by Larry Peterson
I call St. Joseph the “Shadow Saint.” That is because so little is known about him. He never spoke a word that was recorded. He never wrote anything that was saved on parchment. It does not matter. This young man, a “righteous Jew” true to the law, was confronted with being engaged to a woman pregnant with someone else’s child. The reality was a terrible thing for him to bear.
But Joseph was a man of faith and God was with him. The penalty for his betrothed could have been death by stoning. Joseph would have none of that. His Mary would not be harmed. He loved her. So he took her in and married her. The child she carried would be his.
St. Joseph’s example of selflessness is something that needs to be talked about with admiration, respect and pride. It might be used as a guide for so many who have, in this secular-driven world, fathered children and then abandoned them.
There is a crisis of “fatherless” children in America. Next to the disrespect and disregard for unborn life, this could be the most dangerous threat to our society. “Fatherlessness” is an ongoing tragedy that can find its roots planted when Roe vs. Wade was passed in 1973. When the destruction of human life was legalized, the downward spiral of respect for life followed.Statistics show that in fatherless homes poverty is four times higher than average, teen pregnancy increases by a multiple of seven, abuse and neglect are much more widespread, and drug use is more prevalent. The list goes on and on. There is a “father factor” involved in virtually all aspects of American life today. Yes, many homes still have fathers, but many children live in homes with absentee fathers and the societal effects are felt all across the spectrum of American life.
St. Joseph could be used as a shining example for all men to emulate. He was poor, he was chaste and he respected women, especially his teenage bride. He was a man of faith and stayed true to the laws of God and man. Foremost in his life was his faith in God. This was his strength. This is what fortified him. This is what is missing in so many lives today.
Joseph of Nazareth is an example of how one should respect the law. We could explain to young people how he had to put his teenage pregnant wife on the back of a donkey and then walk over rocky, dusty roads for over 80 miles, a journey that probably took three days. And why did he do this? He did this because he was required to go to Bethlehem for the census. It was the law.
The story of young Joseph, taking his teenage wife and baby boy and escaping Bethlehem because King Herod wanted to kill his son, Jesus, would make any young person’s pulse amp up. The poor guy’s child was being hunted by Herod’s soldiers. His wife was recovering from childbirth. He had to make it to Egypt. And he did…for his family. This is what a REAL man would do, or at least try to do.
Joseph did whatever he had to do to take care of his wife and son. He worked hard to keep a roof over their heads, to feed them, clothe them, and protect them. He did not care about himself. His family came first, no matter what. He would have gladly died for them if necessary. He was a real MAN. His sacrifice and efforts for his wife and son allowed them to survive so that the salvific narrative would be fulfilled. We owe him so much.
His faith, courage, integrity and love of God resonate like the smashing of cymbals and the banging of drums for all of us to listen to. We need to follow his example. We need to celebrate his life. We need to honor his commitment to his responsibilities. We should cherish his devotion to family.
I realize the possibility of teaching about this quiet hero in public schools might be a pipe dream but I would hope Catholic schools would use him as an example for students to look up to and respect as a role model for what a husband and dad should try to be like.
St. Joseph, two thousand years after his death, is still the finest role model for not only husbands and fathers, but for all men for all time.
Addendum: Re: Election 2016: I am keeping it simple. I will heed the words of Pope St. John Paul II; “A nation that kills its own children is a nation without hope.”
At this time there is only one candidate that has a pro-life agenda. That person will get my vote. End of story.
© Larry Peterson 2016