St. Joseph has two feast days on the Catholic liturgical calendar. The first is March 19 which is St. Joseph, the Husband of Mary while the second is May 1, St. Joseph, the Worker. By the 9th century, the feast of St. Joseph was observed on March 19 in some places in Europe. During the Middle Ages, the March 19 feast became popular when it was promoted by the Servite and the Franciscan preachers. Pope Sixtus IV (a Franciscan elected Pope in 1471) extended the March 19 feast to the Church in Rome. It later became a universal feast in the 16th century when the Council of Trent revised the Breviary and Missal.

Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878-1903) described St. Joseph as patron of the whole Church. In his words, “The Church is his numberless family because he is the husband of Mary and the father of Jesus”.
In 1955, Pope Pius XII replaced the feast with the May 1 celebration that honors St. Joseph the Worker. Pope Pius intended this feast to acknowledge Christian workers’ value and pay tribute to the nobility of human labor.
There is very little about the life of Joseph in the Scripture but still, we know that he was the chaste husband of Mary, the foster father of Jesus, a carpenter and a man who was not wealthy. We also know that he came from the royal lineage of King David. We can also see from his actions in the scripture that Joseph was a compassionate man, and obedient to the will of God. He also loved Mary and Jesus and protected and provided for them. Since Joseph does not appear in Jesus’ public life, at his death, or resurrection, many historians believe Joseph had probably died before Jesus entered public ministry. Joseph is the patron of many things, including the universal Church, fathers, the dying and social justice.
According to Pope John Paul 11, “Saint Joseph is a man of great spirit. He is great in faith, not because he speaks his own words, but above all because he listens to the words of the Living God. He listens in silence. And his heart ceaselessly perseveres in the readiness to accept the Truth contained in the word of the Living God”.
The life of obedience, chastity, availability, sacrifice and humility of Joseph who is the Patron Saint of Catholic Men is a source of inspiration and a classical lesson in fatherhood. Joseph was not found wanting in his duties and responsibilities as the earthly father of Jesus Christ. He persevered in his commitment despite the challenges while listening to the voice of God.
Perhaps, this is the reason the Catholic Men Organization of Nigeria (CMON) under the authority of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), adopted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker for the celebration of Father’s Day in the Catholic faith. This feast is held every Sunday after May 1, if May 1 is not on a Sunday. Father’s Day is a day to remember and celebrate all Catholic Fathers for the seen and unseen work, humongous sacrifices and positive influence in their families, the Church and the Society. For this year 2024, Father’s Day celebration will hold on Sunday May 5 with the theme, “Enhancing Spirituality and Christian Virtues in Catholic fathers”.
Father’s Day is a day wives, children and indeed all Catholics honour and pay tribute to their husbands, fathers or father figures in their lives. It is important to note that when we celebrate fathers on Father’s Day, we celebrate each and every man: fathers, brothers, husbands, men consecrated to God in virginity. We celebrate perfect men and weak men. We celebrate all men as they have come forth from the heart of God.
Father’s Day has become a day to extol fathers who have made sacrifices to prioritize the unity and wellbeing of their families as well as make meaningful contributions to the growth of the Church and the communities. We celebrate fathers who are struggling to navigate through the challenges of fatherhood in a period of economic uncertainties, social injustice, bad governance, insecurity and unfortunate craze for money and pleasure which are threats to family cohesion and national development.
Father’s Day is a day Catholic fathers are reminded never to be dissuaded by these seemingly overwhelming difficulties and to also shun actions that might impugn on their positions as fathers, but to be encouraged by the life of St. Joseph who is the Patron Saint of Catholic Men. One could imagine what the family, Church and Society could have become without the towering influence and efforts of fathers.
Apparently, some of the challenges and moral dislocations in the society today is consequent upon the failure of some fathers to assume their responsibilities in their various families which form the bedrock of the society. This scenario has led to religious apathy, increased crime, drug abuse, moral decadence, etc, with its dire consequences in the families, Church and society. Father’s Day therefore provides an opportunity to reawaken the consciousness of such fathers to their responsibilities.
When a father is missing in the home or missing from the home, the home is at risk of life changing, life altering, life shattering experiences that could impact on a child throughout their entire lifetime, and this could bring destruction to the family. It is also true that when a Christian father attends Mass and other Church activities on a regular basis, the rest of the family tend to follow and this tradition is expected to be transmitted from one generation to another.
As we celebrate the 2024 Father’s Day, we congratulate all Catholic fathers who are genuine heroes in their families and worthy ambassadors of the Church and the society.
Kelechi Darlington Eke is the President, Owerri Archdiocesan CMO.

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