In a pastoral letter Bishop Philip Egan issued to “Christian Dads” to be read in all churches and chapels of the Diocese of Portsmouth, he spoke about the life of St. Joseph, the importance of fatherhood, and encouraged fathers to emulate the virtues that Saint Joseph displayed on a daily basis as the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the foster-father to Jesus Christ.
In the letter issued in conjunction with St. Joseph’s feast day (St. Joseph, Husband of Mary on March 19) he said: “It’s not an exaggeration to say fatherhood is in crisis”.
Now more than ever the world needs a standard for fatherhood and we believe that standard can be found in St. Joseph. The Bishop lamented about the rapid rise in divorce which ends over four in 10 marriages, and to the fact that “over a million children in Britain grow up without fathers present in their lives”.
Bishop Egan said that St Joseph had played “a crucial part” in the Holy Family: he held Jesus as a newborn, played with Him in childhood, and supported Him in adolescence. St. Joseph models a protective instinct that too many men lack today. A man protects his children from harm, physical, moral and spiritual. Joseph shows forth this aspect of manhood. “He gave Jesus an inspiring example of being a man,” the bishop added.
“Above all, the self-sacrificing father-son relationship would have run so deep that in this profoundly good man, Jesus would have recognized a beautiful and resplendent icon of His heavenly Father.”
The bishop said that all men “called become fatherly”, whether or not they have biological children. St. Joseph models this essential aspect of manhood.
Bishop Egan added that society needs to hear “the Good News of Christ about the complementarity of being male and being female, about the vocation to marriage, and about the joy of Christian family life”.
“In this battle, St Joseph, Defender of Life and Patron of Marriage, is a bright light and a brilliant example,” the bishop noted.
The bishop encouraged fathers to try and emulate Saint Joseph’s humility, courage, and obedience in being a great husband and father. He also said families might keep a picture of St Joseph in their home, organize a “St Joseph’s Table” for “the poor or the housebound”, or invoke him – “St Joseph, protect us” – while traveling.