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My earliest “encounter” with St. Joseph was as a pre-teen. My parents had given me an eight-inch statue of St. Joseph standing with his arm around the boy Jesus. In my child mind, that statue made St. Joseph and his fatherly care and love for Jesus real as I lay down in bed for the night — the last image in my mind before falling asleep.

As I left adolescence and entered my young adult years, my awareness of St. Joseph was left behind on my nightstand. However, this changed once I entered the vocation of marriage and fatherhood. During one particularly stressful period of young family life, I recalled the statue of St. Joseph on my nightstand, the comfort and assurance it gave me as a child. I believe this memory was inspired by the Holy Spirit to turn me toward St. Joseph again, now as an adult in my chosen vocation of fatherhood.

St. Joseph has since become my go-to intercessor and role model for marriage and family life. The more I reflected on the life of St. Joseph and his role as adoptive father to Jesus and head of the Holy Family, I discovered a relatable dimension of inspiration, guidance and strength for my own role and responsibilities of fatherhood.

In the fullness of my growing family life and the accompanying stressors and demands, it did not take much imagination to connect the dots of the silent Gospel narratives of St. Joseph. I was able to appreciate the real challenges, threats and insecurities he faced in protecting and providing for the Holy Family. I discovered in St. Joseph a fellow father and spiritual mentor who I could turn to for intercession in my parallel challenges, drawing on the inspiration and strength of his virtuous fatherhood.

St. Joseph trusted God who spoke to him in a dream about his betrothal to Mary and her miraculous pregnancy. He trusted the divine guidance that he must leave behind all he knows, journeying to a foreign land with his pregnant wife to avoid a mortal threat. Later, he would return and earn a living to support his family. He would experience the self-blaming and “what if” fears of losing his young son on an extended road trip. And he would raise his adoptive son Jesus, the subject of both amazing and mysterious prophesies.

There is much to reflect upon as we consider the humanity of St. Joseph, the real human challenges he faced, and his example of faith and trust in God for the welfare of his family. He experienced immense stressors, unexpected changes, a new marriage, job insecurity and many more relatable challenges in his vocation of marriage and fatherhood.

St. Joseph’s various titles offer me virtues and examples of fatherhood that strengthen and transform my own vocation of fatherhood. Below the apparent tranquility of the silent St. Joseph I have discovered for my own spiritual fatherhood the fierce “Terror of Demons,” the spiritual-warrior example of St. Joseph. As the “Model of Workman,” St. Joseph shows me the dignity and purpose of the work God gives me, earning an honest day’s wages in support of my family, even when the rewards and recognition are lacking. As the “Mirror of Patience,” St. Joseph encourages me to trust God with my family needs and situations where a solution or path is not apparent. To be undaunted and stay the course despite difficulties and discouragement in being faithful to my vocational duties, St. Joseph as the “Most Courageous” gives me strength and encouragement by his example.

I encourage any man in his vocation of fatherhood, whether biological, adoptive or pastoral, to participate in the St. Joseph Novena, beginning this Father’s Day, June 20, 2021. Whether St. Joseph has been a past, current or unacquainted spiritual guardian, the daily meditations and prayers on the fatherhood and virtues of St. Joseph will help renew men in their identity and mission as fathers.

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