One of my favorite parts of the baptismal rite, outside of the actual baptism, is the blessing of the parents. The blessing of the father includes, “…bless the father of this child, so that, together with his wife, they may, by word and example, prove to be the first witnesses of the faith to their child. …” Receiving that blessing, with my head bowed, is always very moving, very necessary, and quite frankly appreciated!  I need all the prayers and graces I can get, especially so that my own example and words may give authentic witness to the faith.

As the father of seven children now ranging in age from three to 15 years, life is joyful, but challenging.  And yet, these have been the most fulfilling and beautiful years of my life.

However, parenting doesn’t come with a roadmap or instruction manual.  That’s why I ask the Lord for the grace to be as gentle and loving as St. Joseph was.

During this year, we have added another petition to our family prayers at dinnertime.  After saying grace, I invoke one of the titles from the Litany to St. Joseph, asking that he “pray for us.”   It has been a small and beautiful way for us as a family to mark the Year of St. Joseph.  The title that I find myself most frequently invoking, as my children can attest, is “St. Joseph, mirror of patience, pray for us!”

Fatherhood has a way of making us face our weaknesses and failings.  We are confronted with them daily, especially and too often in our interactions with those closest to us, our wife and children.  I know I am.

And yet, as St. Paul reminds us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).  With our Lord’s help, we can be like St. Joseph as loving, self-sacrificing, and yes, even as patient, as we are called to be.

One image of St. Joseph from the film, “Jesus of Nazareth” clearly shows his patience and kind disposition even in the face of adversity: A customer comes up to Joseph to pick up a wood tool that Joseph made.  The man is clearly agitated and not satisfied, and yet St. Joseph remains calm, patient and never raises his voice or shows any agitation throughout the conversation.

While this may not be the usual reaction of a person to a difficult situation, it is for St. Joseph, as a fruit of his life rooted in grace and prayer.

And indeed, that’s a model worth striving for.

In evangelization, patience is often the key to helping a person come to know our Lord.    Consider how patient the Lord is with His disciples and those who come to Him seeking truth.  In the example our Lord gave of the Prodigal Son, the father exemplifies patience as he waits and watches for his lost son to return home (along, no doubt, with many prayers).

An old hymn, “O Blessed Saint Joseph” includes the prayerful verse, “The father of Jesus! I wish you would be … a father to me” (Paderborn, 1765).  I pray that we in turn may be so loving and patient with those to whom we are father and that our example and witness may draw many others to that same life of faith.

—Deacon Phil Lawson is the executive director of pastoral ministries for the Diocese of Burlington. He can be reached at plawson@vermontcatholic.org.

—Originally published in the June 19-25, 2021, issue of The Inland See

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