Tuesday, March 19, is St. Joseph’s Day, but it often gets overlooked by the day for that other saint, with its shamrocks, parades, and green beverages. Aside from people who work in trades that view him as their patron saint, people who are named Joseph, and the places where daily Mass is celebrated, most will probably ignore this major feast of the Church.
One reason people don’t talk much about Joseph might have to do with the ambiguity around his role in the birth and upbringing of Jesus. The Apostles’ Creed affirms that Jesus was “conceived by the Holy Ghost,” and “born of the Virgin Mary.“ There is no mention of Joseph. And yet, as in our own day, a foster parent—especially a foster father where men are scarce—can mean all the difference in the upbringing of a child. For many reasons, boys and men (as well as girls and women) would do well to be more like St. Joseph.
Joseph did his best to follow the religious teachings of his day. He worshipped with the community. He said his prayers. Even when he learned Mary was pregnant, Joseph planned to do the morally right thing in his day, but to do so discreetly, not embarrassing or endangering Mary. Yet, when the Holy Spirit interrupted his life, he made way and was flexible enough to go where God led. For those of us who like to make plans and follow them, Joseph can remind us that sometimes God changes things midway. The faithful response, then, is for us to pray, ask other people of faith for guidance, and follow in the new direction.
Finally, Joseph had the good sense to listen to his dreams. He listened to the dreams that came while he was sleeping, but also to the dreamlike visions that came from prayer and yearning. Through obedience to God’s will, Joseph was able to take his dream of family and fatherhood, and let the Holy Spirit adjust it in ways he could have never imagined. Wherever we may be on St. Joseph’s Day, let us give thanks for this symbol of bold love and gentle strength.