Thursday, March 20, 2014

St. Joseph's Day: Reflections on Being a Father

Detail of St. Joseph on our mantle at home.

Yesterday was the beautiful Solemnity of St. Joseph, who has helped me in ways beyond counting all through my life. Every day I pray to St. Joseph and entrust especially our family to him. He has never failed me, and he continues to teach me and sustain me. He takes such strong and gentle care of us, always bringing us where we need to be.

Every day, I thank him.

Yesterday was a day for pondering and praying about fatherhood. I found myself feeling a little sentimental. There was a Nationals' spring training game on TV (regular season starts March 31 -- GO NATS!). We're beginning our tenth season with the Nationals. I remember the year 2005, when John Paul was eight years old and we used to listen to the games on the radio. He hadn't yet become a baseball wizard, and sometimes I would doze off during the broadcast and then be awakened by this little boy shaking me and shouting, "Daddy, what happened?" The sound of loud cheering was coming through the radio. So I had to pay attention and figure out what happened.

And then I remembered myself, about four or five years old, listening to Beethoven's seventh symphony or Dvorak's cello concerto with my father. We were both "conducting" in their air with our hands. Thanks, Dad.

And I prayed to St. Joseph, and asked him to pray for me to the Lord, and obtain for me the grace to become the human person that I have been created and called to be. To be the man, the husband, the father that God wills me to be. To be the friend, mentor, and spiritual father that he asks me to be to those he entrusts to me (indeed, as I get older I see more and more how "spiritual fatherhood" encompasses so many of my relationships with people). To be the spiritual brother that God wills me to be, in some manner, to every person I meet, but especially to those I encounter on my daily path of life. To be a servant, to be helpful, to give encouragement and empathy and attention to persons. To be an instrument of God's mercy.

I pray to be the teacher, the writer, the seeker of truth and understanding that he has called me to be, with humility and also with courage and confidence. Whatever my circumstances, I do have work, and God is leading me into the places where he wants me to do this work.

I pray for these graces, and I ask St. Joseph to pray for me, because I need them. My vocation is infinitely beyond anything that I can accomplish by my own power. This is true of everyone. As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we are entrusted with new life in the Risen Jesus, to give and receive and share in his Spirit, as members of his body, the Church, with hearts that seek out every person and all the world.

We are entrusted with Jesus; we are called to give over our energies and aspirations so as to build "places" where Incarnate Love dwells in the world.

No one understands better what this means than St. Joseph. And he can help us so much. He is always ready to help.

St. Joseph, thank you.

Lord God, my Father, thank you for everything.