ST. JOSEPH COVENANT KEEPERS
The LORD was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Has not the one God made and sustained us for the spirit of life? And what does he desire? Godly offspring. So take heed to yourselves, and let none be faithless to the wife of his youth. For I hate divorce, says the LORD God of Israel. (Malachi 2:14-16)
SAINT JOSEPH'S COVENANT KEEPERS is an informal international network of Christian men, under the patronage of St. Joseph, dedicated to strengthening the family as expressed in the eight commitments listed below. The primary mission of Saint Joseph's Covenant Keepers is to men who are fathers of children still living at home. Participation, however, is open to Christian men of all ages, callings, and states in life who are in agreement with and willing to promote the eight commitments of Saint Joseph's Covenant Keepers. (Obviously, several areas of the eight commitments will not apply to single men. Yet, we still ask for their willingness to promote these commitments in families.)
Organizational sponsorship for Saint Joseph's Covenant Keepers is provided by the Family Life Center International, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. We expressly do not want Saint Joseph's Covenant Keepers to be a top-heavy organization that becomes a focus and activity center for men. Our explicit desire is for men to focus on their own families. As Pope John Paul II said, "The future of the world and of the Church passes through the family." We believe that the family is vastly superior to any organization in its ability to renew both the Church and society. Therefore, any activities in small men's groups, parish organizations, or regional and national rallies will be for the purpose of equipping and encouraging men for more effective service within their families.
As St. Joseph's Covenant Keepers, we are not concerned with just our own families. We will also strive for a Christ-like concern for the spiritual and material welfare of other families in our community, in our parish, and throughout the world.
These eight commitments are not easy to follow, just as following Christ in any area of life takes one down the narrow road. The broad way appears easy. In reality, it only serves to lure the unsuspecting down the path of heartache and overwhelming hardship. Watered-down attempts to prop up contemporary family life are doomed in the face of modern pressures against marriage and the family. The solution to the family's needs of our day begins with a call to husbands and fathers to follow the high calling of Christian fatherhood.
1. Following St. Joseph — the loving leader and head of the Holy Family
St. Joseph, after the Blessed Virgin Mary, is the greatest of all saints in heaven. His greatness in God's plan stems from being the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and from being the father of Jesus Christ in the fullest sense, except for physical generation. As Catholic men, we will seek his intercession, along with that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to fulfill our calling of leading our families to be like the Holy Family.
As husbands and fathers, we commit ourselves to being loving leaders and heads of our families following the examples of St. Joseph in serving the Holy Family and Christ's humble service to the Church, His mystical bride.
We will neither irresponsibly abandon our leadership role within our families, nor abuse our leadership role through sinful domination and domestic tyranny. Along with the affirmation of the headship of husbands and fathers in a family, we simultaneously affirm the perfect and complete equality between husbands and wives.
2. Loving our wives all our lives
As covenant keepers, we believe that a lawful Christian marriage is indissoluble. We believe that the sacrament of marriage is a lifelong covenant bond made possible by the abundant graces available in the New Covenant. We do not believe that marriage is a breakable contract. The indissolubility of the marriage covenant is the foundation for marriage and for the future of the family. As fathers, we realize that the greatest gift we can ever give our children is faithfulness to our marriage vows.
We believe that a willful divorce from a lawful marriage is covenant-breaking in the most profound sense. If problems arise within our marriages we will seek help to heal our marriages and not seek divorce. We will help others to do the same. We will also take steps to keep our marriages strong even when serious marital problems are absent.
To help maintain lifelong covenant faithfulness to our wives, we will avoid occasions that may lead to the sin of adultery.
3. Affirming Christ's Lordship over our families
As the leaders of our families, we will explicitly acknowledge the social kingship of Christ over our families. Towards this end we will have a home enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that we renew annually. We believe that the enthronement of the Sacred Heart deepens family life by bringing about a greater love between the Heart of Jesus and the hearts of parents and children. To invite Christ's loving Lordship and presence in our family we will seek to have daily family prayer and Scriptures read aloud in the home. At least weekly on the Lord's Day, our family will worship together and receive Christ in the Eucharist, the ultimate source of our family life and unity.
4. Turning our hearts toward our children
It is common for modern fathers to have their hearts drawn to the pursuit of wealth, personal pleasures, and pastimes. As St. Joseph's Covenant Keepers, we will turn our hearts toward our children. This turning of heart, mind, and priorities will be especially reflected in the time we devote to our children. We realize that, for our children, love is a four-letter word spelled "t-i-m-e." Since time is money in the modern world, we need to value our children more than money and make them a higher priority.
5. Educating our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord
Parents are the first and primary educators of their children. Fathers are particularly singled out in Scripture for the religious education and training of their children (Genesis 18:19; Psalm 78; Ephesians 6:4). This high privilege and duty of fathers teaching the faith to their children will result in a faith that will persevere through adolescent questionings, peer pressure, and university life.
6. Protecting our families
As fathers, we will protect our families from physical, spiritual, and moral harm. We will take personal responsibility, and an active role to preserve our children's chastity. We will protect them from everything that disturbs or destroys the fragile nature of our children's sexual latency, innocence, and purity.
7. Providing for our families
As fathers, we will assume the primary responsibility for the financial provision of our families. We will seek to learn and to apply Christian principles of financial stewardship within our families. Whenever possible, we will seek to provide the maximum opportunity for our wives to nurture our children at home.
8. Building our marriages and families on the Rock
As St. Joseph's Covenant Keepers, we will seek to build our homes on the Rock by following the teachings of the successors of St. Peter. We will seek to learn and to live by the historically rooted Church teachings on marriage, family, and human sexuality.
This includes the Church's teaching on birth control. Those who practice the Church's teaching have a divorce rate of less than 5%. Those who are following the Creator's plan for marriage are discovering a powerful strengthening of their marriages. Conversely, a skyrocketing divorce rate has closely paralleled disregard for Church teaching on birth control.
St. Joseph's Covenant Keepers have a rare opportunity at this historical crossroads to literally change the world and the Church by bringing change to the family. The indissolubility of the marriage bond is the irreplaceable foundation for covenant keeping in family life. Christian charity for the welfare of families demands that we resist the alluring temptation to sidestep this truth. Like Malachi, we need to be faithful messengers of lifelong covenant keeping.
Reprinted by permission from the newsletter of
St. Joseph's Covenant Keepers
Available from the
Family Life Center
P.O. Box 6060
Port Charlotte, FL 33949
Which also has a catalog of pro-life resources.