Saint Joseph’s Feast Day is celebrated by Catholics worldwide today. It is a special day in honor of a man we know only a little about.
The Bible tells us a few things about Saint Joseph. We know he had planned to marry Mary. We also know that when Mary told him of her pregnancy he planned to divorce her quietly so as not to embarrass her – or worse, risk her safety or her unborn child’s safety. Unwed pregnant women at that time could be stoned to death. From this we can infer that Joseph was a compassionate and gentle soul.
We also know Saint Joseph cared for and loved Jesus as a baby, as a child (Saint Joseph helped search for Jesus in the Temple (Luke Chapter 2), and possibly beyond. We don’t know when Saint Joseph died or how long he was able to live with Mary and Jesus.
Above all, we know Saint Joseph loved and obeyed God.
But we don’t know much about how Saint Joseph was raised, how he became the man we know and respect thousands of years later.
There are those who say Saint Joseph obeyed God unquestioningly. I wonder about that.I wonder about the doubt and fear Saint Joseph had upon hearing his soon-to-be-bride was pregnant with God’s child. I wonder about the fear he felt as he flew Herod’s all-consuming, power-hungry, evil wrath. I wonder about the gossip he faced as his son came closer and closer to His true purpose.
We know Jesus displayed anger (He knocked over the gaming tables at the temple). We know Jesus faced temptation (The devil presented him with options Jesus had to resist). We know Jesus asked His Father to take the cup from Him.
Saint Joseph, as wonderful a man as he was, was no Jesus.
If Jesus faced these difficulties, it is more than possible that Saint Joseph also faced similar difficulties. He must have questioned God. He must have wondered about God’s plan. He must have thought, “Why me, Lord?”
And yet, Saint Joseph quietly went about what God asked of him.
And, as little as we know of Saint Joseph, we know even less about his parents.
We know he descended from the great ruler King David (Matthew Chapter 1). We also know that Joseph lived in poverty or near poverty. We find evidence of this as he presents Jesus in the temple, offering two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons after Jesus’ birth when wealthy men would have offered a lamb.
We don’t hear much about the fall from David’s greatness to Joseph’s poverty, but it’s there nonetheless.
And yet, despite the poverty, despite the humiliation he faced, despite the anger and the fear and the worry, Joseph emerged a strong, man who put God and his family first.
And I cannot believe this was an accident.
I can’t believe Joseph just happened to turn out okay.
Good kids don’t often just happen.
Good kids are grown. They are nurtured. They are held to high standards. They are loved. They are disciplined. They are instructed. They are taught. They are demanded of.
They are parented on purpose, with purpose.
While we know little of Saint Joseph’s parents, I bet they didn’t leave Joseph’s upbringing to chance. I bet there were times they faced hardship, times he got into mischief or didn’t understand a concept they thought simple. I bet there were times they were frustrated with him, angered by him, amused by him (even in the face of oe of the bad things he must have done! How many of us fight the urge to giggle at some of the “bad things” our children have done? I can’t be alone in that!)
I bet there must have been times even a saint’s parents must have wanted to throw in the towel.
But they must have hung in there and kept on going.
Or maybe it was just Saint Joseph’s mother who raised him as a single parent.
In the days when men were often forced to work long hours and much of the child rearing was left to women, in the days when men married women younger than themselves, in the days when men died so much earlier than women, it is possible that Joseph was raised by a single mother.
I don’t know if any of this is true. I hope I am not being blasphemous. I am just saying there is a possibility.
Whatever the case, Joseph turned out to be one of our most humble, most revered saints, a role model for our children, a role model for ourselves, a role model for our husbands, fathers, potential spouses.
And that does not happen by accident.
It took purposeful parenting – even on the hard days, even when those hard days last weeks and months and years.
And so, no matter whether you are a couple struggling with a prodigal son or daughter or a single mom struggling with every day life, I urge you to never give up.
Parent on Purpose.
Talk to your child starting when they are young, infants even, about the love of their Father. Introduce them to role models like Saint Joseph. Show them the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
If you don’t, someone else is sure to fill your gap.
No matter what your situation, ask the Lord for strength, perseverance, and guidance to parent on purpose.
Do not leave your parenting to accident.
With God’s help, you can raise a Joseph
(or a Josephine 😉 )