Today, the 20th of March, Catholics all over the world celebrate the solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, but in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, communities who have St. Joseph as their patron saint usually celebrate the day on the 19th in a special holiday called a fiesta. In a moment I will share with you some priceless parenting lessons I learned from this guy, but for now allow me to talk about fiestas in the Philippines first.
Filipinos love fiestas! In fact there is one municipality somewhere in the Visayas where there is fiesta every day in the month of May. What is a fiesta?
If you are a Filipino, Catholic or not, I’m pretty certain you know what it is. It is that time of year when people celebrate the feast day of their favourite saint, a tradition that if I remember my history lesson correctly, dates back from the Spanish era about 400 years ago. Like any other festival in the country, there is always of course food, music and wine and trust me, Filipinos are known for their elaborate, sumptuous celebrations.
Think about the hobbits of Shire. A party is never a party if there is no lechon or roasted pig, no dancing and singing and no guests getting drunk.
At least that’s how it is in the community I grew up in. There was even this old lady who recently threw a big party and recounted with delight how many of her children’s friends didn’t make it home that night. If you are hosting the party, you are a lousy host if you can’t get your guests drunk.
Other families, however, focus not on the extravagant celebrations even though they can afford to throw such parties. The elders in these families emphasize the importance of attending the Holy Mass and hearing the message behind their patron saint’s story.
For the Catholic folks in our tiny barrio of San Jose in the municipality of Quezon, the pre-fiesta mass last Saturday was remarkably special since it was celebrated by the Reverend Bishop Jose Araneta Cabantan, D.D. Even the choir sang exceptionally well that day, much to my surprise.
What I found most remarkable, however, was the message behind St. Joseph’s life. Not only was he a terrific father of the Holy Family in Nazareth, I think he also lived a life worth imitating not just by fathers in this life but also by heads of organizations and offices.
Below are the three priceless values I learned from the Bishop’s homily concerning St. Joseph.
Christians see Jesus as the Messiah, the Chosen One of God, but even non-Christians who studied his life find him to be such a remarkably wise and charismatic teacher whose teachings remain powerfully influential to this day.
To be able to raise such a child must require extra special parenting skills, considering what Jesus’ family had to go through even before he was born. Consider the dilemma Joseph had when he found Mary was pregnant before they could even live together as a couple. He had plans of divorcing Mary because in his mind, some other guy had more rights to Mary than himself. Besides, he was mandated by the Law to do so.
He was about to carry out this plan of divorcing Mary when an angel of God appeared to him in a dream telling him not to be afraid for the child Mary had in her womb was conceived not by a man but by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Joseph must have had this special relationship with God that he trusted Him so much as to communicate with Him even in dreams. Being the obedient servant that he was, he said ‘yes’ to God, even at the expense of his worldly plans.
Obedience to the Law is seldom priced these days, as you can see in how crowded our jails are. The logic is pretty simple, actually. You follow the law, you remain free. You break the law, you suffer. And yet many people still choose to break the law and forfeit their blessings.
The thing is, we can’t tell kids about obedience. We can only show them. Joseph as head of his family seamlessly followed the Law. No wonder his family was so blessed.
Joseph kept looking out for God’s instructions for him. I can only imagine how much humility he had to not rely on his human capacities in leading his family. He literally led them from harm when he received divine instructions to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt when Herod gave an order to execute every boy child in the region. He was always there on Mary’s side as they raised the boy Jesus according to the will of Jesus’ heavenly Father.
Parents who constantly seek guidance from God, or from their Higher Power, if you will, are very rare nowadays. In matters of child discipline, for example, we almost always rely on the parenting style we learned from our parents or those handed down to us by our ancestors, if not on parenting books and magazines. However, it is good remember how seeking divine guidance has always delivered better, even spectacular results.
Joseph always depended on God’s guidance. In turn, he became a father his family can always depend on.
In the Scriptures, Joseph was considered the most ‘silent’ because he never ‘uttered’ even a single word in the books of the Bible. Amazingly, however, Joseph has accomplished more feats than he could have spoken.
Silently, he said ‘yes’ to God when he abandoned his plan of divorcing Mary.
Silently, he stood by Mary in their search for a room to deliver the child Jesus.
Silently, he said ‘yes’ to God’s order to protect his family from Herod and took them to Egypt when he could have easily said, “No, God, Egypt is too far and we only have a donkey. We don’t have trains or airplanes yet! Perhaps we can just go hide somewhere else.”
He was a man of action and his actions spoke louder than his words.
Do we see these traits in our parenting?
Frankly, I fall short in some of these areas, especially in the dependability department. Like most well-meaning parents, I work especially hard in trying to provide for my children but when I take a closer look at my parenting skills, I have to admit I sometimes feel I’m not asking God enough whether I’m on the right track and whether I’m raising my children, who are His children also, according to His will.
It is one thing to be able to provide for our children’s needs, but quite another to provide them with the right spiritual guidance they so need in growing up. This is perhaps the most priceless gift any parent can give his child.
That Saturday at church, I was blessed not just with the opportunity to hear about St. Joseph’s life but also for the opportunity to be there with the head of our family, the Joseph of my life, father of my kids. He may not be as great as Joseph, just as I am nowhere near the blessedness of Mary, but today I thank God because I see these three values in him.
Joseph was not a god. Besides the fact that he was a descendant of David, he was only human like you and me. But his family’s obedience and faithfulness to God brought them immense blessings that lasted for generations. These priceless parenting lessons are timeless and I think this is truly an inspiration for us parents of the 21st century.
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