The newly declared Year of St. Joseph is a great blessing for the Church, writes…
How I see St. Joseph in my father
With it being the Year of St. Joseph, I’ve been reflecting on what it means for me as an unmarried young adult woman in the Church today. How has this saint’s fatherhood touched my life?
As I wrote last year, St. Joseph has been a constant intercessor in my life since my sophomore year of college. But it wasn’t until this winter that I realized just how present he has become. Slowly and silently, Joseph has taken the No. 1 place in my heart — after Jesus and Mary, of course. And this is represented through the sacred art that decorates my apartment. On my prayer altar, Joseph has two statues and an image of him holding Christ. Elsewhere in my room is an image of the betrothal of Mary and Joseph, below which is hung a plaque of the Sacred Heart, Immaculate Heart and — cue St. Joseph — Most Chaste Heart. Add up all the prayer cards I’ve accumulated in the last few months, and St. Joseph is clearly making his presence known.
St. Joseph might have only shown up on the scene of my life in recent years, but my own father has always been the more silent type, taking after St. Joseph in his own way. Most days as I was getting ready for school, I would pass my dad sitting on the couch with a rosary or Bible in hand. But I don’t share this to depict an overly pious presentation of my father. No, he would be the first one to tell you that prayer is hard for him. But he does it anyway. And he would be the first to tell you that he has struggled with doubts and anxiety and wanted to run, but he stayed firm in the Faith even when it became hard. And while I never saw the struggle when I was younger, I know it was hard on him to balance his work as a high school theology teacher with supporting a growing family.
This is how I see Joseph in my dad. Even without knowing the intricacies of this saint’s heart and the grace that God gave him, I think Joseph would have been the first to admit that life was often hard, but he chose to give his fiat — his yes to God — over and over again. He would have done this through caring for Mary and Jesus before himself and by being a witness of prayer and devotion, even to the two people holier than himself. Even more, we have firm proof of Joseph’s trust in God due to his response to the angel who revealed to him that the Lord had chosen him as the guardian of the virgin and her son — not because he was perfect and worthy, but because God had prepared him to say yes and to recognize that the vocation he was given was one worth struggling for. And he would have toiled day after day at his job, enduring the physical effects of being a stonemason for the glory of God and the good of his family.
It’s been almost seven years since I was last living at home year-round, so much time has gone by where I haven’t been able to see the everyday witness of my dad that I took for granted as a child. But even in these most recent years, my dad has given me a great gift: the ability to see from a distance how he continues to grow in his faith. He’s a better father than ever before — and he was always a great dad, if I do say so myself. Instead of looking at him as the father who in my youth built a pirate ship in place of a simple treehouse and made an ice rink in our backyard over many winters, or as the father who raised me and my siblings on dry humor and a passion for “The Lord of the Rings,” I now also see him primarily as a father who is always striving to learn what a relationship with Christ looks like and how that plays out in our family and our society today. It’s not perfect, but seeing what humble growth looks like is a gift that keeps inspiring me.
So Dad, as you turn another year older (don’t worry, I won’t say how old), I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for quietly but consistently learning what it means to be St. Joseph for our family. Thank you for letting me, as your daughter, know what a good father and man looks like — sacrificing, loving, humble, honest and hardworking. I know I have your prayers every day. Happy birthday, Dad. Love, the daughter who made you a dad.
Ava Lalor is assistant editor for Our Sunday Visitor and editor for Radiant magazine.