St. Joseph’s solemn feast is today! It’s a day of exuberant and Lent-defying celebration for the whole Church. And it’s a special joy for men everywhere who have the distinct privilege of being fathers—yes!—but also of being guardians of God’s beloved daughters.
St. Joseph, Spouse and Abba
St. Joe rocks. Foster-father of God’s Son and spouse of the God-bearer.
When I ponder the fact that he bore the fearsome role of being the earthly image for Jesus of the heavenly Father, it fills me with wonder and awe. When Jesus first said Abba, he meant Joseph. And, as with all fathers, the vocation of Joseph was to provide for Jesus as seamless a transition from father to Father as possible. Joseph was a craftsman, working by the sweat of his brow and teaching Jesus the dignity of doing the same. He was a just man, a man who walked in dark and pilgrim faith, the protector of and provider for his family and a man of humble silence.
All that said, what stands out to me most, especially in our time, as most remarkable is that he was placed as guardian of his bride’s God-sealed virgin chastity, which he secured, no doubt, by the furious virtue his own heroic chastity. The joyful burden that this must have placed on him to love the Tota Pulchra (All-Beautiful Woman) in purity of body and soul must have been immense.
But his singular call to such manly virtue toward the Virgin Mary is by no means unique to him.
All men are called by the eternal Father to guard women’s chastity by guarding first their own, and here I mean chastity in the broadest sense of placing one’s red-blooded erotic desire in service of the full truth of human sexuality as it exists in its God-given meaning. And for men, this can be a cause for great, great heroism. In fact, I am absolutely convinced that men who commit themselves to this work of chaste guardianship can become, though much prayer and fraternal support, great saints of postmodernity in suffering its often great demands in the face of a super-eroticized culture.
Here I would also add that men who indulge in pornography, extra-marital sex, abusive/using sex, or contraception have gravely compromised the guard-post God entrusted to them and have failed to be men of St. Joseph. To such men the Church of Jesus Christ, son of Mary, says: Repent and pray fervently to this patron of heroic chastity!
And yes, obviously women have their own distinctive, essential, and unique role in this guardianship of chastity—but as it’s St. Joe’s day, I am speaking of men, as a man.
St. Teresa of Avila had a special devotion to him, and argued that Joseph, the man of listening silence, was a special patron of the “interior life,” that life of seeking God in the deepest center of our heart. And let me also recommend to you St. John Paul II’s inspiring Apostolic Exhortation on St Joseph here.
I’ll let St. Teresa finish my thoughts today:
I wish I could persuade everyone to be devoted to this glorious saint, for I have great experience of the blessings which he can obtain from God. I have never known anyone to be truly devoted to him and render him particular services who did not notably advance in virtue, for he gives very real help to souls who commend themselves to him. For some years now, I think, I have made some request of him every year on his festival and I have always had it granted. If my petition is in any way ill directed, he directs it aright for my greater good.