Three Lessons You Can Learn From St. Joseph
Just last week, we as a Church celebrated the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. I’ve been spending this past week thinking about and reflecting on my relationship with this great male saint. To be completely honest, it really wasn’t until I got married that I began to seek out a relationship with St. Joseph. Or maybe it was him seeking me. A group of friends, who each have a special devotion to him, secretly prayed a novena to him before my wedding day. Through his intercession (God’s Grace, and also many other intercessors!) the wedding day went off without a hitch, and the subsequent four months have been a joy. I owe a lot to this great saint and I felt called to share some of my own thoughts on his life of prayer, action, and self-sacrifice, and how he demonstrates to us how to have confidence in our identity as beloved sons of God the Father.
Even though there is not much in the Canon of Scripture that details the events of Joseph’s life, we can be assured that he was a man of deep prayer based on the little we do know of his life. We can assume from the unique mission he was selected for in caring and providing for Our Mother and Christ, the appearances of angels and the words spoken to him in dreams, are all evidence for a life of prayer that is consistent, constant, and centered on God the Father. It is in these examples that we find a man who is listening to and seeking the heart of the Father.
His prayer is not only what makes St. Joseph unique, it’s also his action that comes from his prayer. In the two times he hears from angels in prayer, St. Joseph immediately acts in accordance with what was spoken to him. First, when he becomes aware that Mary is pregnant: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home” (Matthew 1:20). In this Matthew is very keen to use the same words that the angel speaks to describe what St. Joseph did after the dream: “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home” (Matthew 1:24). This occurs again when the angel warns Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt (Matthew 2: 13-15).
St. Joseph’s commitment to prayer and taking action naturally lead to his ability to make sacrifices for his family. His willingness to lay down his life in many real ways for his family is made plain even in the few lines of Scripture we have on St. Joseph. One of these examples that I really think shows this well is Joseph’s thoughts when he discovers Mary is pregnant. We find out that Joseph, “unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19). Notice how Joseph’s first instinct isn’t to blame Mary, or draw attention to her, or even have her killed for purportedly committing adultery. Instead, Joseph takes the shame upon himself. If Joseph marries, then divorces Mary, she will still be pregnant. Everyone will think Joseph is the father, and that he’s horribly leaving Mary all alone with child. Joseph wants to willingly take the shame upon himself. Joseph doesn’t know how Mary came to be pregnant, but he trusts her and God and does what he thinks any real man would do: sacrifice his own self-image for the good of his family.
What can we as men learn from St. Joseph? If he is one of the greatest models of manhood for us, we ought to do our best to imitate his life. We must become men of prayer, action, and self-sacrifice. Make time for daily meditative prayer, listening to God through Scripture. Wake up 15 min earlier if you can’t find time during the day. You’ll grow accustomed to God’s Word in your life, making it easier and more likely for you to respond to His Word.
Do not be afraid to act. One of my biggest struggles is procrastinating and just general laziness. As we saw with St. Joseph, he took action immediately. Maybe this begins by cleaning up your room. Taking the trash out. Getting your oil changed on time. Have that difficult conversation with a friend or significant other that you’ve been putting off. But never forget that we must be men of action, who first are men of prayer. St. Joseph’s ability to act so quickly comes from his deep prayer and confidence that he is the son of a Father who loves him.
These two, prayer and action, will naturally lead to the third: self-sacrifice. Not only that, you will have built up the confidence to take this leap, to be able to lay down your life in some way. Maybe this will take shape in standing up for others. Going to pick up something from the store for your wife. Willingly not seeking or allowing credit for your own work or merit that goes unnoticed. Whatever sacrifices we may make, each stem from a knowledge of God the Father and desire to act in and through prayer. St. Joseph was a man of action because of the confidence he has in his identity as being a beloved son of God the Father. This confidence came from a relationship he had built up with God through prayer. This was solidified through actions made in trust, leading to his ability to make the necessary sacrifices for those he loved. Do not be afraid to befriend St. Joseph. He’ll help shape you into the man God has called you to be.
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