A good example from Saint Joseph:
Saint Joseph is the greatest earthly husband and father who has ever lived. After Mary his spouse, Joseph is the second greatest saint of all-time, the greatest male saint ever. The Church affirms a unique category of honor for St. Joseph: God alone is to be worshipped (latria), Mary is to be venerated as the highest saint (hyperdulia), Joseph is to be venerated, after Mary, but above all other saints (protodulia), and all the saints are to be venerated after Mary and Joseph (dulia).
The greatness of St. Joseph’s vocation as spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and adopted father of Jesus is not reflected by the quantity of words with which the Gospels speak of him as they are relatively few. In fact, there are no words spoken by Joseph in the Gospels, yet “those texts that relate to Joseph are heavy with hidden meaning. The details they give, sparse as they are, when meditated upon, become suffused with light (Joseph the Silent, Author’s Preface to the first edition, 7).”
I recommend Joseph the Silent – a small, but powerful book that lends itself as a guide for meditating more deeply on Joseph. For example, the author Fr. Michael Gasnier O.P. takes the scene of Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem, the short phrase “there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:7),” and provides us with this gem of insight:
“Poor Joseph. The rebuffs he had received lay heavy on his heart. ‘Bethlehem,’ says Faber, ‘was his Cross.’ He blamed himself for the disappointment and refusals they (the Holy Family) had met with. He accused himself to God and Mary for his lack of foresight. But Mary was unperturbed; she tried to comfort him, to console him. She assured him that these humiliations were the mysterious workings of divine Providence. God, coming to save men from their sins, was from the beginning giving an example of complete detachment. She begged Joseph to pray with her, and they recited the verses of her Magnificat, that hymn of thanksgiving which would be always on their lips.”
Any husband and father who truly strives to live the Gospel in his earthly life is sure to understand something of Joseph’s Cross in Bethlehem. Joseph is faithful to God’s will, yet his great success appears to be a great failure. As thoroughly real as his victory is, he deeply feels as if he were failing. In this trial of faith, when the failure feels so incredibly real in spite of one’s true fidelity to God, it is a tremendous blessing to have a companion to help bring a right perspective into view; a true interpretation of events that turns discouragement into thanksgiving.
Our Blessed Mother Mary is a powerful companion who is always with us in our earthly pilgrimage. She not only witnessed, but also freely and faithfully offered herself with Jesus in His Passion and Death. Our King wore the crown of thorns on His wooden throne. Our Queen worshipped Him there, her heart pierced in perfect union with His. Mary knows the earthly trial of seeing through the perceived failure while standing firm in faithful victory. She is tender to console and direct us back to reality in such times.
Mary’s Magnificat can be ours: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever (Luke 1:46-55).”
How will I apply this? (The Challenge):
Step 1: I will seek to notice when the Cross of Joseph presents itself to me (when I am being faithful to God, yet I feel as if I am failing).
Step 2: I will slowly pray a “Hail Mary” and invite Mary to console me and to help me to see things clearly.
Step 3: Regardless of how I feel, I will freely offer myself in praise and thanksgiving to God with Mary by slowly praying her Magnificat and making it my own.
Some possible results:
- I may become more vigilant in my interior life – more quickly noticing and resisting the temptation to discouragement.
- I may experience greater intimacy in my relationship with Mary – finding greater joy in knowing and loving my Queen and Mother.
- I may become more intrepid in seeking, choosing, and remaining faithful to God’s will, regardless of the trials – advancing in becoming a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22).
Saint Joseph, pray for us!