On March 19, 2020, northeast Wisconsin was experiencing a typical gray day with a rain-snow mix. On this day, many people had just started to self-quarantine and the current stay-at-home order was only a few days away from its official release. This beautiful light in the darkness was the official start of our year of dedication to St. Joseph, which was decreed by Bishop David Ricken. It was to begin on March 19 and end on the same day in the year 2021.
These days of the pandemic, which can seem sometimes like a harsh test of our patience and relationships, desperately cry for us to find some silver linings in the moment. The Year of St. Joseph is that silver lining right now because by learning about him and praying for his intercession, we can begin to adopt some of his saintly virtues and help from heaven. St. Joseph loved abundantly, which is seen by the many stories in Scripture of how he cared so diligently for Mary and Jesus. As we go through this Year of St. Joseph, it is important to highlight some of his titles so we can look to him as an example for our marriages and families.
March 19 is a solemnity of St Joseph, which highlights his most popular title, spouse of the mother of God. I often pray about what Joseph must have felt being the spouse of Mary because in his lifetime, he would have understood to whom he was married. An angel came to him in a dream and revealed that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:21).
St. Joseph is said to have had one of the purest of loves, meaning he led a life of sacrifice for Mary and Jesus, out of his own free will and his yes to the call of God. Joseph was a good protector and provider, as shown by his willingness to leave in the middle of the night, without hesitating or questioning the warning given to him in a dream (Mt 2:13-15). Venerable Fulton Sheen stated: “No husband and wife ever loved one another so much as Joseph and Mary.”
Another great title and reason for pause is St. Joseph, Mirror of Patience. Our relationships and marriages can be easily triggered into frustration by the unusual circumstances we are in. So what can St. Joseph do for our relationships here? Patience allows us to find peace and calm when things may seem out of control.
St. Joseph was able to practice this virtue as his wife was about to give birth, and no place was available. Extraordinary patience would have been required as they would have traveled upwards of 400-plus miles to Egypt, with no time to prepare for such a journey. Egypt would have been foreign territory for them, so Joseph would have needed to once again exhibit calm in finding work and shelter for his family.
He learned to wait on God’s plan until they were called back to Nazareth; and again in understanding God’s will when Jesus was lost to them for three days, only to be found in the Temple. There were many circumstances out of Joseph’s control in his lifetime, his actions demonstrate some of the patience he would have exhibited.
The last title that is a good reflection in our current situation, is St. Joseph, Pillar of Families. Many are working from home, spending more time together daily, and navigating this pandemic together. To be a “pillar of families” means that St. Joseph teaches us to focus on those things which are foundational — prayer, forgiveness, love and, above all, God.
In the hidden years of Jesus we can only imagine family meals with Joseph, Mary and Jesus around the table together. He is seen in paintings teaching Jesus his carpentry trade and sharing the skills that were dear to him, such as hard work. It could also be reasoned that they would have spent time talking about the Scriptures and what it means to their daily lives. St. John Paul II stated: “St. Joseph was a just man, a tireless worker, the upright guardian of those entrusted to his care.”
We have been given a special gift on March 19, and that is an invitation to look at this coming year, not strictly in light of this pandemic, but instead in light of lessons learned from St. Joseph. God chose Joseph to be head of the Holy Family and therefore we can look to Joseph for guidance and insight during these trying times. If you have not yet looked into the Year of St. Joseph in our diocese, you can find a wealth of information and resources here: gbdioc.org/stjoseph. May St. Joseph, Spouse of the Virgin, Mirror of Patience and Pillar of Families pray for us!
Tremblay is Marriage and Life Ministries director for the Diocese of Green Bay.