St. John Paul II once said of St. Joseph, “Saint Joseph was a just man, a tireless worker, the upright guardian of those entrusted to his care. May he always guard, protect, and enlighten families.”
This is an excellent description of this saint who did so much yet spoke so little. In fact, there are absolutely no words directly attributed to St. Joseph in Scripture. He listened, he acted, he loved. His is the heart of a servant – humble, wise, obedient, and holy.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that in relation to the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. The feast was originated by Pope Pius XII in 1955 to counter the “May Day” celebrations sponsored by the Communists. But the relationship between St. Joseph and the cause of workers goes further back, all the way to the early Church, which emphasized that Jesus was himself a worker – a humble carpenter – trained by his carpenter father, Joseph.
“Saint Joseph is a man of great spirit. He is great in faith, not because he speaks his own words, but above all because he listens to the words of the Living God. He listens in silence. And his heart ceaselessly perseveres in the readiness to accept the Truth contained in the word of the Living God,” St. John Paul II also said.
For this reason, St. Joseph is held up time and again – and rightfully so – as an example for Christian men. But, what about us women? Is he not an example for us as well?
Yes, and no.
The impact St. Joseph can and does have on men striving to follow Christ must never be discounted. He is, next to Jesus himself, the perfect model of male Christianity. He is a father, guardian, and worker. Furthermore, he’s a powerful intercessor and the Patron of the Universal Church. Emulating St. Joseph means emulating the essence of holy manhood. Men need that, especially as culture pushes to increasingly feminize them. St. Joseph is a man’s man.
For most of my life, I’ve understood St. Joseph only in relation to Mary and Jesus. He’s Mary’s husband, our Lord’s foster father. I honored him but didn’t directly relate to him. I didn’t necessarily look to him as a model for my own behavior. That’s changing.
I’ve been meditating on who St. Joseph the Worker is for the Church and for myself. What he’s done for the Holy Family, he also will do for me: guide, protect, and provide. He is the foster-father of Jesus and the spouse of Mary. If Mary is truly my mother in the order of grace as the Catholic Church teaches, then St. Joseph must be my spiritual foster father, should he not? And so this gives me the privilege of running to him with all of my needs, seeking his guidance, and sheltering under his protection.
It doesn’t end there. St. Joseph also can be a model for me as I live my Christian femininity. How so? Because he has the heart of a servant. All Christians – male and female – are called to service in Christ. We’re called to listen in silence to the word of the Living God just as St. Joseph did. Women have a natural inclination to nurture and be of service to others. I believe that as the servant of Jesus and Mary St. Joseph can teach me how to humbly serve Christ and his Mother in my own life.
All Christians are called to have hearts that ceaselessly persevere in the readiness to accept the Truth just as St. Joseph did. As a woman, I can model myself after St. Joseph’s way of saying less and doing more in accord with God’s will. St. Joseph accepted the Truth even though it may not have made any sense to him at the time. I believe that St. Joseph can show me how to persevere in all situations, ardently follow the teachings of the Church, and to accept God’s will even if it doesn’t make sense to me at the time.
Because he cared so tenderly for Mary – the perfect woman – St. Joseph understands the unique gift spirit-filled women are to the world. I believe that, like any good father, St. Joseph desires for me to be holy and to use my feminine gifts for God’s greater honor and glory. I also believe that, as he tirelessly worked for the benefit of the Holy Family, he will tirelessly work for my sanctification.
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Image: Pixabay Free Photo