Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 73(1) February 2023

Faith in Medicine

St Joseph, and the Holy Family.
Gifts of Fatherhood

Fr Patrick Pullicino

St Joseph is described in Matthew as a just man and there are several similarities between Jesus and Joseph. First and foremost they are both shoots from the stock of Jesse, in the line of David. Joseph features in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, as the husband of Mary. Jesus was however born of Mary and the Holy Spirit, but it was common knowledge that Jesus was the “Son of David”.

Apart from a few details, most of Joseph’s life, like most of Jesus’ life, is hidden to us, and they spent much of this hidden time together. In In Sinu Jesu, Jesus says how He loves hidden souls. In them He sees a reflection of the hiddenness of St Joseph, his foster father. Jesus’ real Father also is almost totally hidden but Jesus tells us to read the Father through himself as He and his Father are one. In the same book, He also tells us that Joseph was the living image of his Father and since the Father is spiritual, it was Joseph’s spiritual side that was in the mould of the Father.

As children get older, fathers start to worry about hidden time daughters and sons spend on evenings out. I remember waking up at 1 am and finding my teenagers still not back. I dressed, drove to Gianpula disco and strode onto the dance floor to bring them mortified and protesting back home. Heads of families have to try to be spiritual fathers with the delicate and difficult task of being true fathers to souls and St Joseph should be our guide and mentor because he can obtain for us the priceless gift of spiritual fatherhood.

Interesting but politically incorrect research from two sources has shown how crucial a father is in the transmission of the faith. In a 2018 synod Archbishop Stankevics said that “data show that when a father is seriously involved in faith issue, there is a 75 percent probability that the children will follow him, while when only the mother is involved in the faith, there is just a 15 percent chance that the children will follow.” Likewise, “when a mother converts, the family converts after her in 17 percent of cases, while when a father converts, the family will convert in 93 percent of cases.” He said that “in God’s plan, man defends his family not only from concrete dangers, but also from spiritual and ideological dangers.” These findings are also borne out by an earlier study from Austria.

The roles of men and women have become increasingly blurred and confused since the inception of the pill in the 1960s. Why is it is that spiritual mentorship of the family has to be in the hands of the father? Spiritual fatherhood is a gift of God, a priceless gift. It is the gift of feeding their vulnerable sheep and lambs with justice. Justice is one of the Father’s most precious gifts, a gift that Joseph mirrored for Jesus in his childhood. A gift that in today’s “equality” driven society, is easily lost but that fathers can still impart to their children in the cenacle of the family.

Fr Patrick Pullicino is a retired Professor of Neurology and a priest in the Diocese of Southwark.