This post was originally posted last June. With the difficulties of unemployment and the stress of financial viability that many fathers are facing in this economy, and considering today is the feast day of St. Joseph, this is an appropriate time to revisit this post. VitC
I often think that marble statues and painted portraits of saints do them such an extreme disservice. The “porcelain-doll faces” that accompany these works really betray the less-than-perfect, human shortcomings that these saints struggled with daily in theirs lives and had to conquered on the way to their sainthood. For the most part, these works portray these spiritual warriors as immune to all human emotions; somehow having a secret to make their lives easier than ours. There are no hints of tragedy in beautiful oil paintings that have peaceful faces with rose-blushed cheeks. Sculpted marble never conveys fatigue, worry, nor tears.
Specifically to this thought, St. Joseph is always viewed as the quintessential protector and provider in his role to the Holy Family. The fact that this view is widely accepted and requires no reflection does St. Joseph the same disservice.
He holds lilies in his hands to show you how easy it was for him to be pure and a carpenter’s saw to show you how easy it was for him to provide for his family. We never truly realize the difficulties he undertook to end up with these reverent symbols.
For instance, three times (Nazareth, Bethlehem and Egypt) he had to completely uproot his business and risk the means of his livelihood to move for the protection/benefit of his family. He must have felt exhausted each time and that all of his hard work to build a master artisan's reputation within these towns was completely erased as he lead his family out of each town.
I likewise envision that a stranger coming into a close-knit town was not immediately, nor freely, trusted to the point of being supplied work. In the beginning, he must have taken any job offered, remedial in task or beneath his skill level, to feed the Blessed Mother and his Child (sound familiar dads?). It is hard to envision St. Joseph pleading for any available work, saying that he would do anything for food or payment, or... begging for lodging as well...
How many doors do you think St. Joseph knocked on before he settled on lodging his expecting wife with animals? How many doors do you think you would have knock on before this concession? Thirty... Fifty... One Hundred?
I often wonder that in the quiet moments following Christ’s birth, when the Blessed Mother was resting from her labor and the child was sleeping in her arms, did St. Joseph, standing vigilant guard, look at his loved ones co-mingled with the dirty beasts and feel as if he had failed to live up to his role as a provider?
These thoughts do not even consider that these difficulties and frustrations must have been amplified many times over considering he knew the importance of whom he was providing for.
But throughout all his struggles and discouragements his Faith never wavered and he knew God had a master plan for his life; that God relied on him meeting his responsibilities.
If one reflects, the master plan of St. Joseph's life was to give all his efforts to serve as protector of the helpless Christ child so that Jesus would be ready to sacrifice himself with great suffering when the time was right. It is really such a chilling irony that his role was to protect his child so that his child could eventually suffer, but take out St. Joseph's protection and the bigger master plan could have be in peril. Herod would have found the child in the "Slaughtering of the Holy Innocents" if not for St. Joseph's action. It was St. Joseph who would act on a dream, saving the Christ child's life so that he could eventually redeem the world.
We can take great insight from understanding this father's master plan. As fathers, our primary goals and efforts in life lie in helping our children achieve God's plans for their lives and help them attain holiness/heaven. Everything else is just a distraction and will not matter a century from now.
So to all you fathers: When the bills are many and the energy is fleeting; when the money is dwindling and the pressures are mounting; when there is a family member who is suffering and you cannot help, pray to the great St. Joseph. Start by heartfully mentioning to him that you are approaching him as one struggling father to another. He, through his experiences, will empathetically feel your hurt and raise your prayers up on your behalf to an Indebted Child that he once protected.
Happy St. Joseph's Day!
Saint Joseph was a just man, a tireless worker, the upright guardian of those entrusted to his care. May he always guard, protect and enlighten families. - Pope John Paul II