Despite landing on a Friday in the middle of Lent, today is a day of celebration throughout the Catholic Church, when we are not only allowed but expected to shake off our Lenten disciplines and celebrate. So, while I understand if you want to walk away now and break those fasts, I wanted to take this space to explain why it is that we feel St. Joseph is so worth celebrating, beyond the obvious reasons.
As Catholics, we believe that God gives us many good gifts, but among the greatest of those are people. We also believe that God is boundlessly generous, and the only limit on his giving is our capacity to receive.
With these two principles in mind, it’s easy to see why we consider St. Joseph to be one of the greatest among the saints. Who received greater gifts than the head of the Holy Family? One of the great lessons we can learn from his example is the willingness to receive the gifts we are given. His initial reaction to the revelation of what God wanted to give him, we are told, is fear and confusion, but he humbly submits and receives anyway.
This can be confusing at first glance. Granted, his information was incomplete, but why would one react with fear to the call to live with the Son of God and His Mother?
The truth,of course, is that St. Joseph was wise and understood that the greatest gifts we receive are also responsibilities. He knew that the gift of Mary and Jesus brought with it the responsibility of headship, of caring for these two sinless, yet potentially vulnerable people. The gift he was given was a great and terrifying vocation.
The same is true for all of us, no matter our calling. Priests and religious are called to spiritual father-and-motherhood of all, with the challenges and responsibilities that entails. Married men and women are called to care for their children and for each other. While these charges are gifts and graces of our vocations, we should not pretend that they are not challenging and difficult work as well, and increasingly so the greater the gift.
So, we turn to St. Joseph as an example of how to embrace our vocations as both gift and work, giving thanks for both.
Thankfully, St. Joseph is not just an example for us. He is also a gift Christ has given to each of us, along with his Heavenly Father and his Mother. These gifts, though, are not like the other gifts mentioned before. These gifts are unconditional, requiring nothing from us but our willingness to accept them. So, I want to invite all of you to take this celebratory day to give thanks for the gift of St. Joseph, not only as an example, but as a help, guide, and advocate.
St. Joseph, Foster Father of the Lord, Pray for us!
Andy Brandt is a Staff Editor, Producer, and General Ne’er-do-well at Konza Catholic. You can find his writing on Catholicism, Justice, and Politics here.