To all Foster Fathers :
St Joseph, the silent man of the New Testament who does not speak one word in the scriptures and yet had such a pivotal role in the life of Mary and Jesus.
If he had insisted on his rights, Mary would have been divorced and cast aside. But Joseph listens to the voice of God and does what is right.
A little later we hear how Joseph, again responsive to a dream, takes the necessary precautions and takes Jesus and his mother to safety in Egypt.
Joseph often puts his own interests second. He is is the forgotten hero of the Nativity.
Traditionally we Catholics have called Joseph the foster-father of Jesus. This is in acknowledgement of the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. We have also taken St Joseph as a model for all fathers not just foster-fathers.
But with the changing circumstances of family life there are many more men today who find themselves providing parenting for children who are not their own. And there are an equal number who because of family breakdown have to find ways of exercising their parental responsibilities at long distance.
The example of Joseph means something for all fathers, whether they are natural fathers, foster fathers, stepfathers or separated fathers.
In the scriptures we see St Joseph as acknowledging parental responsibilities. We see him in a protecting role, taking steps to shield his family from the wrath of Herod. Later on we find him in Nazareth working as a carpenter to provide a living for the three of them. He is also an educator, teaching Jesus his trade.
These are the essential elements of fatherhood: protector, provider and educator.
But Joseph was also a man deeply responsive to the Spirit of God. The dreams Joseph has are symbolic of his attention to the things of the Spirit and of his wish to discern the will of God.
Pope Paul VI gave him an extra feast day on 1st May, St Joseph the Worker.
(Painting above is St. Joseph with Christ Child, Michael D. O’Brien)