Learning to play good defense, or lessons St. Joseph taught me
Saint Joseph is one of the few saints to have more than one feast day.
He also happens to be my patron saint, so when my wife and I were getting married, she asked which feast day I celebrated. Before I had the chance to answer, she mused out loud, “Definitely not St. Joseph the Worker.” She was right, though I’ve teased her ever since about this apparent commentary on my work habits!
The church has traditionally honored St. Joseph during the month of March, so it seems appropriate this month to draw some insights from this great saint.
At the outset of Luke’s Gospel, we read that part of John the Baptist’s role in preparing the people for the imminent coming of the Messiah was to turn the hearts of fathers to their children. In St. Joseph, we find a father whose heart is already exquisitely calibrated.
God was able to accomplish great things through this eminently faithful man of service. Priests, deacons and laymen do well to pattern their lives after the beloved “Guardian of the Redeemer.”
While St. Joseph wasn’t a priest in the usual sense, this “just man” has much to say in response to today’s crisis of fatherhood — both the spiritual fatherhood of priests and the fatherhood exercised in the home.
Saint Joseph was entrusted with the care of the Holy Family, the sanctuary of love where Jesus spent his hidden years. This family was, in embryonic form, the body of Christ, containing both Christ and the mother of those who would come to believe in him and keep his commandments (see Rv 12:17). For this reason, St. Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, is called the patron of the universal church.
Some men think St. Joseph got it all wrong. This is the age of Viagra, no-fault divorce and the “sexual revolution.” The goal seemingly is sex without responsibility, whereas St. Joseph accepts the serious responsibility of marriage and family while foregoing the pleasure of marital intimacy.
Yet, St. Joseph got it exactly right. He tells modern man that it is possible and necessary — in fact, noble and manly — to live in accordance with the church’s teachings on sexual morality.
A significant element of fatherhood is playing good defense — in other words, protecting the precious treasures that have been entrusted to us. Wolves in many forms pose serious threats to families and parishes. Our response as men of faith must not be fear or anxiety in the face of such threats, but rather the vigilance and courage of St. Joseph.
During this month devoted to the “Guardian of the Redeemer,” may all of us fathers draw renewed strength from this holy hero. St. Joseph, patron of the universal church, pray for us!