priority over being a husband and father, it is not better if you are not divinely ordained to be a priest. Whatever path God has determined for us is the “better” path to sanctification, holiness, and glory. We have been called to be husbands and fathers, and therefore, according to God, this path is the better path for us in our pursuit to glorify God. This vocational path is our very identity. Recall that Joseph, after being betrothed to the Virgin Mary and discovering her pregnant without his cooperation, initially fled from his vocation—his call to glory. Yet, God the Father relentlessly pursued Joseph, calling him to father His Son. This is God’s definitive statement about fatherhood: It is vital, necessary and a divinely ordained path to holiness. St. Joseph’s life testifies to this fact. Joseph embraced his identity as husband and father, heedless of the obstacles, crosses and sacrifices demanded. God is pursuing you, calling you to fully embrace your identity—you are a father in the image of God the Father.
Pillar II: Reception of Woman – Becoming Guardian of the Garden
The Word’s first step—within history—to save man, was the incarnation. Jesus completely entrusted his mission to Mary. The very flesh and blood that hung on the cross and redeemed the world was donated by Mary. Jesus commanded John the disciple, who represents each of us, to entrust himself to Mary: “Behold your Mother.” Jesus’ first step, John’s first step, to fulfilling God’s will, was Joseph first step: to entrust himself to Mary. The beginning of Joseph’s incredible vocation as husband of the Mother of God, and father of the Son of God, was inaugurated by his reception of Mary into his home. Joseph did this in imitation of God the Father, Who entrusted His greatest gift—His prize treasure—His beloved Son to Mary. If the Father, the Word, John the apostle and Joseph did this, we too, will do well to follow their example.
We fathers should entrust our bodies, souls, our entire mission, our entire person to Our Lady, and
she will obtain from Christ—as at the Wedding at Cana—new wine for our vocation, new grace to
become men of honor who defend the dignity and character of woman, precisely by not “exposing her to shame.” Joseph refused to expose Mary to the shame of men and their lusts, particularly his own. Because of his great humility, God gave him the grace to become the Guardian of Mary, the Guardian of her interior person—of her garden. The success of our fatherhood is dependent upon our success as husbands. By going to Mary, and entrusting ourselves to her, we will obtain the grace to become pure, chaste Guardians of woman’s Garden.
Pillar III: Spiritual Adoption – Becoming an Icon of God the Father
Fatherhood is not merely or essentially biological. God calls Himself our Father, and although God created our biology, He has spiritually adopted each of us as His sons. Yes, it is true that our adoption occurred by Jesus becoming flesh, and yet we become sons of God by the power of the Spirit. Spiritual fatherhood has priority over biological fatherhood. St. Joseph is an icon of God the Father because he spiritually adopted Jesus—a child who was not his biological son. From St. Joseph we learn that to be a father means that we become a logo of the Logos, an iconic father of God the Father. In God’s image, we are called to spiritually adopt our children by doing what Joseph did: we protect, feed and teach our children. We are called, like Joseph, to protect our children from the Herod’s of our day. We are called to feed our children with temporal food, but also with the Bread of Life. We are called to teach our children how to become vessels of God’s self-giving love. Joseph was savior of the Savior, teacher of the Teacher, one who fed bread to the Bread of Life; and it is this Bread that we consume at every Holy Mass. Joseph raised Jesus to be the Savior— a sacrifice of love. We fathers are called also to raise other Christs for the glory of God.