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“Renowned offspring of David,
Light of Patriarchs,
Spouse of the Mother of God,
Chaste guardian of the Virgin,
Foster father of the Son of God,
Diligent protector of Christ,
Head of the Holy Family,
Mirror of patience,
Lover of poverty,
Model of artisans,
Glory of home life,
Guardian of virgins,
Pillar of families,
Solace of the wretched,
Hope of the sick,
Patron of the dying,
Terror of demons,
Protector of the Holy Church,
Pray for us.“
Who can seriously be worthy of titles like “terror of demons” and “light of patriarchs”? Today, on March 19, we celebrate the feast of a man who is one of the manliest of all men. This man is St. Joseph. Some would argue that St. Joseph was just another man. I argue that he is the man. As the person charged with raising the Son of God and protecting the Blessed Mother, it is only logical that his character could have only been of the highest caliber. He is, in fact, referred to as, “a just man” (Matt 1:19), and he shows it in the way he lives his life.
Not a single word of St. Joseph was recorded in scripture, and this is perhaps one of the most telling factors of his character. His silence was not that of an unintelligent, empty-headed man, for no unintelligent, empty headed man would have had the strength of will to fly from his former life as he did. He did not once utter a single complaint against Mary, nor does he question a single aspect of God’s plan, and he does not even presume to rebuke Jesus in the temple. As Federico Suarez writes in Joseph of Nazareth,
“For to carry burdens without complaint and without letting the whole world know about them, to face personal problems without casting them on to other backs: this is to be responsible for one’s own actions and decisions without sliding out of one’s obligations without excuses and self-justification. . . There is great strength in the one who knows how to keep silent, in the one who directs the drive of his will and his attention to the situation in hand, to “the one thing necessary”. . . The words of Isaiah (30:15) could well be applied to Joseph: “in silentio et in spe erit fortitudo vestra”, in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. For this silent man who hoped in God showed, in effect, his fortitude in difficult and compromising situations, bearing himself in a manner worthy of the confidence placed in him.”
He was a true gentleman, even when his wife-to-be was found to be pregnant, he was, “unwilling to expose her to shame, ” (Matt 1:19) and so he decided to divorce her quietly. In this can be seen a striking disregard of self. His only concern was the preservation of Mary’s honor, and not a thought was given to how such an occurrence would affect himself socially. The penalty for what would have been perceived as adultery would have been stoning for Mary. In turn, his divorcing a pregnant woman would probably not have gone over well in their community. In his resolution, he put aside all thoughts for his own reputation in order to protect Mary’s.
The flight to Egypt highlights just how committed to his family St. Joseph was. Having been warned in a dream of Herod’s plot to kill the Infant King, “Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.” It does not say, “Over the next few weeks, he packed his bags, sold their house, waited for a decent caravan, and departed for Egypt.” No, he rose and took the child and his mother by night, immediately. He was obedient and trusted God completely: when the angel instructed him, he followed without fail. They undoubtedly left everything but for a few bare essentials. They did not stop to say goodbye, as all of their neighbors were probably asleep. Joseph led his wife and child into a desert, where there would have been any number of hazards. And yet, his utter selflessness, trust, and decisiveness saved the Christ Child’s life.
It is not only these qualities that make him so admirable, but his chastity as well. As Pope John Paul II so clearly put it,
“Through his complete self-sacrifice, Joseph expressed his generous love for the Mother of God, and gave her a husband’s “gift of self.” Even though he decided to draw back so as not to interfere in the plan of God which was coming to pass in Mary, Joseph obeyed the explicit command of the angel and took Mary into his home, while respecting the fact that she belonged exclusively to God.”
And Federico Suarez again writes,
“Joseph loved Our Lady, not with a brotherly love but with a pure conjugal love. It was so deep that any carnal relation was made totally superfluous. So refined was it that he became not only a witness of Mary’s virginal purity – virgin before birth, in birth and after birth as the Church teaches – but he became its custodian. Nor was it necessary for Joseph to be of an advanced age to live in complete chastity with his wife. His very love for the most marvelous creature who has ever existed was sufficient guarantee.”
And finally, as St. Josemaria Escriva wrote,
“Joseph had a young heart and a young body when he married Mary, when he learned of the mystery of her divine motherhood, when he lived in her company, respecting the integrity God wished to give the world as one more sign that he had come to share the life of his creatures.”
St. Joseph was truly a hero. He is a model that every boy, youth, and man should strive to imitate. However, in a culture with degraded standards of commitment, an emphasis on putting one’s own interests first, and open mockery of the ideals of chivalry and chastity, a young man attempting to imitate St. Joseph will almost certainly meet no small amount of malice. Ladies, this is no easy battle for men, please pray for us (and support your local chivalry!). Men, St. Joseph is an awesome guy. It’s easy to put Saints like him up on a pedestal, but this guy can seriously help us if we ask him, so let’s ask him!
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
You might like to read these:
Suarez, Federico. Joseph of Nazareth. London: Scepter, 1984. Print.
Pope John Paul II. Redemptoris Custos. Vatican City: 1989. Web. <http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_15081989_redemptoris-custos_en.html>.