This article was originally published in The Catholic News Herald of the diocese of Charlotte.
Every time we pray the Our Father, the prayer Jesus Himself gave to us, we ask God to “give us our daily bread.” As Moses and the Israelites were given manna in the desert for just one day at a time, we also are called to trust God to provide for our needs one day, one moment, at a time. This can be a difficult act of faith in uncertain and unfamiliar seasons, but it is in these instances that we need to look steadfastly to the Lord and witness how He provides for us with greatest love and tenderness.
My strong devotion to St. Joseph began several years ago, shortly following my own father’s death. Sick with cancer and other complications for many years, my father came into full communion with the Catholic Church less than a year before he passed away, and he took as his confirmation name St. Joseph, patron of a happy death. After many long years of pain and suffering, my father died peacefully, asleep in his own bed. St. Joseph was a true friend and patron to him in that final year, folding him close in the loving arms of Jesus and Mary in those last days.
I had never personally given much thought to St. Joseph before that time, but I had clearly witnessed his patronage at work within my own family. I began to be drawn to this wonderful saint, searching out anything I could read about him and meditating on the role he played in the Holy Family as well the example he sets for us in manhood, in fatherhood, and in devotion to the Son of God. At a time in my life when I was struggling with the loss of my earthly father, Jesus gave to me and drew me close to His very own foster-father.
I share about my personal devotion and the gift of St. Joseph to highlight the significance of the universal interest this great saint has been gaining over the past few years. New books and devotions are being written about him, increasing the awareness and knowledge of this silent hero who watched so tenderly over the Christ Child and the Blessed Mother. Our own Diocese of Charlotte has been celebrating a year dedicated to him, and now Pope Francis has declared a Year of St. Joseph for the universal Church.
As we look at the current turmoil of the world, I must believe that in bringing St. Joseph to prominence, God is giving us the example, the comfort, and the patronage we need at this moment.
In his book on St. Thomas Aquinas, G.K. Chesterton wrote, “it is the paradox of history that each generation is converted by the saint that contradicts it most.” One must only meditate on the Litany of St. Joseph and his many titles and virtues to see how this great saint truly does contradict so many of the evils that plague our modern world.
St. Joseph is called Mirror of Patience and Lover of Poverty. In our fast-paced, technology-driven world, how many of us have been trained to expect instant gratification in all things? We expect immediate results from the barest of lifestyle changes, we seek out the distractions of social media and streaming video services, we get impatient if we can’t find an item we want online or if delivery takes more than two days. St. Joseph was called to have great patience during the Holy Family’s stay in Egypt, waiting on God’s word to tell them when it would be safe to return. We have forgotten how to be still and quiet and trust that life will happen in God’s own time and plan.
And poverty? How many of us see it as a good or are willing to embrace a simple life? Shopping is seen as recreation, many consider it a necessity to have the latest phone/car/fashionable wardrobe, and we rack up credit card debt so we can appear wealthier than our bank accounts allow. True poverty certainly has its dangers and hardships, if it is to a point where you cannot feed or provide for your family, but it is a delusion of the world that wealth and consumerism are what we should strive for. The Holy Family of Nazareth lived a quiet, simple and meager life, and that was how God Himself chose to spend His time in this world. St. Joseph was chosen by God to provide for all the material needs of the Holy Family, and he did this simply and humbly.
However, these difficult economic times do pose a serious problem for many families, so we also remember St. Joseph is called Model of Workmen and Glory of Domestic Life. What we primarily know about St. Joseph from the Gospels is that he was a worker, providing for the needs of Mary and Jesus by his physical labor, and that he was the head of the Holy Family. During the Flight into Egypt, it was by the work of his hands that St. Joseph sustained them. There is dignity in work and in providing for your family, rather than just doing the bare minimum to get by or expecting someone else to come to your aid. As so much of our society has had to shift roles and re-prioritize our work and family life, St. Joseph is a powerful intercessor to help us know where God is calling us.
For the past year, the world has been gripped by suffering, illness and death. Yet fear of suffering and death go against what we are called to believe in as Catholics: the redemptive power of suffering and the hope of everlasting life. God is not without pity or mercy for us in our fear, but we have countless examples that suffering cannot be avoided in this world. The Blessed Virgin Mary, most beloved by God of all His creatures, had her own heart pierced and ravaged. Christ Himself suffered the very worst of torments and death on the cross. How could we ever expect to escape suffering ourselves?
However, God does not abandon us, either. In these days where fear seems to consume so many of us, He has brought the patronage of St. Joseph to us as a reminder that we are not forsaken. St. Joseph is Solace of the Afflicted, Hope of the Sick, and Patron of the Dying, and under these titles he will certainly intercede for us if we ask.
We cannot know what the future holds, but we can be assured that God will provide for us, just as He provided for the Israelites in the desert. In the Litany of St. Joseph, we may find answers to the many problems that trouble our world, and I believe it is the work of the Holy Spirit that has brought this holy man to the forefront after so many years of silence.
St. Joseph, pray for us.