JESUS’ FOSTER FATHER AS
A TIMELESS ROLE MODEL
This occasion brought to our in-box the requisite photo of grandparents, Chris and Joe, framing their daughter reclining in hospital bed with little Emily Anne in her arms.
Jessie bore the classic new-mother expression that blends joy with exhaustion (it was a long labor). Chris’ and Joe’s faces were all pride.
I was particularly struck by the image of Joe, who is considerably older than Chris and struggling with severe health complications. The family prayer during those months of Jessie’s pregnancy had been that Joe might live to see his grandchild.
Praise God, he made it.
Joe’s birthday is March 19, which on the liturgical calendar is the feast day of St. Joseph, for whom he was named. His patron saint also receives recognition on May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, which was established in 1955 by Pope Pius XII to provide a Christian alternative to the May Day labor celebrations promoted worldwide by the Soviet Union and the Communist Internationale.
That Joe’s attainment of grandfather status brings St. Joseph to my mind is no surprise. I’ve felt a special affinity for the foster father of Jesus since I began researching my novel, MY BROTHER’S KEEPER, in which St. Joseph plays a key role.
This past Father’s Day, Nancy Hastings of the Gatehouse Media Group did a feature article highlighting the unique challenges faced by St. Joseph, as presented in my book. We Christians believe that Joseph was tasked with raising the Son of God.
You can imagine the complications involved in that. So it’s only right that he has long been honored as a model of the fatherly virtues.
Those virtues are under stress these days. Much of the crime, violence, extremism and sexual perversion we see around us can be attributed to the collapse of fatherhood that’s evident throughout a large portion of our society (and that of other nations as well).
Appealing to St. Joseph as an intercessor in this difficult period would be most appropriate. And if you don’t accept the Catholic notion of saints interceding on our behalf, then try invoking the name of Joseph in your prayers directly to God. Either way, I believe Joseph is a powerful helper standing by — and an example for all men with children to raise, young lives to mold.
Here is Nancy’s article…
Virtues Honored on Father’s Day
June 21, 2016
Father’s Day may have no particular church connection, but Christians have always pointed to St. Joseph as a model of the fatherly virtues this holiday celebrates.
Writer Bill Kassel said a traditional Catholic prayer recognizes how Joseph protected Jesus and his mother, noting that he embodied strength, prudence, faithfulness, and other qualities. It even calls him the “light of patriarchs.”
My own father was a Presbyterian minister and even collided on occasion with some Roman Catholic priests during his missionary travels in Brazil. But some of Kassel’s ideals presented in his novel, “My Brother’s Keeper,” provide some food for thought around Father’s Day.
Christians believe Joseph faced a unique paternal challenge: raising the Son of God. It’s interesting to speculate on how a man given that responsibility would approach his task. And that’s what Kassel explores in his new novel.
The book is based on an ancient church tradition that Joseph was an older man, widowed with children, at the time he took Mary as his wife. In Kassel’s tale, Joseph is convinced that Mary’s boy has a special destiny, which he fears will place Jesus in danger. On his deathbed, Joseph pleads with his own son, James (whom the Bible calls “the brother of the Lord”), to protect Jesus.
“You know the suffering that has always been the fate of prophets,” Joseph tells James. “I cannot say where Jesus’ path may lead. But someone sent to do the Lord’s work faces terrible risks. Even the risk of death. I hate to think of such an end for him, especially while his mother lives.”
The picture that “My Brother’s Keeper” presents of Jesus’ family is unconventional, but not without precedent. The author explained that he drew not only on scripture, but on Christian writings that date from the early years of the church.
“These are the so-called ‘non-canonical gospels,’” Kassel said. “They didn’t make it into the Bible, but they record beliefs and traditions maintained by groups of people who were followers of Jesus. Such writings don’t have the same validity as the actual Gospels, but they include some interesting details that suggest a different way of looking at Jesus’ relatives.”
“My Brother’s Keeper” paints a picture of Joseph that varies from the common idea that he was a poor carpenter. It puts particular emphasis on Joseph’s descent from King David as well as on Mary’s connection to the priestly class through her kinship with Elizabeth, wife of the temple priest, Zacharias.
“Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, wasn’t some isolated hamlet,” Kassel said. “It was more like what we’d think of as a suburb, located a couple of miles from a city called Sepphoris, which was a bustling commercial hub and Roman administrative center.”
In the book, Kassel describes Joseph as a builder. He sees him as a man of authority, respected in his community.
And that interpretation makes sense when you consider the depth of Jesus’ knowledge about scripture. Jesus would have had a good synagogue school education. And, it would have been Joseph’s obligation to pay for that — which is another of the fatherly duties he performed.
Kassel hopes that “My Brother’s Keeper” will help readers gain a fuller appreciation of Jesus’ foster father and the role Joseph played in the foundation of Christianity.
When Kassel dropped off a copy of his book at the newspaper, I sighed for having something else to read. But the novel makes one think, unlike some novels nowadays. And, it’s a way of introducing the Gospel to non-Christians — which is what we’re supposed to be doing, after all.
The eBook edition of “My Brother’s Keeper” is available in all digital reader formats for $5.99 from Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other online eBook retailers.
(NOTE: The image at the top is “St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus” by Italian Baroque painter Guido Reni.)
The collapse of fatherhood is an international phenomenon. It was a focus of the third annual Male Psychology Conference which took place at University College London in June. One of the speakers, British men’s rights activist Warren Farrell, recently addressed the problem in an interview with The Telegraph…
“Farrell believes modern society is being tangibly eroded by dad deprivation — through increased relationship breakdown, family courts that favour mothers, and fathers denied access to their children after a separation….
“‘Dad-deprived boys are less likely to display empathy, be less assertive, depressed, have nightmares, talk back and be disobedient,’ says Farrell, 72.
“‘These boys will also be more likely to have low self esteem, fewer friends, and are likely to do worse in every single academic area…”
Vital as fatherhood is, dads receive little support from the popular culture. Writing in the New York Post, author and journalist Naomi Schaeffer reflects on the dads in popular TV shows. She cites in particular a typical Disney-produced TV comedy in which the father character comes off…
“looking like an idiot, and his wife — even though she acknowledges that she doesn’t like to do the family budgeting — looks like superwoman. She’s an Ivy League-educated surgeon running a house with four kids. All she wanted was her husband to be putting aside money for college, and he couldn’t even manage that.”
Such distortions reflect the hyper-feminist perspective that infuses TV, and Riley notes…
“Maybe the problem isn’t simply that men are portrayed as bumbling. Women in popular culture — and also in journalism — are portrayed as the people who can do it all. They’re showing how it’s possible to juggle careers and children, all without missing a beat. Can you imagine a popular comedy in which a woman really is falling down on the job?”
Not on your Gloria Steinem-afflicted life!…