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Posts Tagged ‘Father’s Day’

St JosephI wipe noses for a living.

Let me expand on that: My job includes direct care for people with various disabilities, some of which entail the inability to move one’s extremities (hence the need to wipe people’s noses for them when necessary).  I have jokingly said that I feel ready to be a dad after handling this and similar duties at work.

Which brings me to St. Joseph, the guardian and “acting father” of the Word incarnate.  He is in many ways an archetypal father figure, as well as a model of true manliness.

First of all, let me test your Bible knowledge.  Take a minute and see if you can recall St. Joseph’s most famous words, as quoted in the Bible.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Can’t think of anything?  Not surprising — St. Joseph never says one word in any of the Gospels.

The Scriptural witness to St. Joseph’s silence speaks to us of his fatherly humility before the great Mystery entrusted to his care.  Think about it: He was the only sinner in a home that he shared with the God-Man Jesus Christ and the Immaculate Virgin Mary.  And yet, in the designs of Divine Providence, he was given charge of the Holy Family.  His was the responsibility to provide for the Holy Family’s material needs, to lead them in the observance of the Law, to teach the Child Jesus everything he would need to know as a man of Israel, etc.

Saint_Joseph_with_the_Infant_Jesus_by_Guido_Reni,_c_1635Given the paucity of material regarding this great man in the Scriptures, we cannot say very much about him for sure.  But a very prominent and likely theory is that he was an older man, one who had lived a relatively long time and reached a particular level of righteousness (there was a name for such men in ancient Israel, but it escapes me).  It was for this reason that he could take the young virgin Mary (who was very likely a consecrated virgin…but that is the subject of a whole other post) as his wife.  Unlike most of us, he had been purified by God to such an extent that he could admire a woman’s beauty without feeling any lust, could have charge over a very young woman and her child without wanting to exercise authoritarian dominance over them, etc.

I would say that if the Blesséd Virgin Mary shows forth her Queenship in her role as the Mother of Jesus, St. Joseph shows us true kingship in his role of fatherhood.  Indeed, parenthood is the most sublime, significant, and impacting form of leadership and authority in human life.  All other authority derives from, rests on, and is in a certain sense ordered toward that.

I am reminded of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Return of the King,” in which the coming of Aragorn is foretold in this way:

The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known (V.viii).

And that brings me back to my nose-wiping reference.  I truly hope this is not in any way sacrilegious — if it is, someone please let me know, and it will be promptly removed.  But given that Jesus Christ was like us in all things but sin, I cannot help but wonder if, as a child, He would have needed his nose wiped from time to time.  True, it is more common (and, I would say, more natural) for the mother to be the one handling the blowing of noses, the bandaging of wounds, the kissing of bruises, the assuaging of natural human woes, etc.  But surely, attending to the Child Jesus in this way must not have been foreign to St. Joseph, nor do I think it is foreign to any dad reading this right now.

St_Joseph_Young_Man

Finally, all leadership and authority has its ultimate source and verification in God, Who relates to us as a Father (not because He is male, since God has no gender…but Fatherhood is the most fitting way to describe His relation to us in His transcendence).  So the fatherly form of parenthood and its role in Jesus’ earthly life should not be ignored.  Each and every father should approach his family in the spirit of St. Joseph — that is, in humility before the sublime gifts that God has entrusted to him…the gifts that are nothing less than immortal souls entrusted to his providence, protection, and leadership.

First and foremost, he has to realize this: It is not about him.  True fatherhood consists in the total gift of oneself, loving one’s wife as Christ loves His Church and loving his children as God the Father — Who holds back nothing of Himself, even to the sacrifice of His own Son (John 3:16) — loves His children.  And a father with true humility of this sort will not be afraid to get into the mess of dirty diapers, runny noses, and other such business.

St. Joseph, patron of nose-blowing men, pray for us!

Images from Wikipedia

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There is a practice in traditional Hindu weddings where the groom says to his bride, “I am heaven, you are earth;” and the bride responds, “I am earth, you are heaven.”

As I have said before, femininity has traditionally symbolized immanence, while masculinity has symbolized transcendence.  In marriage, the complementarity of the sexes reaches its peak.

Does this awareness of manhood and womanhood carry over into our experience of fatherhood and motherhood?  If so, what does it mean for fatherhood?

Father_and_sonLet’s take the structure of a house as an analogy.  The mother is like the ground portion; she is the upholder, the secure base, the living cradle of the child’s life.

The father is more like the roof; he is the protector, the shelterer, the trustworthy “custodian” of the family.

