This article was originally published in The Catholic News Herald of the diocese of Charlotte
I love to read about the lives of different saints and to see the great variety of people that God has loved and called to serve Him – from the battle-tested St. Joan of Arc to the “Little Way” of St. Therese of Lisieux to the humble yet famous St. Teresa of Calcutta, and from the vibrant St. Francis of Assisi to the studious St. Thomas Aquinas to the charismatic St. John Paul II.
Throughout the ages of Christianity, there have been saints who are kings and queens, and there have been saints barely known in their own towns while they were alive. There have been warrior saints and child saints and those who simply raised their families while loving God. There have been saints of every nation and color, and of every demographic and social class.
The saints are held up to us as examples, and they come in vast varieties because God created us with great diversity so that, while we are all part of one Body, the Body of Christ, we might also serve in our different roles as the limbs of that Body.
Even in all our diversity of personalities and temperaments and backgrounds, the greatest examples that we can all look to are the saints of the New Testament, those whom were closest and most beloved to Our Lord Jesus, whom God chose from throughout the ages to witness and partake of His time on earth: the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and the Apostles.
In the humble and quiet lives of the Holy Family, we see the importance of domestic life, that vocation to which the majority of us are called. The “hidden years” before Christ started His public ministry were not just incidental in the life of Our Lord, for there is nothing incidental in the plan of God. God the Father chose that Jesus would be born into this simple life – that He would spend His first 30 years in obscurity, working alongside St. Joseph, sitting at the knee of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and enjoying the comforts of home life. God, who could have chosen and formed any man to be His earthly father, chose a craftsman with such a quiet nature that we are left with not even a single account of him speaking. For His own mother, she who would be crowned as Queen of Heaven and Earth, He chose a modest young girl from a humble family, whose only desire was to love and serve Him.
This Year of St. Joseph in our diocese is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the many virtues of the Holy Family. We hear in the Litany of St. Joseph how he is the Lover of Poverty, Model of Workers, and Mirror of Patience, among many other titles that should provide us a roadmap of how best to live our lives. As we are all spending more time at home and with our families these days because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should ask the Holy Family to intercede for us so that this time might be a blessing and help to strengthen our domestic churches.
When Jesus called the Twelve, separating them from the rest of the disciples already following Him, He first prayed to the Father for wisdom and guidance. The choices were not made arbitrarily, and the men did not stand up and volunteer themselves to walk so intimately beside Our Lord. The Apostles were not political leaders or priests or academics; they were not the elites of their time and place. They were common, working-class men.
Many of them were fishermen who spent their lives working to feed others and support their families. Until they met Christ, they had no ambitions to go out and forever change the world; and until they were filled by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they would not have even been capable of such far-reaching change. These humble, ordinary men were the ones that God chose out of all the world to be closest to Him and to do His great work.
These men may have had only the most basic education taught in the home and synagogue, but this would not have meant they were unintelligent. The skills and knowledge necessary in any trade require the use of great wisdom and intelligence to be successful, and the trades of the Apostles would be no different. Even after they left their own livelihoods to follow Christ, they would still have been required to use their knowledge and wisdom to work together, feed themselves and others, and find shelter and lodging as they traveled. These are the practical, everyday skills of common men and women.
During the past few months, our country has been given a powerful reminder and hopefully a renewed appreciation for the men and women who make our society possible: The truck drivers, warehouse workers, and retail clerks who keep our stores stocked. The plumbers, mechanics and tradesmen who made sure our lives stay in working order. The priests and clergy who fight to keep ministering to their flocks any way they can. The parents who have stepped up to the task of educating their children at home. The doctors, nurses and first responders who put the rest of us before their own health and safety when there are still so many unknowns involved with the coronavirus. These are the men and women who have kept our country afloat during these uncertain times, and you can be sure they are the closest to Christ as they work ceaselessly to serve His Body.
It is in difficult times that God showers us most with His mercy and grace, and it is in fire that great saints are forged. The Virgin Mary and the Apostles may have lived simple and humble lives at first, but they also experienced the greatest anguish and adversity as they witnessed the Passion of Our Lord and the persecutions of the early Christians, and it is also they who now sit closest to Our Lord in heaven. Let us look to them as examples, now and always.
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