JESUS’ FOSTER FATHER AS
A TIMELESS ROLE MODEL
March 19 has been his feast day since, as they say, “time immemorial.” And in 1955 Pope Pius XII designated May 1 as the special feast of “St. Joseph the Worker,” highlighting Joseph’s worldly vocation as a carpenter or builder (tekton in Greek).
The pope’s intention was to provide a Christian alternative to May Day labor celebrations being promoted worldwide by the Soviet Union and the Communist Internationale. His idea caught on, and that feast is now celebrated by workers throughout the Catholic world.
St. Joseph plays a prominent role in my novel about the family of Jesus, MY BROTHER’S KEEPER. And on the first Father’s Day after the book’s publication Nancy Hastings of the Gatehouse Media Group did a brief feature article highlighting the unique challenges faced by St. Joseph, as I sketched them in my novel.
It’s only right St. Joseph is 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 large portions of our society (and those 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 merely try invoking the name of Joseph in the prayers you address 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.
So to mark the Feast of St. Joseph — and even though it’s not Father’s Day — here’s 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 priest 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.
Information about MY BROTHERS KEEPER can be found by clicking HERE.
Dennis P. McGeehan, author of The Diaries of Joseph and Mary, is another writer who has delved deeply into Holy Family lore. Writing on his blog, Warrior’s World Dad, Dennis explores another aspect of St. Joseph: his determination to do God’s will…
“Joseph lived his life seeking to do the will of God the Father. Like us, the future for him was a mystery. In faith he sought and obeyed the will of God. By doing so he helped transform the world.”