Today is the start of Section 4:
The Father of Jesus
“The admirable St. Joseph was given to the earth to express the adorable perfection of God the Father in a tangible way. In his person alone, he bore the beauties of God the Father … one saint alone is destined to represent God the Father.”
Fr. Andrew Doze, The Shadow of the Father
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”
The Heart of a Father
The summer before my freshman year of college, everything changed for me. It was then that I had my first authentic, life-altering encounter with the living God. Having tasted this goodness there was no going back. As I entered into my first few years at a state school, I began to dive deeper into the theology of the Catholic Church and my hunger for the fullness of truth only seemed to grow. By the end of my sophomore year, I was spending more time listening to audiocassette tapes about the faith and reading Dr. Scott Hahn books than I was applying to my finance degree. Through this experience, I felt God calling me to transfer to Franciscan University of Steubenville and earn some college credits for those theology studies!
Upon arriving at Franciscan, my heart came alive as it was exposed to even more opportunities for growth. This being said, as a typical young man in college, it was easy to fall in love. Love was in the air at Steubenville, and I fell head over heels in love with none other than St. Therese of Lisieux. Don’t worry, you can tell my wife. She knows all about it! I’m actually pretty sure Therese is the one who introduced me to my wife, Katie, but that is another story. During this first year at Franciscan, I was introduced to a work on St. Therese that remains my favorite spiritual book, I Believe in Love, by Fr. Jean C. J. d’Elbée. It’s the only book that I have read close to a dozen times. I have no doubt that God placed Therese in my path intentionally, but it would take several more years for me to fully understand the Lord’s master plan.
As the story continues, Katie and I got married and named our first child after my favorite saint – Maria Therese. Through her birth, God promptly placed a new favorite in my path, St. Louis Martin, the father of St. Therese. After reading the book, The Father of the Little Flower, I was stunned to discover that the vast majority of the spiritual gems I loved in St. Therese actually originated from her father! St. Therese has been acclaimed “the greatest saint of modern times,” precisely because many believe she is the one who understood most simply and most profoundly the fatherhood of God. Her vision of God the Father was shaped by daily witness of her earthly father. St. John Paul II beautifully proclaimed that men relive and reveal on earth the very fatherhood of God (Cf. Familiaris Consortio). St. Louis Martin had five daughters and every one of them became a nun. I knew then that the Lord introduced me to St. Therese in order for her to introduce me to her father. He was teaching me my ultimate mission in life – to be a father and, with his grace, to help form souls for heaven.
I dare say St. Louis Martin would have never been known in my life or in the life of the Church had it not been for his daughter Therese. The same can be said about St. Joseph. The sanctity of the child enlightened us in hindsight about the father. Both Louis Martin and Joseph lived their lives in service to the mission and vocation that God handed them; namely their children. They were both willing to go unnoticed in the world and lay down their personal ambitions. The heart of a father beats for his children. As fathers, what greater legacy can we possibly dream of than this?
It is easy to get wrapped up in the cares and trappings of the world and be tempted to identify ourselves with our achievements. In heaven, no one will care about your earthly bank account, home or popularity. Your life will not be judged by your worldly success, but based on your personal sanctity and extent at which you helped lead other souls to heaven. We know St. Joseph and St. Louis Martin in light of their children. You can become a great saint, known or unknown does not matter, if you are willing to help form your children into saints. Lead them to God by your words and all your actions every single day. Parents are the primary and most influential teachers of the faith to their children.
- Are you raising your children to become saints?
- Do you teach your children that pleasing God is more important than pleasing the world?
- In what ways can you refocus your everyday life to be more oriented towards this calling?
Heavenly Father, you are the ultimate Father. Please forgive me for the times I have not lived up to the dignity of fatherhood. Forgive my father for his shortcomings as well. Help all of us to embrace the responsibility to raise children according to your holy will and to teach them your ways. Grant me the grace to be an example to my children through my actions each day. Above all, create in me a heart to always provide a source of unconditional love for them.
St. Joseph, reveal to me Christ’s hidden face present in my children. Teach me to manifest for them the Father who is rich in mercy. Amen.