The Bishop of Portsmouth has encouraged fathers to look to St Joseph as a model and an intercessor.
In a pastoral letter to “Christian Dads” to mark tomorrow’s feast of St Joseph, Bishop Philip Egan said: “It’s not an exaggeration to say fatherhood is in crisis”.
He pointed to the rate of divorce, which ends over four in 10 marriages, and to the fact that “over a million children in Britain grow up without contact with their fathers”.
Bishop Egan said that St Joseph had played “a crucial part” in the Holy Family: he held Jesus as a newborn, played with Him in childhood, and supported Him in adolescence. St Joseph also helped Jesus take His place in society and learn the value of work. “He gave Him an inspiring example of being a man.
“Above all, the self-sacrificing father-son relationship would have run so deep that in this profoundly good man, Jesus would have recognised a beautiful and resplendent icon of His heavenly Father.”
The bishop said that all men are “called become fatherly”, whether or not they have biological children.
But he said that a “revolution” had brought an end to the traditional religious culture of the family – “a loving, monogamous, covenantal relationship of one man and one woman with the procreative purpose of raising children”.
Quoting Pope Francis, Bishop Egan said that the abandonment of this ideal had brought “spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable”.
Bishop Egan added that society needs to hear “the Good News of Christ about the complementarity of being male and being female, about the vocation to marriage, and about the joy of Christian family life”.
He connected these questions to a wider confrontation between two philosophies of life.
“In today’s culture, a great battle is being fought between two radically different understandings of what it means to be a human being,” the bishop said.
“Are we merely higher animals, biological machines, objects to be manipulated for pleasure, gain, power? Or are we fundamentally different, persons to be respected, creatures with limits, people with a dignity and a vocation?”
“In this battle, St Joseph, Defender of Life and Patron of Marriage, is a bright light and a brilliant example.”
The bishop suggested that, as well as praying to St Joseph, families might keep a picture of the saint in their home, organise a “St Joseph’s Table” for “the poor or the housebound”, or invoke him – “St Joseph, protect us” – while travelling.