19/March/2010 Filed in: Jottings
St Joseph has not had an easy time. The Early Church largely ignored him save for drawing parallels with the Joseph of the Old Testament. In the Middle Ages he was often treated as a figure of fun while in the nineteenth century he was frequently portrayed with mawkish sentimentality. Of course there have been honourable exceptions to all these generalisations. Bossuet, for example, wrote well of him, with a firm, clear idea of his importance in the Christian story. Today we tend to see in Joseph the good husband and father, the man who quietly got on with whatever was asked of him and who fades from view just when we should like to know more.
Humilty and persevering fidelity to the task in hand are not spectacular qualities but they are very necessary to the good order of both family and society. I am not alone in thinking that fatherhood does not seem to be properly valued today, and I find it troubling. We may be learning to our cost that single-parent families are hard on both parents and children, but there seems to be an inbuilt presumption that mothering is more important than fathering. I wonder. Good fathering is important to both boys and girls, we all agree, but perhaps even struggling, incompetent and not very assured fathering is better than no fathering at all.
So, take heart if you are a father and don't feel that you are making a very good fist of it. Your child needs you, just as you are. Would Jesus of Nazareth have been the person he was without both Joseph and Mary to help him towards adulthood? Did they never make mistakes, get things wrong? Of course not! They were human, too. Let us pray today for all fathers: good, bad, indifferent and absent. Especially the absent.