March 12, 2015

St. Joseph, "Shadow Saint": His Example is the Answer to the Fatherhood Crisis in Society

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Every March 19, The Catholic Church honors and celebrates a man who, next to the Blessed Virgin Mary, is the greatest of all saints. His name is  Joseph. He was Mary's husband and the foster father of  Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  Included among his honors he is venerated as the patron of fathers, workers, and unborn children.

I call Joseph the "Shadow Saint" because so little is known about him. There is not one spoken word he ever said that was recorded. What is known and what the facts bear out are: Being a Jewish man of great faith he trusted God and took Mary as his wife even though she was pregnant at the time;  He cared for and protected his wife and "foster" Son from the moment God asked him to; and He loved them unconditionally and without reservation. Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth, was a real MAN.

We need St. Joseph more so today than ever before. Marriage and fatherhood are in crisis. In fact, America is becoming a nation of absentee fathers. The influence of fathers in families has been in steady decline for decades.  A 'fatherless America' helps breed a poverty rate for the fatherless at 4X the national average. In addition, it spawns increased drug abuse, physical and emotional health issues, lack in educational achievement, and a sharp increase in crime. Finally, it promulgates an irresponsible teen pregnancy rate that sees newborn children being  born into hopeless situations. Much of this hopelessness is attributed to the absence of fathers.

Let's face it, in our secular and contemporary society men are portrayed in a negative way. The press and media marginalize, demonize and portray men  as oversexed objects who can only think of having sex and drinking beer. Comedy shows (sit-coms) direct children to perceive them as idiots and "snicker" along with their moms  about dad's behavior. Compare the character Jim Anderson in the 60's sitcom, "Father Knows Best" to Homer Simpson in the animated, 20 year long hit, "The Simpsons". Anderson is a hard working, God fearing man who loves and respects his family and takes care of them. His wife and kids respect him and they all love each other. (How corny, right?) Homer Simpson is basically a buffoon who swills beer and is lazy and irresponsible. His wife and daughter are the voices of reason and keep order in the family. Homer Simpson is the stereotypical TV "dad" of the last 20 years. How illuminating and uplifting for the kids who have grown up watching this.

Our saints are the creme de la creme of our Catholic world. They represent the very best of the best. They are what I call our Catholic Hall of Fame. And St. Joseph stands at the top of the list. No one in history was ever given such a responsibility as he was. The man was charged with taking care of the expectant Mother of God and the Baby who was to grow up to be the Messiah, the Chosen One. Imagine that. A simple carpenter being asked to raise and protect the baby that would grow to be the Man that changed the world forever.

Joseph did whatever he had to do to take care of his wife and son. He worked hard to keep a roof over their heads, to feed them, clothe them, and protect them. He did not care about himself. His family came first, no matter what. He would have gladly died for them if necessary. He was a real MAN. His faith, courage, integrity and love of God  resonate like the smashing of cymbals and the banging of drums for all of us to listen to. WE should LISTEN TO HIM ! We need to follow his example. We need to celebrate his life. We need to honor his commitment to his responsibilities.

St. Joseph, a hard working carpenter was the perfect dad. Two thousand years after his death he is still the finest role model for, not only husbands and fathers, but for all men for all time.

St. Joseph, thank you and please pray for all of us. HAPPY FEAST DAY

                                    Copyright ©2015 Larry Peterson