I get asked a lot, “How do I know if I am being a good Dad?” It’s an easy question to ask, and most folks think it is hard to answer. And it is, until you see where the answer lay.
It is family legend that tells of me carrying around a small notebook after I met my future Father-In-Law because I could tell he knew what he was doing as a Dad and a Husband. But even then, 20 years ago, I was looking at his practices, not his source. He is the only man aside from my own father whom I call “Dad.” It just seems natural to do so.
Dad also happens to be my Godfather. It’s a story for another time, but in a nutshell I grew from Atheist to Catholic in the first half of the 1990s and Dad was gracious enough to be my sponsor into the Church. I asked him, because I still knew he was what I wanted to be in a Husband and a Dad, and I figured I could lock him in as someone I could always call upon, even if my budding relationship with his daughter did not work out. Thankfully it did, so now I have Dad until death do us part!
So why all this background, just to answer a relatively simple question?
Well, you wouldn’t know about Dad if I didn’t tell you.
And that’s how you know he’s a good Dad.
Which, if you think about it, makes a lot of sense. It’s a Biblical answer, really. That’s “where the answer lay:” in the Bible.
What do we know about St. Joseph, the Foster Dad of Our Lord Jesus Christ?
Not much. In fact, most of what we know comes from his care for Mary before Christ’s birth and a couple of scenes at the Temple.
The rest we have to assume by the evidence and symptoms or, if you will, the consequences of his Daddying.
In brief: Raising a child who says “Yes” to His God and saves the human race by willingly climbing on a Cross after starting His ministry by saying “Yes” to his mother when His reluctance to start down that one-way path was evident seems to me to be a pretty clear-cut case of Good Daddying.
Chances are, Joseph was dead before Jesus gave His life for us. And I’m no theology scholar and I could never out-think two thousand years of study by The Church, but I’m guessing that at some point Jesus had to be taught how to be a man, and only a man can do that. And there is ZERO evidence of any other influential man in Jesus’ life other than St. Joseph.
Somewhere between the ages of twelve and thirty, Jesus had a life that is not chronicled. We only know it was virtuous, and we know he had to learn it from someone. How do we know it was virtuous?
Luke 2: 5- 52: Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
Perhaps more telling of how good a Daddy St. Joseph was is in what is NOT written. Imagine, if you will, what would have been if the Savior of the world, the Messiah, the one who many claimed was the fulfillment of millennia-old prophecy had some scandal, or even a cross word with an elder, or some crime that would bring shame upon His house and his Church – what would be the end result?
His credibility would be shattered, sure. But more than that, it would be plastered on every scroll by every Greco-Roman equivalent of today’s conspiracy blogger of His time as well as perpetuated throughout time, denouncing Jesus as a fraud. In fact, the Christian movement would have died in its infancy, on the Cross, as has every other cult since the beginning of time has done when the founder dies.
But there is no record of juvenile delinquency, or shoddy workmanship, or even a broken pot at the neighbor’s house that was not mended or replaced from an errant game of tag with His friends.
That’s how you know if you are being a good Dad.
Are your children quietly, obediently, going about the business of increasing in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor?
You may never get as exact an answer as you like, and you may well be dead before the words every man should long to hear, as Joseph would have heard, are uttered about your child, but the measure of a Dad is not in who you are, but who your children become. So that, when your children are, at whatever age, confronted with the Cross they must surely bear, people will say of you what they said of Jesus in Luke 4:22 – and only the Dad’s name will change, to yours:
Is this not Joesph’s son?