Pope Francis reflected on the meaning of fatherhood during his weekly General Audience held on the Feast of St. Joseph—the Foster Father of the Lord. The Pope asked all the ‘daddies’ in the crowd estimated at 60,000 to raise their hands and then he shared his special wish for fathers and their children: “Be for them like Saint Joseph: guardians of their growth in age, wisdom and grace.”
In enumerating those three aspects of fatherhood, the Pontiff was reflecting the formula of the Evangelist who tells us that, under St. Joseph’s protection, “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). The Pope invoked a special blessing on the fathers present, and took a moment to remember the fathers who have left this earth. He invited the crowd, to rapturous applause, to pray an “Our Father” to honor fathers, living and dead.
The Holy Father sought to underline St. Joseph’s example as an educator, because of his role in the upbringing of the Lord. “We look at Joseph as the model of educators, who takes care of and supports Jesus in the course of his growth in wisdom, age and grace, as the Gospel says,” said the Pope.
In addition to offering a practical education—teaching a child a trade and teaching that child about the ways of the world—a father must ensure his child hears the Word of God. “We can think of how Joseph educated Little Jesus to listen to the Sacred Scriptures, above all accompanying him on Saturdays to the synagogue of Nazareth,” said the Holy Father.
In this function, St. Joseph is the model par excellence for the mandate that the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium confers on all the laity. “The family is, so to speak, the domestic church,” states that document of the Second Vatican Council. “In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state” (L.G. 11).
The family headed up by St. Joseph is “the prototype and example for all Christian families” (John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos, 7). “It is in the Holy Family, the original ‘Church in miniature’ (Ecclesia domestica), that every Christian family must be reflected.” (Id, emphasis added.)
Additionally, St. Joseph teaches by example. “He stands as an exemplary model of the kindness and humility that the Christian faith raises to a great destiny, and demonstrates the ordinary and simple virtues necessary for men to be good and genuine followers of Christ.” Congregation for Divine Worship decree, Paternas vices, 2013 (inserting St. Joseph’s name into the Eucharistic prayers).
Pope Francis acknowledged that we all can’t be like St. Joseph—because none of our children will be like Jesus.
“And yet, in his taking care of Jesus, educating him to grow in age, wisdom and grace he is a model for every educator, in particular for every father. Saint Joseph is the model of the educator and of the daddy, of the father,” said Francis.
Previously: The Date of Your Baptism