I have met far fewer fathers than mothers who bring up questions and concerns about the faith of their children, and believe me, you have a lot of these conversations when you are a youth minister. Last week was the first time I met a father who mentioned that he was concerned about the faith of his kids. Never does a week go by without a mother mentioning this, but this was the first time a father brought up his hope for the increased faith of his children. Like so many parents, he is hoping for results from the involvement of his kids in youth group, and of course our local parishes do aim to deliver formation, catechesis, and encouragement in their youth groups and associated functions. For all these valuable efforts, the most important element of a child’s faith is their home life. We as youth ministers and core team are here to supplement and expand upon the faith learned at home. Fathers play an integral part in this. They are such powerful examples to their children.
St. Joseph, by Guido Reni (1575-1642)
Eventually, children will grow up to adopt many of the behaviors and attitudes of their parents. This also means that grown children will repeat history for both better and worse. If the past has been lackluster in the realm of personal witness to their faith, then for their part, fathers can create a new future by starting new habits right now: by going to Mass, going to Confession, beginning a family Rosary, and so on. Fathers can lead their families in prayer and spiritual growth. Today’s fathers can look to St. Joseph for an example of what it means to be a father.
God placed St. Joseph at the head of the Holy Family as a faithful and prudent servant, so that with fatherly care he might watch over his only begotten Son. God chose St. Joseph to be Mary’s spouse to assure fatherly protection for Jesus. He offered his whole self, his heart, and all his abilities. He put all this at the service of the Messiah who was growing up in his house. (Redemptoris Custos, an Apostolic Exhortation)
Fathers can follow St. Joseph’s example and make a total gift of self to their families. It seems that the question St. Joseph must have always asked himself was, “Am I putting my family first?” That is a simple, fruitful question which fathers can ponder frequently.