As part of our A Man’s Take Father’s Day reflections on St. Joseph, model for all men, including those struggling with infertility and loss, today we offer you A Priest’s Take. Father Frank Hanincik provides rich insights about the spiritual fatherhood all men are called to.
At his ordination, a priest of the Byzantine Rite is given a portion of the Eucharist to hold until it is time for communion. The ordaining bishop says these words to the newly ordained, “Receive this pledge, and keep it whole and protected to your last breath. You will give an account for it at the second and fearful coming of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” The new priest stands behind the altar with the Eucharist, hidden from view of the congregation. This “hidden” aspect of the rite points to two realities. First, the priest has become the “guardian” of the Lord hidden under the form of bread and wine. Second, his closeness to the Lord makes him a spiritual father to everyone who needs him. In a similar way, Saint Joseph is the guardian of the Lord during his hidden life in Nazareth. He is the Lord’s protector and mentor. Although he is not the natural father of Jesus, he is given the privilege of becoming a spiritual father to Him.
All men, priest and lay, are called to spiritual fatherhood. By this fatherhood they guide and protect all that are given them, all the Lord chooses to give them. Saint Joseph is an example for us to guard the Lord in our hearts and to guard those given us. Not every man is able to have children, but every man can protect and guard the Lord within his heart as well as those given for his protection. Saint Joseph was a priest of the domestic church. Every married man is also the priest of his domestic church and is called to pray, offer sacrifice (often a sacrifice of his life) and to keep his wife “protected to his last breath.”