The Pope has proclaimed a “Year of Saint Joseph,” a celebration dedicated to the foster father of Jesus. When I found out about this celebration, I immediately thought it was a real gift from the Providence of God. Being a priest who deals with families and young people, I see this clearly every day: no figure in our society is as threatened and constantly bombarded by the devil, as the figure of the father. This is why I think it is important to spend some time contemplating this giant of Faith, St. Joseph, icon of fatherhood.
Just few weeks ago, I was speaking with a man going through a difficult moment because of the sufferings and struggles of his teenage son. As we were talking, two things caught my attention. First, I noticed that he was not really aware of the depths of pain his son was experiencing. The second detail that struck me was that the moment I proposed that he take his son out for a weekend and spend some time alone with him, he immediately told me that he has no money and the little money he has is set aside for an emergency. I looked at him puzzled and asked, “Is this not an emergency?!” As we continued to speak, I came to understand that the problem was not money; the real problem was that he was terrified to be alone with his son because he did not know how to talk to him. Not knowing what to say to your son…what a suffering!
I myself, as a priest, sometimes go through this paralysis in front of the sufferings the people pour out on me. I believe that the root of the problem is this: no one can ever become a father unless he is a son first. As this man continued to open up to me about his personal life, I realized the problem was he had never been a son. He hadn’t developed an authentic relationship with his parents because they were always busy working, but, most importantly, he had never – and this is the legacy left to us by St. Joseph – been taught to “cry out” to God for help, as a son does to his father.
Before becoming a father, Joseph became a son. St. Joseph became a son the moment he was confronted with an absurd and humiliating event: Mary was pregnant and he was not the father. For Joseph, who was about to marry Mary, this was a tragedy. At this moment, St. Joseph did not “listen” to his reason or to his feelings. Instead he “cried out” to God, remaining silent and waiting for God to speak to him. St. Joseph entered this tragedy knowing that there – in his pain – His heavenly Father was going to speak.
Waiting is painful and tiring, but it is precisely in this moment of vulnerability and weakness when we hear the voice of God. For St. Joseph, it was in his sleep that the words came: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.” (Matthew 1:20) The moment in which St. Joseph “listens” to the voice of God, he discovers he is a son because he has a Father who listens to Him.
Though St. Joseph did not know what would happen to him, he did not run away. He entered into the “absurdity” of the situation and followed God. His trust in God and his obedience to God – his ability to be a son in the moment – enabled him to deal with the ramifications of the pregnancy and made the “absurd” the very place to bear fruit. From Joseph’s “yes,” as with all crosses, new life was generated; he became the foster father of Jesus.
So how do we become fathers? How do we learn to speak to our children? By crying out to God in the midst of our “tragedies” and listening to His voice. The words we hear from God are the words we will tell our children.
St. Joseph, pray for us!
My name is Andrea Povero. I was born in a town called Ivrea, close to Turin, Italy.
I am almost 35 years old and I am the last one of 4 children.
When I decided to enter the seminary, I chose to enter into a “missionary seminary.” I went to a retreat close to Rome and there, together with 300 young men, I put my name into a basket. In another basket were the names of the all the missionary seminaries around the world. When my name was pulled from one basket, it was matched with the name “Boston” from the other basket.
I was sent to Boston in November 2007. I became a priest by the grace of God on May 19, 2018.
For the past three years I have been the Parochial Vicar of three parishes: St. Thomas Aquinas and Our Lady of Lourdes in Jamaica Plain and Saint Mary of the Angels in Roxbury.