Some of my friends call my son, Patrick, who is 13 years old, "FFP" - short for "Future Father Patrick." I don't know if he will ever receive the call to the priesthood. Actually, it would be great if he did because I think he would make a compassionate and holy priest. I remember the mother of one priest telling me how she "fought" with God the night before her son's ordination, not wanting him to be a priest, and finally said, "Okay, God - you can have him!" I thought that strange then as I do now: I have been having some head-butting lately with my daughter, Katherine, which I suppose is normal with her being 16 years old, but ultimately, as I told her, my expectation for her and her brother are to be happy, ethical, and moral adults. Of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit I ask that they be given the understanding to discern how God is calling them to be that, and if it meant Patrick assuming a Roman collar, then it is His plan.
Besides, if he made it to Pope, that would mean a Taco Bell will open at the Vatican.
I usually drive Patrick to school each morning that gives us the opportunity to have a conversation. Today we discussed the Church's celebration on May 1st of the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
I think this is an important day for young men. As FFP and I discussed, consider this: Jesus is both fully divine and fully human. His humanity comes from the Virgin Mary. Okay, but who was His role model for His masculinity? We know that St. Joseph was alive at least until Jesus was around 12 or 13, when He became separated in Jerusalem and was found preaching in the temple. So during His formative years, He had his foster father in his home, a man who is not featured extensively in the Bible, but whom we know had the fortitude to take Mary as his wife in defiance of Jewish law; who assisted Mary in the physical birth of Jesus, something that "just wasn't done" by men at that time; and who took his family to Egypt ahead of Herod's slaughter. In short, St. Joseph showed Jesus what a man does to protect those whom he loves, despite what it might cost him.
It bothers me when Jesus' compassion and tenderness is overly emphasized to the point where He appear effeminate. Perhaps that is why I did not like the recent movie, "Son of God" where Jesus seemed childlike, incongruous with one would expect a man of 30+ years living at that time to be. Do you need proof that Jesus was "macho?" Look no further than His Passion. Which He endured . . . willingly and with great love.
So many boys - and girls, too - do not have a solid male figure in their lives. I saw firsthand yesterday a boy who had lost respect for his father, deservedly so, and feel sorry for him. My father and my husband both had fathers who were violent alcoholics - indeed, I remember my Dad telling me what a "miserable son-of-a-bitch" his father was and how my Dad looked at him and, mercifully, thought, "I will not be that man when I am grown." And wasn't. I have heard horror stories about other fathers, including those who sexually abused their own children. What is worse, to have someone like that in a home or to have none at all? I don't know - I think both can result in tragic consequences.
In our conversation, FFP and I also discussed how May is the month dedicated to the Virgin Mary. And that if someone could ask St. Joseph, "How come you get just one day and she gets the whole month?", he would probably smile and say, "Ladies first!" But if pressed on that and told it was "unfair," would likely reply sternly, "Listen, I didn't live to see our Son crucified - she had to endure THAT."
So, yes, let's have St. Joseph the Worker - bare hands shaping wood, sweating over his lathe, and teaching his Son - be a saint for young men, whether to complement the fine fathers that some have or to fill in for those who do not. It is not by accident that God chose him to be the masculine figure in Christ's life, as he imbued what it meant to be a man.