Linking the roof and the floor are the walls, which we can imagine to be the arms of the mother and the father joined together, enfolding the child in a protective and nurturing embrace.

As I said in my post on motherhood last month:

All human beings are made in the image of God, Who is love itself.  Therefore, all human beings are free agents who, paradoxically, find their true fulfillment only in the sincere gift of themselves to another.  All human beings are called to that kind of love.

But parents live out that love in a special way.

By the total gift of each to the other, a married man and woman are able to generate new life; together, as parents, they make a sincere gift of themselves to their children to see that they are brought up well, that they are well formed as healthy and unique persons, and that they have good lives.  Mothers and fathers are both called to this singular form of love.

In the past several decades, we have put a lot of focus on womanhood.  And there’s certainly nothing the matter with that in and of itself.  But an unfortunate side effect is that manhood has, in many ways, gotten the short shrift.  Consequently, we really don’t have a whole lot in our culture that informs men of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a father.

The long and short of it is that if a mother gives the child a secure base whereby to explore the world, the father is the loving guardian who inspires the child to step beyond his/her comfort zone to explore the world and him/herself.

Training_wheel

Consider the example of learning to ride a bicycle.  Who is it that is typically there to encourage a child to begin riding without training wheels?  Dad.

What kind of support, then, can a child expect from his/her father?  It goes something like this: “I know this is tough.  I know you’re venturing outside the confines of what you’re used to, what you know, what you’re sure of.  But I know you can do it.  You have more potential than you realize.  And if you try your best and fail, don’t be discouraged.  Whatever happens, I will be there to support you all the way.”

In this sense, our dads reflect the Fatherhood of God.  Our Father in Heaven is constantly calling us to become the best-version-of-ourselves (again, to appropriate Matthew Kelly’s phrase).  He is ever provident, seeing to our bodily and spiritual needs.  Yet He gives us free will; he allows us to make mistakes and learn from them.  He invites us to use the gifts He has given us in order to do good in the world and, ultimately, to cooperate in His very work.

Let us celebrate our fathers.  They are among the many gems we wrongly take for granted.

Images from Wikipedia

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Two days away from Father’s Day, here are my picks (as with the “movie moms,” these are listed in no particular order):

1. Chris Gardner (Will Smith), “The Pursuit of Happyness”

Pursuit of HappinessYet another film based on a true story, “The Pursuit of Happyness” tells the story of super-dad Chris Gardner.  A single and homeless father, he overcomes seemingly insurmountable obstacles to give his young son a better life.  If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and do so (or read the book on which it is based).

2. Guido (Roberto Benigni), “Life is Beautiful”

benigniIn his Oscar-winning 1997 film, Benigni tells the story of an Italian Jewish man imprisoned with his son in a Nazi concentration camp.  In spite of the horror of it all, he finds a way to make the experience fun for his little boy, keeping him from the dangers of despair.

3. Jim Halpert (John Krasinski), “The Office”

HalpertJim Halpert is the reason I decided to combine movies and TV for this one.  While Jim’s marriage had some rough bumps over the final season of the hit NBC show, in the end he proved to be a great husband and father by his active willingness to turn away from a promising career in sports marketing in order to focus on his family life.  Giving up one’s passion for a career one is less than thrilled with (in Jim’s case, being a paper salesman) is no easy thing, but it is a mark of a great father that he has his priorities straight.

4. Augusto Odone (Nick Nolte), “Lorenzo’s Oil”

Lorenzos_oilI included Augusto’s wife, Michaela, in my “Movie Moms” post.  This movie is based on the true story of Lorenzo Odone, a seven-year-old boy diagnosed with an incurable, terminal disease that is little-known to medical science.  Both of his parents are medically illiterate, and yet they push themselves to the brink and beyond researching their son’s condition, eventually coming up with a promising treatment (if not a cure).  Therefore, it would be unfair to leave Augusto out.

And finally, a selection you might not have expected…

Splinter

5. Splinter (Kevin Clash), “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (1990)

teenagemutantninjaturtles_groupYes, the radioactively mutated rat who hails from Japan and claims as his home the sewers of New York City makes my list.  As the adoptive father and lifelong mentor of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Splinter has given his entire life to them and taught them everything he knows.  What is more, his love for the half-shelled quartet remains perfectly intact in spite of their many quirks.  I’m sure any parent can easily relate to that.

There you have it.  If anyone has any other great “movie dads” in mind, please feel free to share!

“Lorenzo’s Oil” poster from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search

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