More thoughts on a father in the shadows. Specifically, an expansion of what people consider as chastity. Would you agree? Let’s read:
Being a father entails introducing children to life and reality. Not holding them back, being overprotective or possessive, but rather making them capable of deciding for themselves, enjoying freedom and exploring new possibilities. Perhaps for this reason, Joseph is traditionally called a “most chaste” father. That title is not simply a sign of affection, but the summation of an attitude that is the opposite of possessiveness. Chastity is freedom from possessiveness in every sphere of one’s life. Only when love is chaste, is it truly love. A possessive love ultimately becomes dangerous: it imprisons, constricts and makes for misery. God himself loved humanity with a chaste love; he left us free even to go astray and set ourselves against him. The logic of love is always the logic of freedom, and Joseph knew how to love with extraordinary freedom. He never made himself the center of things. He did not think of himself, but focused instead on the lives of Mary and Jesus.
Focusing on the other, not seeking one’s own elevation: this fits the witness of the Biblical Joseph. It’s certainly not in opposition to the little we see and hear in the New Testament. I suppose one can read of Joseph, and reflect on passages that describe him or the two people closest to him and arrive at fruitful meditations that will enhance the life of faith. Pope Francis chooses to emphasize this brand of chastity that turns away from being the “center of things.” Many parents today do indeed choose this–sometimes in healthy, sometimes in unhealthy ways.
Joseph found happiness not in mere self-sacrifice but in self-gift. In him, we never see frustration but only trust. His patient silence was the prelude to concrete expressions of trust. Our world today needs fathers.
True enough. Let’s get political though:
It has no use for tyrants who would domineer others as a means of compensating for their own needs. It rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, discussion with oppression, charity with a welfare mentality, power with destruction. Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice. The priesthood and consecrated life likewise require this kind of maturity. Whatever our vocation, whether to marriage, celibacy or virginity, our gift of self will not come to fulfilment if it stops at sacrifice; were that the case, instead of becoming a sign of the beauty and joy of love, the gift of self would risk being an expression of unhappiness, sadness and frustration.
Ah, if only we could emphasize this a bit more with the vocation of Baptism. At some point most male Christians will encounter the opportunity to be a father figure: with children of one’s own or another’s, as a mentor, as an example that people notice. Women, too, meet the challenge to sacrifice for the good of others. Joseph is an example there too.