Another Christmas is coming. I’d like to tell your brothers today, first of all, to learn the patience of us artisans ...
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I read somewhere that when a newborn baby first grasps his daddy’s finger in a fist, he captures him forever. The bond between a father and a son, when a father is captivated by his child’s life, finally establishes peace between dads and tenderness. It’s not true that a father is a strict guardian; he is also a wide-open smile that lets itself be surprised by the joy of a caress.
I was a simple young carpenter and I had to spend many hours every day in a dark shop, working wood with great effort. Yet, I’ve always been a dreamer. When life is hard and tiring during the day, then all you have left is to dream at night—not to escape, but to try to imagine something different you can build, and awaken to hope every day. That’s how I dreamed of my life with Mary.
But I had not discovered the dream that God was cultivating for us. When Mary, with tears in her eyes, told me about the Angel, the plane stopped in my hands and a shiver ran down my back. I’ve always loved wood because it’s almost like a son: at the beginning it seems unformed, but if you have the patience to caress it, file the edges, sand down the irregularities, and smooth out the grain, you can transform it. Isn’t this what a father has to do with his son—embrace him, gently smooth his edges and turn him into a man? Yet, God asked the absurd of me. I could be a father of wood, but not of Mary’s son!
I entrusted myself to God, fitting my projects into the dream God had for me. On occasion, he spoke to me too: “Don’t be afraid,” he told me. And there I made an extraordinary discovery: he’s not just the father who gave birth to us, but also a father who stays next to us and whispers to us every day: don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid. I’m with you.
Dear Jesus, I loved you with the heart of a father, even though I knew that although I could hold wood in my hands, I could never hold on to you. When you helped me in the shop, I watched you become a grown boy, and sometimes I wanted to leave aside my woodworking tools to caress your hair and whisper to you, “Never be afraid.” But you looked at me, seeing into the depth of my soul: you had already understood my love for you. You were learning about life, but also learning something about your heavenly Father, so much so that later you described him as a Father who sees you from afar, runs towards you, and embraces you. Whatever your situation, God is always waiting for you with open arms.
Another Christmas is coming. I’d like to tell your brothers today, first of all, to learn the patience of us artisans. God comes, he visits our lives, and he transforms things, but this doesn’t happen in just one day. It’s a journey that requires time and tenacity.
It is Christmas—I would like to tell you—if you learn above all to be fathers; that is, if you practice the art of caring, if you love and protect those around you, taking on the risks of their lives, their failures, their dreams and their growth, as a father does with his own son. May people find in you, men with open arms, and not ruthless judges with their fingers pointed at others.
It’s Christmas when you don’t underline the negative and don’t let yourselves be caught up in things that aren’t going well, but always go back to that workshop that is life and put your hands to the task, smoothing, and planing the roughness. Marvel at the bud that sprouts, rather than the storm that approaches.
It is Christmas if we learn to cultivate a sense of justice, in everything we experience, and especially in society, in politics, and at work. They say of me that I am a just man, but in truth every man should be just. Without justice there is no true humanity, but abuse, violence, and inequality. These are all things that affect the poor more directly than anyone else.
I had to protect Mary and the Child, risking my own life. Christmas should also remind us of this: God is present where there is love that turns us into a warm blanket for those who are cold, a companion for those who are alone, a word of comfort for those who are distressed, and above all, a shield of protection for the most defenseless and the weakest. In a world where the arrogant and the powerful trample the little ones, it’s useless to set up a Nativity scene.
I had to work hard to make it possible for my family to live well. Still, in Nazareth I enjoyed small but intense moments spent together with my wife and with Jesus. Do it yourselves, dear fathers: put the brakes on your pace of work and keep your worries to yourself, if you can. Dedicate a few moments to your wives and children: truly listening to them, being present to them, sharing and embracing; that’s all.
And, one last recommendation: don’t stop dreaming. Even in the tiring situation of a workshop, of a broken relationship, of an inner anguish, or of a hope that is extinguished, we can continue to look upwards, because that God who came in Jesus still comes today to rekindle life. Dream and help others to dream, because only in this way will another world be possible. And it will be Christmas every day.
The highly effective parenting style of St. Joseph for today’s dad