Saint Joseph, Glory of Domestic Life
Part 8 – Catholic Masculinity Series: Following the Model of St Joseph
To say that Saint Joseph is the Glory of Domestic Life is to say that in him we see a supreme example of how a man magnificently transforms home life. There is a certain splendor, even honor in the household when it is properly ordered and guided by the fatherly example of Saint Joseph.
For many men, and even many women, domestic life is a secondary consideration. Our main focus is often our workplace, a place at which men increasingly spend more time than they should. Most women today work outside the home, which has never been the Church’s understanding of feminine roles.
Due to the absence of both father and mother in the home, families are increasingly isolated from one another and parents rely on institutions to care for, and in many respects, raise their children. In our society, many children begin to spend the majority of their time away from their mother and father as infants. If you consider day care, baby sitting, school, clubs, lessons and extracurricular activities, most North American children spend perhaps 3-5 hours/day around their parents. Furthermore, much of this scant time spent amongst family will be in the car, and regrettably, in front of personal media devices.
In better scenarios, mothers will stay home, and even if the children go off to school, they will have spent their formative early years with their mother. In addition, with their mother at home, children will spend only a few hours away, rather than the length of an extensive work day, filling time with after school programs and day care. Now, even if children are fortunate enough to have their mother in the home, this does not mean that it is acceptable for the father to be continually absent.
On the topic of the ‘Duties of a Husband,’ the Roman Catechism states, “The husband should also be constantly occupied in some honest pursuit with a view to provide necessaries for the support of his family and to avoid idleness, the root of almost every vice.” Many Catholic men understand this, and they do work hard to provide the material necessities for their loved ones.
However, the Roman Catechism goes on to say, “He is also to keep all his family in order, to correct their morals, and see that they faithfully discharge their duties.” Husbands are required to ensure that the moral and domestic framework of a home is in proper order. How can a father ensure this if he spends most of his time away from the home? In a word, he can’t.
It is understandable that these teachings may seem paradoxical, especially in today’s industrialized society. It is true that many men have to commute to work, and that many places of employment are not overly concerned with ample leisure and family time. The state of our materialistic society is truly regrettable, and husbands who are stuck between the proverbial “rock and a hard place” should not feel ashamed if even while doing their best, a work-life balance is difficult. We must use our prudential judgment, and it is objectively better for a mother to be home with the children, even if the husband has to work harder, then it is for children to rarely see both father and mother.
Now, no word shall be impossible with God. (Luke 1:37) Holy Mother Church never instructs us to accomplish something that is unattainable, even if the task seems impossible by worldly standards. We do not operate by mere material and earthly means, but instead rely on grace to perfect nature, and the supernatural to transform the natural. Saint Joseph shows us how a modest life of a craftsman can provide the commensurate glory due to the King of kings and the Queen of Heaven. If we follow his model, we see that we can find a way to blend our work and home life into a single organism, something that moves with and for the rhythms of domestic life.
Our faith is a faith of sacrifice, and Saint Joseph shows us that a “yes” to a seemingly impossible task is a demonstration of how God’s generosity will provide even in the most dire of circumstances. Imagine if St. Joseph looked with worldly eyes at the circumstances of the Nativity. Only a man of unmatchable faith could see with God’s eyes the glory of the birth of Christ in a den of animal husbandry.
We must ask ourselves, what sacrifices can we make as fathers in order to spend more time with our families? Do we really need all that living space? Could our family do with one car? Can we take less expensive vacations? Might our children not do better with less toys, clothes, and entertainment? I am sure that in most cases, we can find ways to reorient our money, and abstain from costly habits, in order to maximize our resources.
My wife and I recently spent time with beloved friends of ours who raised eleven children in a downtown three-bedroom home on very modest means. The father trusted God in his career and was able to cultivate a work-home balance that allowed him to spend significant time with his family. Most people would call this situation ‘unreal’ or ‘crazy,’ but it is the world that has gone insane. The heroic virtue this man displayed actually created a properly ordered Christian home, which is further evidenced by the complementary relationship between husband and wife and their rightly understood Christian marriage. The joy in a home like this is contagious, it is palpable, and it contradicts every worldly understanding of domestic life. Families like this help to remedy a world that has dispensed with God in the pursuit of disposable idols.
Each home life will look different, and no two situations are exactly the same. But, if we are honest with ourselves, I suspect we can make more and greater sacrifices for the good of our family life. I imagine we can be more generous with God, Who will never be outdone in providing for His children. If we ask Our Father for bread, He will never give us stone. Let us never forget that God will never be outdone – by anyone – in generosity!
I encourage husbands to consult with their wives and evaluate the material situation of their life. Pinpoint areas that can be changed, and readjust financial expectations in order to give more glory to God by following the domestic example of Saint Joseph. As strange as our world economy can be, with the advent of information technology, there are unique ways we can seek to work from home, or even transfer our professional skills into a family business. In some cases, perhaps we should even rethink our line of work, after much prayer and consultation with a holy priest. Ultimately, we should seek to do God’s will, which, as St. Joseph shows us, might result in interesting surprises.
In the meantime, I recommend the following prayer for gainful employment, which also can be said by those who are already employed but hope to provide in a more family-oriented way:
Dear Saint Joseph, you were yourself once faced with the responsibility of providing the necessities of life for Jesus and Mary. Look down with fatherly compassion upon me in my anxiety over my present inability to support my family. Please help me to find gainful employment very soon, so that this heavy burden of concern will be lifted from my heart and that I am soon able to provide for those who God has entrusted to my care. Help us to guard against bitterness and discouragement, so that we may emerge from this trial spiritually enriched and with even greater blessings from God. Amen
Saint Joseph, Glory of Domestic Life, Pray for Us.