Thoughts on St. Joseph from an Adopted Child

It’s not something I often talk about because the facts are rather inconsequential to my daily life. Even people I’ve known for years might be surprised to find out that the man I call “Dad” (who shares my hard-to-spell but much beloved maiden name, Luetkemeyer) doesn’t share my blood. My biological father left my mother when she was eighteen and pregnant with me. My mom chose life with God-given grace and Marian acceptance, but my biological father chose differently. My dad, the man who earned that name, came into our lives after my birth, when he started dating my mother and eventually married her, when I was three and a half. 

I’m the oldest of six children, the other five of whom were born after my mom and dad got married. I’ve never once considered these five my half siblings, although that is biologically true. I struggled to even write the title of this article because I’ve never even considered myself an “adopted” child, although that’s technically true, too. That’s because, although I said at the beginning that these facts were inconsequential, in another way, the fact that my dad adopted me as a baby is so intrinsic, so fundamental, to the core of my being that I hardly even consider it during my day to day. But, in terms of who I am, it’s everything. 

Like Jesus, I grew up with my “real” mother - the woman who gave birth to me - and a father who didn’t make me, but who chose me, without reservation or hesitation and with total self-gift. When the angel appeared to St. Joseph and told him that Mary would bear God’s son, he “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife” (Matthew 1:24). The gospel of Matthew credits Joseph with giving Jesus His name, and the line of predecessors so lengthily listed in the gospels is Joseph’s lineage; the ancestors claimed to the heritage of Jesus belong to St. Joseph. Just like in my story, Jesus took on the heritage, the name, and the identity of His adopted father - so much so, that the gospels often call Him, “the carpenter’s son.” It’s who He is! 

As the child of an adopted father, I have a unique insight into the sacrifice required to make the choice to not only take in, but to love, raise, and fully accept a child that isn’t yours. I have personally witnessed the humility, the patience, the understanding, and the total acceptance of God’s will that my dad has exemplified throughout my life. The choice he made when he married my mother didn’t end at their wedding; it was a choice he continued to make daily as I grew up and continues to make daily now as he supports me in adulthood and adores my babies in a way only a grandfather can love. 

I recently read an article about whether or not St. Joseph questioned Mary’s virginity. Of course, we can’t know for sure, but if he did, we can admire his honor - to take Mary in even though he thought she bore another man’s child. If he didn’t, we admire his humility - because it means he knew that Mary was the fulfillment of the prophecy regarding a virgin being with child, and he considered himself unworthy of the honor of being her partner. In my case, I know the answer, but I admire my dad for both, and honestly, for everything, that he has done to love a child who isn’t biologically his. And, as one of the most prayerful people I know, I’m confident my dad has had the intercession of St. Joseph all along! 

Someone once said to me that we shouldn’t guess at the emotions of Jesus and Mary or extrapolate what they may have felt in a given circumstance, since they are sinless, and we (as sinners) can’t understand how their minds worked. But, speaking for myself, I never felt “adopted.” I never felt less-than my father’s child. And, thanks to him, I never doubted my heavenly Father’s love. I can only assume Jesus experienced the same, and I know that Jesus has a special place in Heaven for my dad, right next to His.

December 31, 2020 — Emily Tate

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