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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

A Model for Fathers: St. Joseph

Fr. Scott A. Haynes


In the civil calendar, as we observe Father’s Day each year, Catholics turn to St. Joseph as the model for fatherhood. The reason that the Church turns to St. Joseph is founded in his primary vocation in life. What was that? What was St. Joseph’s vocation? He was called to protect Jesus and Mary. Yes, St. Joseph, as the father of the Holy Family, was chosen to guard Mary’s vocation as the Mother of God, and to protect the vocation of Jesus as our High Priest. And so, the Church reveals to us that Saint Joseph is the pre-eminent protector of both the vocational call we each receive, a vocation that begins and is fostered in the home and within the family.  


What is a vocation? The word is derived from the Latin word vocare, “to call,” and so a vocation is a calling. Now everyone has a vocation to holiness. In the Gospel, Christ gives the universal call of holiness and says: 

“I give you a new commandment: love one another.” 

In the end, as Christians, our vocation has the same goal. What are we called to do? We are called to love one another – we are called to have sacrificial love, the very love Christ has for his Church. But we all realize this according to the different states of life.


Some will build up the Mystical Body of Christ through a life of prayer as single people. Others will be called to sanctity through the life of marriage and family. But some will be called to the life of spiritual perfection by becoming a consecrated religious, a brother, a sister, and some men the Church will call to be her priests.


Catholic families, trusting on the intercession of St. Joseph, should remember that no greater blessing can come to their family than to have a child called to the religious life or to the holy priesthood. In his encyclical Sacra virginitas, Pope Pius XII said:

“Let parents consider what a great honor it is to see their son elevated to the priesthood, or their daughter consecrate her virginity to her Divine Spouse.”


Our Holy Mother the Church is both wise and prudent and so, She does not allow one to be ordained to the priesthood after one semester at seminary or to take final vows after one week in the convent. Just because a person may desire to be a religious or a priest does not mean that they have a true vocation. Thus, religious and priestly vocations must be tested through a process of formation before final profession or before ordination to the priesthood. For religious congregations, the postulancy and novitiate introduces the young person to the religious life, giving intellectual, spiritual, and moral formation. Those who exhibit the qualities to be good religious then advance to take temporary vows and ultimately final profession.


The vocation to the holy priesthood is tested in a similar manner. A seminarian studies for at least six years before Ordination, receiving formation in philosophy, spirituality, liturgy, and theology. Meanwhile, the seminarian’s vocation is fostered by his spiritual director and confessor. And if it is God’s will, the seminarian advances through the minor orders to the diaconate and finally to priesthood. How does one know whether or not one has been called to the priesthood or to the religious life? Call on the intercession of St. Joseph for help.


One great mistake made by those discerning a vocation is to think that if God is calling them to His service, He will manifest it to them in some extraordinary way. While an angel appeared to Mary and to Joseph to reveal God’s plans for them, for most of us, God calls us by an interior voice within the deep recesses of the human soul. We may notice that we have a certain spiritual attraction for the religious life or the priesthood. Perhaps we hear a very faint whisper that one occasionally hears from God: “Come, follow Me.”


The most important disposition our young people must have is the simple desire to do the Will of God. Thus, the Blessed Virgin Mary prayed at the Annunciation,

“Be it done unto me according to thy word.” 

If our young people have this attitude of conformity to the Will of God, they will find the vocation to which God has called them in life. It is also very important that they receive counsel from a spiritual director or confessor who spiritually knows them very well and can give solid advice. Starting is simple. If you want to know more about priesthood talk to a priest. If you want to learn about religious life, talk to a religious brother or sister.


Fathers, know that the primary grounds for the fostering of vocations is your home. Fathers, pray to St. Joseph. Pray that you will be able to have the grace to help your sons and daughters discern their vocations. Make sure that you raise your children fostering love for God and love for their precious Catholic Faith. Fathers, make sure the members of your household frequent the sacraments, especially Confession, so that they may regularly receive Holy Communion fruitfully. Ask St. Joseph to help you to bring the spirit of humility, obedience, and peace to your homes. Make your family home a school of divine love and honor your wife as Joseph honored Mary.


Fathers, know that by your words, but primarily by your example, you teach your children a spirit of Christ-like generosity and self-sacrifice. In a much more eloquent way, Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical Ad Catholici Sacerdotii, stated:

“Most of the saintly bishops and priests whose ‘praise the Church declares’ (Ecclus. 44:15) owe the beginning of their vocation and their holiness to the example and teaching of a father strong in the faith and manly virtues, of a pure, devoted mother, a family in which the love of God and neighbor, joined with simplicity of life, has reigned supreme.”


In our own times, when there is such a great need for holy priests and religious to carry on the mission of the Church, we must work for an increase in holy vocations. But how can this be done? Pray to St. Joseph.




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