Today is the feast day of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin. Like many Catholic men, Saint Joseph is my hero. Here’s a man who was the step-father of the Son of God yet we don’t know a single word he ever said. We don’t even know when he died. The last reference we have to him in scripture is the incident where he and Mary found Jesus in the temple when He was still a young boy. Yet he was a key player in our salvation. Without Joseph’s participation God’s plan for our salvation would have come to a screeching halt. We don’t know how old he was at the time he took Mary as his wife though legend has it that he was an older man.
One thing we know is that he had tremendous faith. He accepted God’s call. He accepted Mary’s explanation of her pregnancy. He agreed to allow Mary to remain a virgin, even after their marriage. At the angel’s command, he abandoned what we assume to be a successful carpentry business and move his family to Egypt. Then, after he must have restarted his business there, the angel came again and told him to move back to Nazareth.
When the child was left behind in the temple, he helped Mary search for him, and when they found Him, what did Jesus say? “Didn’t you know I must be in my FATHER’S house?” How painful must that have been for him? Yet, he followed his calling and did everything he could do to raise God’s son. As his human role model, Joseph taught Jesus how to be a man.
When I think of Jesus, I’m reminded of my late father-in-law. He was a devout Catholic but he didn’t make a big deal out of it. He did what he thought God wanted him to do in a simple, humble way. If he had been born a generation later, Harold would have made a much better deacon than his son-in-law. He lived his faith and, as Saint Francis said, he preached the Gospel every single day without using words.
In spite of what the media and anti-Catholic pundits would like us to believe, the Catholic Church is not dominated by men. Granted the ordained leadership is male-only, as Jesus wants it to be. But take a look around you on Sunday at mass. Women are in the majority. Our society makes it much more difficult for a man to be a devout Catholic. It’s just not “manly”, especially in the United States.
One example, and it may not be particularly insightful but it’s still a common occurrence, would be professional sports. Catholic athletes from other countries, particularly those from Latin America, regularly make the sign of the cross before stepping into the batters box in baseball, and when they’ve had a successful at-bat. Hispanic goal keepers kiss the goal posts and cross themselves before every game. But, when was the last time you saw an Anglo-American do the same thing? Not often.
We men are very blessed to have Joseph as our spiritual role model. He may not have said anything that the Gospel writers felt was worth writing down, but his actions spoke volumes.
So, here’s to you, Saint Joseph, on your feast day. You answered God’s call. You suffered much hardship and raised God’s son to be a man. You went about your faith and your business with quiet dignity. Thank you for your example. It couldn’t have been easy to be you. Being the only member of the household who was capable of committing sin must have been quite a challenge. Whenever anything went wrong, it had to be your fault.