Subordination to Joseph in the Holy Family

The modern feminist/socialist objects to the traditional Israelite structure of the family: the male father is the head of the wife and the children.

Instead, we observe the media’s depiction of the father is a comical dolt. The children laugh at him. The mother goes around his back. Sitcoms and films are replete with foolish fathers who justify the claim that there is no hierarchy in family.

Society tells all men to “man up” and marry but as soon as he does, he is presumed to become an embarrassing caricature of manhood, as someone resembling Homer Simpson or George McFly from Back to the Future:

We find the perfect familiar order (and corrective to our times) in the Holy Family, which conforms perfectly with divine law and natural law. Moreover, God in providential irony set up the Holy Family so that the most wise and meritorious members of the family submit to the less wise and meritorious.

Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Jesus Christ (Divine Logos and Son of God) submits to Mary and Joseph.
  2. Mary (Immaculate Conception and Mother of God) submits to Joseph.
  3. Joseph (neither divine person like Christ nor immaculate like Mary) is the Head of Holy Family.

If merit, grace, or dignity were the criteria for leadership and headship, clearly it would be Joseph at the bottom of the leadership chain. But not so. God honors the natural order of fathers in the family and he recognizes Joseph as the leader. Although Joseph is least gifted and least worthy, he is nonetheless submitted to and obeyed by the Divine Jesus and the Immaculate Mary.

Children often test their fathers: Is he truly a great man? Do I truly want to follow him? Wives do the same: Did I marry the right man? Is he the hero that chose me and swept me off my feet or is he George McFly?

We all question our leaders. For this reason, fathers should strive to be excellent and fulfill their mission in life. This earns respect from wives and children. It quiets their worries about whether he is the great man that they hope him to be. However, no man is perfect. Jesus and Mary were greater than Joseph, and yet they were patient with him as he understood less than they did.

If any man in history were comparatively outclassed by his wife and child, it was Saint Joseph. This is an example to all families. The father of the home should be honored as the head of the wife and head of the family – even if he is less holy, less wise, less prudent, less pious than his mother and children: because that was once the case with Saint Joseph.

No doubt, the comments will be filled with testimonies such as: “My father was evil and he did XYZ.” I grant that these deep fractures exist in countless famliies. There are fathers out there that earn a score of F-.

But let’s be honest, many (most?) fathers out there are scoring As, Bs, and Cs on their report card. They work hard. The pay for Christmas. They tell bedtime stories. They play catch and teach children how to swim. They pay for insurance and health care. They fix the car. They live the faith. They take the family to church. They spend time investing in their children. They respect and love their wives. They are the oak.

So if your husband/father is scoring a B+ in your mind (and you think you’re scoring an A+), be like Mary and Joseph and honor him anyway as chosen by God to be your unworthy leader. The soul of a man is fueled by respect. I have no doubt that the soul of Joseph was rocket-boosted to highest heaven by the fuel of respect poured into him by his betters: by his wife Mary and his foster son Jesus.

Happy Feast of Holy Family. May Jesus protect all families from the Devil and from the Herods of the world,

Dr Taylor Marhall

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