Brothers, fellow husbands, fellow dads, let me be straight.
About this time of year, St. Joseph dealt with an angel and took his pregnant wife to Bethlehem. With a laser-like focus, inspired by the message of an angel, he left all that he knew in Nazareth and thumbed his nose at his surrounding cultural forces.
His mission would lead him to the poverty of a stable, persecution and even exile in Egypt. And to the advent of the Son of God.
The question is: Do we spiritually lead our families forward to Bethlehem — and beyond — with St. Joseph’s resolve? Do we fix our eyes on the far horizon and take the next step of faith today? Do we tenderly yet firmly set the tone for Advent in our homes?
I look around. Recession. Grocery bills that induce tachycardia. The state of our nation and world. The spiritual drift of families everywhere. The pace of work. The darkening days. The devil prowling around every marriage and family, seeking any inroad to destroy them.
On top of all of this, how can I be expected to summon the energy to make an existential step of faith and lead my family toward the elusive, red-hot, spiritual core of this season? When I can barely get my own act together — and in the midst of all the holiday busyness — how can I be expected to set the spiritual bar higher for my entire family?
For any man without a plan, here’s an idea: Accept Bishop Michael F. Burbidge’s invitation to prepare for the diocesan 50th anniversary with a yearlong focus on the Blessed Mother, “the model disciple, who shows us how to receive the Word and bear the Word to the world.” Take up this focus on the Blessed Mother now, this Advent, and carry it forward. And if you’re on the fence, I invite you to consider three reasons why now is the time to move.
First, follow in the footsteps of St. Joseph and take up your spiritual fatherhood. Whether you know it or not, you are — or have the potential to become — a spiritual father. Bishop Burbidge, our spiritual leader and father, has asked us to focus on the Blessed Mother. Following his lead in a particular way this Advent, we as spiritual fathers in our own households can demonstrate to others that we are part of something larger than ourselves. Not to mention, this grounds us in humility. (And for a bonus reason, this will strengthen our prayerful bond with our pope, bishop, pastor, clergy and the entire church.)
Second, reflect this Advent on the ways that St. Joseph devoted himself to Mary. He is present to her in ways that directly challenge any temptation we may have to check out or withdraw from our own family. To get specific, read the infancy account in Matthew Chapter 1, and ask the Lord to renew your spiritual presence in the home.
Third, make Mary’s Magnificat your own in a new way this Advent. Consider praying the Magnificat — which is part of the Liturgy of the Hours, specifically Evening Prayer — daily on your own, and nightly with your family, perhaps as you light the Advent candle or do your Advent calendar. Maybe a chart on your fridge — your family’s “Magnificat Challenge” — will help you to stay focused.
Just imagine. An angel tells you in a dream to leave the familiarity of Nazareth behind, lay hold of your spiritual fatherhood, and lead your family on a mission into the unknown to welcome the Christ Child and become the holy family. As other men slip into listlessness after their consumerism-focused Advent, may we instead celebrate the feast of the Holy Family Dec. 30 together with our family — renewed by a focused Advent, and further along on the path to holiness. Then let us continue to journey forward into this year’s focus on Mary, who always points us to her son: “My soul rejoices in the Lord.”
May we be worthy of this mission given to us. St. Joseph, patron of fathers, glory of domestic life, and terror of demons, pray for us.
Johnson and his wife, Ever, are co-founders of TrinityHouseCommunity.org.