When I was in grade school, it was trendy to say St. Joseph novenas for your future husband. Yes, I went to a Catholic-as-schools-get school. But it was. He is the prototype husband, right? The humble, loyal husband; the kind, wise father; the determined, capable worker—all of the things a girl is looking for! In college, though, I started spending more time with his wife. She really is something. And the Church knows it. It wasn’t until I was at St. Peter’s in Rome, kneeling at the side altar dedicated to this quiet saint, that I really began to pay attention to Joseph again. He must be pretty incredible to get a side altar at St. Peter’s. I stopped to contemplate his relationship with Mary. Who they were to each other. What that meant for Christ and, consequently, for all of us. Seriously. WHAT A GUY.
According to The Life of Mary as Seen by the Mystics, which I choose to reference as a credible source, Joseph (like Jesus when he began his ministry) was about 33 years old when he was betrothed to Mary. Can you imagine what his life had been up to that point? Probably pretty normal, maybe a little more religious than some. A “just man”, a good citizen. But, primarily, he was a human. Like all of us, he undoubtedly had a vision for his life. He would get married and have a family, for instance. And, as luck would have it, he is selected to marry Mary. Great, perfect. Then, he finds out that she is expecting a baby that isn’t his. OKAY, not perfect. Thankfully, God intervened with a conveniently timed dream. But hold up for a minute. Talk about recalibrating worldviews!!! So, sure, he doesn’t have to undergo the pain of being cheated on. But he had a whole lot of other stuff to process. Unlike Mary, it has never been said that Joseph had an immaculate conception. He didn’t lean any more than you or me toward a sinless life. While, by all accounts, he was above average in integrity and faith, he didn’t have any jumpstarts or shortcuts. On the contrary, Joseph’s life was filled with challenges that would cripple even the strong of heart. He was just like us. Joseph was asked to surrender all of his dreams and visions. He was called to give the girl he was beginning to love back to God completely. Of course, it is super cool to raise the Son of God, but Joseph had to let go of his dream of raising a rowdy household of kids who carried his own blood in their veins. (Not to mention that it is a lot of pressure to be low-key asked to raise the Son of God…) Joseph didn’t get to share the typical spousal relationship with Mary. He had to look at his list of hopes and expectations for life and rip it all up, tossing the shreds to the wind. And yet, he did all of this. He must have cultivated the most epic trust ever. He must have gone to God completely empty and said, “Hey, I need to borrow some strength.” And because he opened himself up as a vessel waiting for God’s grace, he accomplished one of the most impactful feats in the history of the entire world: he was the head of the Holy Family. He protected Mary and taught Jesus. He went to work every day in his carpentry shop, whether he was upset or confused or not. He did his job reliably because that is what he had been asked to do. He laid down his life wholly to God’s Will, even if that meant no credit, no fame, no reward. He just took each moment step by step, listening for God’s voice.
Do you now agree with me? What. A. Guy. St. Joseph is the patron of fathers, workers, carpenters, and realtors, but he is also, I think, a patron of the heartbroken, the scared, those of us who cannot fathom what God is doing with the worldview-shattering plan he seems to have on the agenda, as well as those of us who need the strength to press forward in spite of monotony or lack of recognition. I pray that on this feast, with exams looming before you or as workdays drone wearisomely on, you each will find inspiration in St. Joseph and his perseverant example of simplicity and surrender. St. Joseph, pray for us.