Archbishop William E. Lori
Editor’s Note: This article is part two in a special series by Archbishop Lori on men’s spirituality.
This month, we turn the subject of this column to St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus. Joseph’s life and example hold special meaning for every husband and father seeking to be true to his vocation; for every priest who wants to be a good pastor to his parish family; and for every deacon who wants to serve the Church in humble charity. Indeed, St. Joseph is a model for every Knight of Columbus who seeks to grow in the likeness of Christ and live the principles of the Order.
When Pope Francis greeted members of the Order’s board of directors and their families this past October, he referred to St. Joseph as “an admirable model of those many virtues of quiet strength, integrity and fidelity which the Knights of Columbus are committed to preserving, cultivating and passing on to future generations of Catholic men.” In doing so, the pope outlined the essential qualities that marked the life of St. Joseph — the same virtues that should be evident in our lives.
STRENGTH THAT LISTENS
St. Joseph was certainly a man of “quiet strength.” In fact, Scripture attributes no words to St. Joseph at all. But as the story of the Incarnation and birth of Jesus unfolds, Joseph remains a tower of stability.
After the Annunciation, when Mary discovered that she was with child through the Holy Spirit, Joseph experienced inner turmoil. As Blessed John Paul II observed, “[Joseph] did not know how to deal with Mary’s ‘astonishing’ pregnancy” (Redemptoris Custos, 3). After an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream (as related in Mt 1:20-21), Joseph immediately obeyed the angel’s command to take Mary into his home, demonstrating his faith and readiness to cooperate with the plan of God.
The story of how Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem to comply with the census of Caesar Augustus is well-known. Joseph searched for shelter for mother and child, and though only a stable could be found, he remained utterly attentive to the needs of Mary and the newborn Savior.
When an angel again instructed him in a dream, St. Joseph swiftly ushered Mary and the Child Jesus into Egypt to escape the bloody clutches of Herod (cf. Mt 2:13-14). Again, no words, just quiet strength.
In our noisy world where people constantly tout themselves, their opinions and their products, strength is often equated with getting people’s attention, winning their approval and getting ahead, even to the point of conquering others.
But think about the really strong people you know. Often, they speak few words; they have no need to boast about their accomplishments because their convictions and their deeds speak for themselves. These are people who know how to face life’s problems and tragedies with the strength that comes from faith in God. They are secure in an insecure world.
INTEGRITY AND FIDELITY
A second virtue of St. Joseph is integrity. Integrity does not mean being stubborn or inflexible, but rather whole or complete. At one level, it has to do with soundness in mind and body. But it also has to do with consistently adhering to sound principles and becoming the person that God has intended you to be.
St. Joseph demonstrated each of these traits. Tradition tells us that he was a hard worker and a good provider for the Holy Family. Scripture depicts a man who was steadfast in his faith and resolute in purpose, even as he faced situations that he never could have imagined. Joseph was ultimately a man of integrity because of his unstinting cooperation with God’s saving plan.
Integrity is often in short supply today, and it is easy to go along with the crowd. Lacking a sound faith in God and firm principles, many accept as true whatever the prevailing trend happens to be. As a result, right and wrong, truth and error become relative. Virtue is passé. Mere appearance is seen as more compelling than who a person really is. by contrast, integrity includes taking care of ourselves physically, psychologically and spiritually. It involves asking for the grace of a firm faith and the sound moral principles that light our path. This means having the virtue to withstand temptation, upholding human dignity and doing the right thing for the right reason, even when such decisions aren’t popular.
Finally, Pope Francis pointed to St. Joseph’s fidelity. Joseph remained faithful to the end — to Mary, to Jesus and to the mystery of salvation that had been entrusted to him. He was faithful not only in the crucial events surrounding Jesus’ birth, but also in the everyday demands of home and work in Nazareth. Fidelity is faith in action in all the events of daily life, big and small. For husbands, it means loving one’s spouse and family to the end. For priests, it means staying true to the priesthood and all it requires. For everyone, it means service given without notice or reward.
When Venerable Michael McGivney founded the Knight of Columbus, he envisioned men of quiet strength, integrity and fidelity. In these days when we celebrate the Lord’s Incarnation and birth, let us ask St. Joseph for the grace to grow in these virtues and for the wisdom to pass them along to a new generation of Knights.