Today, May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, we consider one of the holy men of Christian history who is a great example of manhood, masculinity, fatherhood and the dignity of human labor. Joseph was the foster-father of Jesus. His paradoxical situation calls attention to the truth about fatherhood.
First, because he stood as father to a boy who was his son only in the legal sense, he was keenly aware, as every father should be, that he served as the representative of God the Father. Second, St. Joseph understood that he, a mere man conceived and born in sin, had been entrusted with the headship of that family of Nazareth. He neither neglected this authority, nor used it for selfish gain. Rather, he exercised his headship in perfect humility, in the service of his family. Third, Joseph protected and provided for Jesus and Mary. He named Jesus, taught him how to pray, how to work, how to be a man.
This "foster-father" reveals that fatherhood is more than a mere fact of biological generation. A man is a father most when he invests himself in the spiritual and moral formation of his children.
Real fathers are those who communicate paternal strength and compassion. They are men of reason in the midst of conflicting passions; men of conviction who always remain open to genuine dialogue about differences; men who ask nothing of others that they wouldn’t risk or suffer themselves.
Saint Joseph clearly demonstrates how a father should sacrifice for the child and family he loves. He revealed, in his humanity, the unique role of fathers to proclaim God's truth by word and deed. Above all, Joseph gave witness to the truth that God is love, that God is faithful to His love.
It is easy to take Joseph's actions for granted. He is often overshadowed by the glory of Christ and the purity of Mary. But he, too, waited for God to speak to him and then responded with obedience.
We are told that Saint Joseph was a carpenter, (more likely a builder), a man who worked to provide for his family. Joseph labored in service to his family, to society and to the mystery of God's plan that was taking shape in his family.
Joseph used the ordinary events of daily life to become holy. His life reminds us that hard work is noble. He never performed a miracle while on earth, never wrote a book and never even left one quotation.
As husband of Mary, Mother of the Savior, he models for us how to honor and reverence all women, particularly those who are near to us.
In an age that has no use or place for chaste and pure relations, Joseph of Nazareth is a model of chastity, fidelity, hard work, simplicity, integrity and uprightness. He reminds us that a home is not built on possessions but goodness; not on riches, but on faith and mutual love.