Franciscan Focus

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05 November 2009

Josephology: On Joseph's Fatherhood 

While chattin' with pals recently, I realized that it's been awhile since I've tossed out a Josephy post, which must be remedied forthwith! For this go-round, let's look at Joseph's unique and glorious fatherhood!

"48. So what is the most exact title we should use to express Joseph's fatherhood?
In reality, none of the terms suggested entirely expresses the totality of Joseph's relationship with Jesus. As [the great Jesuit theologian] Suarez asserts, Joseph possessed 'everything proper to a father, apart from his virginity.' He shared in the very dignity of Mary, Jesus' mother. His fatherhood is unique and supernatural. Faced with the lack of any precise word to completely designate this special fatherhood, we may simply call Joseph 'Jesus' father,' as Scripture itself does (Lk. 2:27, 33, 41, 43, 48; Mt. 13:55), without adding any adjective to the title."
~ Fr. Jose Antonio Bertolin, OSJ; "Josephology 1A", Guardian of the Redeemer, Volume XII, Number 1 (March-May 2006)

* * *

"I often explain that if a dove ... drops a date from its beak into a garden, we say that the palm tree that grows from that date belongs to the owner of the garden. If that is so, who would doubt that as the Holy Spirit, like a heavenly dove, let fall a divine seed into the 'garden enclosed' of the Blessed Virgin ... and a garden that pertained to Joseph as a wife pertains to her husband; who I ask, would deny that the divine Palm Tree, which bears the fruits of immortality, belongs to the Blessed Joseph?"
~ St. Francis De Sales

* * *

"It is most important to look first at the way in which St. Joseph is not the father of Jesus. ... There is a variety of ways in which one may be referred to as a father other than as the natural father. There is, of course, a more spiritual use of the term, such as in those who are founders of religious orders. Still, let us confine ourselves to those forms that we find in the family.

"... [W]e might speak of a man as the 'legal father' of the child. ... St. Joseph was recognized publicly and socially to be the legal father of Jesus in one sense, but not as understood in the eyes of Jewish law according to a limited sense of the term, in which a brother would attempt to have a child by the wife of a brother who died so that the dead brother could have legal descendants.

"... Another title one might bear is that of 'foster father.' ... This is most certainly a true and clear way to express the fatherhood of St. Joseph. Yet, as we shall see, it does not completely explain the way in which St. Joseph is father to Jesus. ... [This term] is far weaker ... because it often refers to a very temporary form of relationship.

"... [A]doptive fatherhood does not express the nature of St. Joseph's fatherhood. ... Jesus was not born from another marriage or relationship and then adopted. St. Thomas says, 'Christ was the fruit of this marriage; neither a child born in adultery nor an adopted son ...' ... Thus, the title of adoptive father is inadequate to explain the paternity of St. Joseph.

"... [Stepfatherhood] would not apply to St. Joseph. For Jesus was not the child of a previous marriage or relationship between a man and a woman. Thus, to call St. Joseph a stepfather would be offensive to the Virgin Mary."

De Domenico then goes on to explain that Joseph is Jesus' father (not in the biological sense): 1) because Jesus is the Good of the marriage; 2) because Jesus is the Possession of the marriage; 3) because Joseph and Mary gave full consent to the marriage; 4) because of Mary's consent at the Annunciation, which, since she was already Joseph's wife, by default included Joseph's consent; 5) through Joseph's holiness; 6) through Joseph's virginity; 7) by the command of God; 8) by exercising the office of father.

Thus, "this fatherhood of St. Joseph is entirely new. There has never been anything like it. It is unique and one of a kind. The fatherhood of St. Joseph is superior even to natural human fatherhood as also adoptive fatherhood. ... 'He is father in the supernatural order, not according to nature, but according to the spirit ... In brief, he is father in the most noble, most sublime and divine sense. The bond which unites him with his august Son is moral and therefore more intimate and stronger than a physical bond.' Hence the fatherhood of St. Joseph is only surpassed by the fatherhood of God."
~ Dominic De Domenico, OP; True Devotion to St. Joseph and the Church

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Blogger droginmark said...

This is an excellent post. I have studied Joseph for many years and nothing is as clear as this post. Even though many volumes have been written on the topic, you quote one short sentence that summarizes it all: "we may simply call Joseph 'Jesus' father,' as Scripture itself does." I do believe the Third Millennium is time for the Church to proclaim that "Joseph is Jesus' father." Period. Of course we must navigate through many theological landmines, but Fr. De Domenico's book covers most of it. Mark Drogin,

09 January, 2010 14:40  

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