Saint Joseph is a model to leaders in government too, as they can also be referred to as fathers. In this piece, we shall be looking at fathers in the society, especially those in leadership positions in the government and other facets of life – if only they can truly be fathers. The Oxford English Dictionary would define father as the leading men or elders of a city or an assembly. For examples, at assembly of synod, we call them synod fathers; the senators of ancient Rome were referred to as Conscript fathers. Drawing from this definition, those who hold leadership positions in government could be seen as fathers. It is natural that the people expect a father-image in them as they ought to play their roles of the “3 Pros” (Procreate, Protect and Provide).
Everyone is born within a territory or from where he/ she comes from – origin. And such person is regarded as son/daughter of that place, where another who has the power of governance and duties towards he/she who is born. It is even the government that issues birth certificate/passport to show that such person belongs there (to mean, we have begotten you, the son of the soil). Likewise, to have accepted entrance of persons into their territory is a call to fatherhood/ care over such persons. Here, the role to “procreate” ensues. These same leaders in government who are fathers still have the responsibility to protect the life they have fathered. As we know, one of their great responsibilities is to protect lives and properties of their citizens and inhabitants.
And of course, they are to provide the basic amenities for the citizens and inhabitants, making present, and strengthening the national values and ethics among peoples, not forgetting its motto. Pope Benedict XVI would say, “Africa is capable of providing every individual and every nation of the continent (of Africa) with the basic conditions which will enable them to share in development. Africans will thus be able to place their God-given talents and riches at the service of their land and brothers and sisters. If justice is to prevail in all areas of life, private and public, economic and social, it needs to be sustained by subsidiarity and solidarity, and still more, to be inspired by charity” (Africae Munus 24).
Our country Nigeria is richly blessed with human and natural resources; we have been the pride of the African continent home and abroad that the majority of those in diaspora continue to gather-in honours in their respective fields. Yet, different facets of the country’s life seems not to be working and progressing. There are so much trouble battling the country and the inhabitants, even to the basic things necessary for living and peaceful co-existence. Corruption has been seen as the major bane to development and progress in the country, poor harnessing and management of human and natural resources, many systems (like educational, healthcare etc.) are dilapidating, human fundamental rights are infringed upon, violence and killings are perpetuated almost every day, seed of hate is sown, people are scared, they are living in fears with little or no hope for the future for the country.
What has happened? How did we get here? But can our leaders see themselves as true fathers and play their roles faithfully? Let them GO TO JOSEPH, for Joseph remains a standing model of fatherhood to leaders who are placed in the position of a father in the society that they can carry out their responsibilities selflessly in the service to humanity. A father has his subjects at heart – he cares, protects, provides as he nurtures and serves the interests of his family just as Joseph did, he who “knows that to be a father means above all to be at service of life and growth and lives his fatherhood fully and completely”. We know that these leaders love their immediate families, for all what they do and fight for but if they can see the bigger picture that we are one big family, bonded better and fully by our humanity.
Thus, they should extend the love to everyone and see to the growth and development of all their subjects and not just a section or biological family. Pope Francis had urged us to see the need to transcend our limitations, our smallness and selfishness of just my family, my people. He says, “Indeed, the ever-increasing number of interconnections and communications in today’s world makes us powerfully aware of the unity and common destiny of the nations. In the dynamics of history, and in the diversity of ethnic groups, societies and cultures, we see the seeds of a vocation to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another”.
We need to see ourselves as a family, from the president (who is a father) down to all and our fathers to seek the common good of all. Though, some persons may not believe in Nigeria as a country, but vying for secession or whatsoever. Even if a group lives but is not united in love, seeing one another as family and having true father(s), sorry is the case. Let our leaders model themselves after Saint Joseph in their service to their subjects. If leaders can be committed and have a father’s heart, Nigerian society will be a better place to live in, following the examples of St Joseph, who gave himself for the good of the Holy Family. However, there should be a proper collaboration among the citizens and inhabitants to pursue the common objective of good governance.
By extension, this piece also has in mind the captains and bosses of industry, organizations, and businesses – leaders both in private and public spheres. They are expected to play such roles as they are seen as fathers by their subjects and employees, where everyone sees one another as a family and having a sense of belonging. The fatherhood of St Joseph becomes a true model to all fathers – in the family, church, society. Through St Joseph, the fathers truly rediscover their identity and mission in service to their members. We conclude our series with a prayer of fathers to Saint Joseph, as an invitation to devote ourselves to Saint Joseph.
Prayer of Fathers to Saint Joseph
Dear Saint Joseph, you took the place of the Heavenly Father in respect to Jesus Christ, the Son of God become human. You were a model father to Jesus and loved Him as your own Son. Help me to be worthy of the name father, which belongs to the Father from all eternity and which He has been pleased to confer on me. May I always be for my children (subjects) a source of life – corporal, intellectual and spiritual. Enable me to contribute in great part to their physical growth by my work, to their mental and spiritual growth by good schooling, and to their supernatural life by my prayer and example, so that they may become complete human beings and true children of their Heavenly Father. Let me be conscious that my actions are more important than my words.
May I give them a good example in all the situations of life. May I wear my successes modestly, and my failures courageously. May I be temperate in time of joy and steadfast in time of sorrow. May I remain humble after doing good and contrite after doing evil. May I emulate our Heavenly Father, and scrupulously respect my children’s (subjects’) rights as human persons and their freedom to follow a rightly formed conscience, while at the same time fulfilling my duty to guide them in the way given us by your Son Jesus Christ, to whom you were a most loving father all the days of your life. May I obtain the grace to be a similar father to my children (subjects). Amen
• Rev. Fr. ‘Shola Alabi is an Oblate of St. Joseph working at the Formation House in Ibadan.