Contributors Ordained to serve

Deacons serve with a father’s heart

Ordained to Serve
Leon Suprenant is the co-director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate. He may be reached at leons@archkck.org.

by Leon Suprenant

St. Joseph is one of the few saints to have more than one feast day.

Joseph also happens to be my middle name. So when my wife and I were getting married, she asked me which feast day I celebrated.

Before I had the chance to answer, she mused out loud, “Definitely not St. Joseph the Worker!” She was right, though I’ve teased her ever since about this apparent commentary on my work habits!

In his apostolic letter “Patris corde” (“With a father’s heart”), Pope Francis proclaimed this the “Year of St. Joseph.” He reminds us that God called St. Joseph to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood. In faithfully fulfilling this role, St. Joseph cooperated in the great mystery of salvation and truly served as a minister of salvation.

At the outset of Luke’s Gospel, we read that part of John the Baptist’s role in preparing the people for the imminent coming of the Messiah was to turn the hearts of fathers to their children. In St. Joseph, we find a father whose heart is already “in the right place.”

God was able to accomplish great things through this eminently faithful man of service. Priests, deacons and laymen do well to pattern their lives after the beloved “Guardian of the Redeemer.”

While St. Joseph has no recorded words in Scripture, this “just man” has much to say in response to today’s crisis of fatherhood — both the spiritual fatherhood of priests and the fatherhood exercised in the home.

St. Joseph was entrusted with the care of the Holy Family, the sanctuary of love where Jesus spent his hidden years. This family was, in embryonic form, the body of Christ, containing both Christ and the mother of those who would come to believe in him and keep his commandments (see Rv 12:17).

For this reason, St. Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, is called the “Patron of the Universal Church.”

Some men think St. Joseph got it all wrong. This is the age of Viagra, no-fault divorce and the “sexual revolution.” The goal is seemingly sex without responsibility, whereas St. Joseph accepts the serious responsibility of marriage and family while foregoing the pleasure of marital intimacy.

Yet, St. Joseph got it exactly right. He tells modern man that it is possible and necessary — in fact, noble and manly — to live in accordance with the church’s teachings on sexual morality.

St. Joseph reminds us that we are all called into the hidden life of Nazareth, where we too cooperate in the great mystery of salvation through silence, family life and honest work (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 533).

After all, it’s not about the size of our pocketbook, but about the size of our fatherly heart.

During this year devoted to St. Joseph, may all of us fathers draw renewed strength from this holy hero. St. Joseph, patron of the universal church, pray that our hearts may turn to all those entrusted to our fatherly care.

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Leon Suprenant

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