My Place in the Sun, March 8: St. Joseph and the Year of the Family

My place in the sun

On March 19, we will celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph. The Litany of St. Joseph invokes his intercession under the titles Spouse of the Mother of God, Foster Father of the Son of God, and Head of the Holy Family. St. Joseph is called the Glory of the Domestic Life and Pillar of Families. In this Year of the Family, it is fitting that we turn to Joseph and ask his intercession for families.

   I think of St. Joseph as a quiet man. No words of his are recorded in the Gospels and yet, through his actions, he offers us profound insights and striking examples of a virtuous life that are important in family life today.

   St. Joseph is a model of one who listens to God and does His will. As you may recall, Joseph’s sleep was interrupted on more than one occasion by an angel. At every encounter with the angel, Joseph recognized God’s presence and acted on the message. The messages conveyed to Joseph were overwhelming and demanded courageous faith. Joseph must have been inwardly watchful for the divine and alert for God and His ways. He is deserving of the Gospel blessing bestowed on those “who hear the word of God and act upon it” (Lk 11:28).

   During the Year of the Family, I ask you to pray that St. Joseph will help parents and grandparents to be sensitive to grace, listen to God’s word, and act upon it. May they teach their children and grandchildren the value of attentive listening. May they show them by example the importance of silence and a quiet time in which to listen to God and follow His will.

   Joseph was a poor working man. “Is this not Jesus, the carpenter’s son” (Mt 11:55)? Though linked to the house of David, Joseph is a carpenter in a Galilean town so miniscule that it serves as the butt of jokes: “What good can come from Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46). Joseph worked to earn a living. He likely experienced anxiety about the future, the sting of poverty, and the uncertainty of employment. Joseph the worker, the provider, and protector of the Holy Family stands as an example of one dedicated to his calling as father, husband, and laborer. May all fathers recognize in St. Joseph one who knew the joys and challenges of raising a family and providing for his wife and child. Through his intercession may fathers be committed to their noble calling.

   Joseph is the patron of the universal Church, the dying, families, churches, schools, religious communities, and everyone named Joseph. Although I cannot recall the source, I remember reading an article that suggested that St. Joseph was also the patron for all of us when things do not turn out the way we thought they would. Think of it. Surely, St. Joseph did not expect Mary to be pregnant before their marriage or angels speaking to him in dreams or a flight into Egypt to escape harm or a sudden return to his homeland. Joseph met the unexpected with faith, gentleness, obedience, and trust. Dear St. Joseph, help families today to accept the unexpected, unplanned events that enter their lives with faith, patience, and trust.

   Pope Francis tells us that Joseph responds to his calling as protector of Jesus and Mary because he is “constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence, and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply his own. Joseph is a protector because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions” (Homily, March 19, 2013).

   St. Joseph, Spouse of the Mother of God, Foster Father of the Son of God, and Head of the Holy Family, we place our families under your protection. Through your intercession, may they listen attentively to the word of God and put it into practice. May they live the present moment and face the unknown future with courage and hope. St. Joseph, pray for us!

   If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.