On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary I thought it appropriate to pay tribute to my patron saint and the patron of this Average “Catholic” Joe blog.
Joseph passes through the Gospel without our hearing him utter as much as a single word. He is not on record as having written a single line. None of the things he did seem to have exceeded the limits of the most common actions. He appears to have been – to use an overworked modern expression – a man without a message….
His figure could, in a certain sense then, appear to the eyes or in the estimation of some as that of the man-in-the-street, so ordinary that little could usefully be said of him tho those who would come after. Those who think in this way are perhaps to be found among the regrettably too many who nowadays employ in their judgment inadequate criteria having only short term values. They make their assessments by following some conventional guidelines which are based more on appearance than on reality, more on popular opinion than on absolute and true values. In other words, more importance is placed on worldly rankings than on supernatural criteria. People are in consequence judged not for what they are, not even for what good they have done but only by certain ‘achievements’ which, it has been previously decided, are to be classified as meritorious or worth recognizing with acclaim.
It is not surprising then, that using such fashionable criteria with little or no supernatural dimension to them and in general lacking in any depth, the figure of Joseph is a little hazy and indistinct, and apparently deficient in personality. Men of our time do not see the figure of Joseph as sufficiently interesting to consider it worth a more detailed examination. With such criteria an unexciting man, a village craftsman who never seems to have made an utterance of any importance, who never made anything worth preserving, could be quite respectable and a good man. But life is too short for us to reflect on all the good men there have been in the world. There are more urgent, more useful, more necessary and more important things to get on with.
By the world’s standards, that God chose this man to take custody of the two greatest treasures – Jesus and Mary – who have ever been on earth, does not count for much. This can certainly be one of the reasons which allows one confidently to assert that such criteria are of this world and consequently superficial. For this very reason such criteria will always fall short of practical usefulness for a christian who really is what his name indicates – a disciple of Christ. A disciple of Christ can never accept anything at its face value….
For a christian who believes in Jesus Christ, who believes that Jesus is true God and true Man, that God choose Joseph as Our Lady’s spouse and the legal father of Jesus, is sufficient reason for him to feel that perhaps Joseph was not, after all, such an ordinary man as he seems.
– Joseph of Nazareth, pgs 13-16
Thus Fr. Federico Suarez begins his masterful work on the life of our beloved patron, St. Joseph.
My mother, from an early age, instilled in me a great love for and devotion to St. Joseph. Being the son of a craftsman, and a craftsman myself, I quickly grew to love St. Joseph the Worker, an attribute of St. Joseph of such importance that it merits a feast day of its own on May 1.
Unlike my patron, I am not the model of “few words” nor have I been, even remotely, as ready to do what the Father asks of me. Yet, at least now, I try to imitate him, to learn from him.
Here are 7 things St. Joseph is teaching me:
- The extraordinary is found in the ordinary – I have to make the best of what abilities God has given me. It is not necessary for me to “shine” before men, but to be able to give an account to God for the talents He has given me.
- Silence is golden – St. Joseph shows me that there is a silence which is beneficial. It is a silence that is not preoccupied with self or “other” things, but rather a silence fully occupied with God and His will, a silence that is focused on the interior life, a silence that listens.
- Authenticity is found in acceptance – I’m just another “bozo” on the bus. I don’t have to strive to be more important than I am. I shouldn’t wish to be, or appear to be, other than who I am. I must strive to avoid being fake and accept who I am.
- Pursue “true” justice – St. Joseph is called in Scripture a just man, i.e. he acted with justice. I have to give to each person what is his due, this includes God. Therefore, I strive to acknowledge that all I have, all I am, I have received from God. Strive becomes the active word here, I fall short daily, but I strive.
- Before I act I should reflect – Right solutions are not arrived at “on impulse, on a hunch, or on an instinctive or precipitate reaction…He reflects who really wants to find a solution or longs to do what he ought” (pgs 60-61).
- Chastity is necessary, especially in marriage – The Catechism of Catholic Church states:
2337 Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.
The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift.
In marriage, the sexual instinct is not given free rein. Too many in this modern age are of the opinion that “all is fair game” in the bedroom of the married couple. St. Joseph, and the Church, teaches me that respect for my wife, makes necessary the proper use of our sexuality. It cannot become a means of purely selfish gratification.
If respect is lost, both for oneself and for one’s spouse, love will begin to die at the hands of an egoism which seeks only personal gratification. A man, even when married, has always to be master of his instincts and not ever at their mercy. – Joseph of Nazereth, pg. 74
- Fatherhood demands the complete gift of self – This is never easy for me, but necessary. St. Joseph is the model. He shows me that fatherhood doesn’t mean just making sure the bills are paid, the kids have college funds, nor that the family is best-dressed, best-fed, best-housed. He shows me that fatherhood, first and foremost, entails spiritual headship. I have to strive to be a virtuous man. I have to be the living, breathing model of faith, hope, and charity for my family. I have to show them that true happiness is found in self-denial rather than self-assertion. Again, this isn’t easy for me. It can become “all about me” rather quickly. What is important, in those moments, is that I am able to admit that I was wrong and make amends. I must be in the business of trying.
In closing, I’d like to share a prayer to St. Joseph that is important to me.
Act of Consecration to St. Joseph
O dearest St. Joseph, I consecrate myself to your honor and give myself to you, that you may always be my father, my protector and my guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me a greater purity of heart and fervent love of the interior life. After your example may I do all my actions for the greater glory of God, in union with the Divine Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. O Blessed St. Joseph; pray for me, that I may share in the peace and joy of your holy death. Amen.
May St. Joseph be with you and your family and lead you ever closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.