Finding Your ‘Joseph Moments’

The virtues of St. Joseph for today’s man

Mary and Jesus are the proper focus of Christmas, when we sing "Round yon Virgin Mother and Child." Amid the traditional hymns, though, we may forget St. Joseph and his God-given role as head of the Holy Family. After all, he was there in the stable when the "radiant beams" came forth from the Child’s holy face.

Yet perhaps the season of Advent, which we now observe, is the true time of St. Joseph. His role will be most explicit on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, with the Gospel’s description of the angel’s appearance in a dream (Mt 1:18-24). Joseph is described as a "righteous man" who did not want to expose his betrothed to the Jewish law for being pregnant outside of marriage. Yet he is not consumed by his own righteousness, and is open to God’s plan, as it is revealed to him.

The angel says:

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.

We can miss the full significance of this familiar account if we think that, of course, Joseph did what the angel said because he was a saint. But at any point, he could have lost courage, doubted his dream and – like any number of prophets in the Old Testament – asked God at first to choose someone else to play his part in salvation history. But he is a righteous man; he does not only what God asks, but also everything that is required to fulfill that command.

And not a word from him is heard throughout the entire Gospel story. He is simply there, leading when needed, and stepping into the shadows when the time comes for the Son of God to shine.

What can this mean for us, especially us fathers who have St. Joseph as our patron?

May I recommend that we look for "Joseph moments" in our daily lives? After all, the chances are that we are quite often offered opportunities to exercise the "servant leadership" of St. Joseph. A good place to start is to become familiar with God’s word in Scripture so that we will become accustomed to the tone and tempo of his promptings in our own lives. Thus, reading the Bible – especially the Gospels – is Step One in recognizing the "Joseph moments" in our lives.

Here are some other suggestions:

2. If you find your wife or family in any danger, take well-considered and effective action, just as Joseph took the Holy Family to Egypt. The dangers you face may not include a mad King Herod, but be aware of the workload your wife may face at home, the pressures of childcare, the financial burdens of your family and even something as seemingly small as gossip about your family among in-laws. Stand up and present yourself as a defender of your wife and children.

3. Be a leader of the spiritual welfare of your family. It is amazing how attuned and attentive Joseph was to God’s angels, who appeared to him on three occasions commanding three huge tasks. As a father, don’t leave the religion to your wife – your children will grow up thinking that faith is only feminine. Give them an example of faithful masculine leadership, which includes humility in the presence of God.

4. Be open to changing your personal plans for the sake of your family. Joseph may have imagined a normal marital and domestic life with his beloved bride. But he gave up all such dreams for love of God and love of Mary. At this moment, there is probably something you could do or say to show that kind of love for your wife and children.

Submit your comments to share your own "Joseph Moments."

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