Marriage enrichment: Following Joseph’s example

The world needs more fathers who say yes to God’s plan for their lives

In early May I had the opportunity to attend an extended family gathering with my siblings, several cousins and their families. I was visiting with my brother, John, when he pointed to our cousin, John, and he said, “Look, there’s St. Joseph.”
I looked at our cousin and instantly knew what my brother meant. My cousin, John, and his wife, Meg, had three children. Their oldest child, Johnny, was born when they were age 22. Johnny was born a healthy baby but due to a medical mistake he lived his life severely disabled with cerebral palsy. Predicted to not live through his teenage years, Johnny lived to be 37 years old due to the loving care of his family, especially his mother, Meg.

Meg raised their other two children while being Johnny’s constant care giver. Meg has received many accolades for her devotion, and rightly so. Her care for Johnny was heroic by any standard, but her husband, John, was there, too, quietly supporting his family emotionally, financially, and spiritually. At age 22, John said yes to God’s plan for his life without any fanfare. He trusted in God and said yes just like St. Joseph did when he was asked to make a leap of faith.
I agreed with my brother’s observation and then looked around at the gathering. I saw many other men there who over the years had emulated St. Joseph in their roles as fathers. They are birth fathers, adopted fathers and men who step into the gap for children who do not have a father present in their own home. All of them are fathers who continue to say yes to God’s plan for their lives. How lucky my family is to have these wonderful examples of fatherhood in our midst.
Unfortunately, we rarely see these examples of fatherhood portrayed in the media. Television sitcoms treat fathers like they are buffoons. Yet the absence of a strong father figure, or male mentor in a child’s life is drastically affecting our culture. Here are some statistics to reinforce what I mean:

■ 63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Census)
■ 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
■ 85 percent of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Centers for Disease Control)
■ 71 percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – nine times the average (National Principals Association Report).
■ 85 percent of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average (Fulton County, Georgia; Texas Department of Correction).
■ Daughters of single parents without a father involved are 53 percent more likely to marry as teenagers, 711 percent more likely to have children as teenagers, 164 percent more likely to have a pre-marital birth and 92 percent more likely to get divorced themselves.

In no way am I disparaging the incredible and difficult work that single mothers do every day to raise their children, but we should be doing all that we can to support men and their role as father or grandfather, mentor or coach. We can begin by sincerely thanking the fathers and father figures in our lives. Our gratitude might be exactly what they need to hear at this point of their journey. Promise to pray to St. Joseph for them daily. Our gratitude and prayers are great first steps in showing our support for fatherhood and a wonderful way to help them celebrate Father’s Day this year.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers and father figures throughout our diocese. Thank you for your love and support of your children and all those who you mentor. They need your presence and so do we.

Mrs. Christiana is coordinator of the diocesan Marriage Preparation and Enrichment Office.