ON THE MORNING of Dec. 8, 2020, I awoke to learn that Pope Francis had dedicated the year ahead to St. Joseph, the man whom God the Father chose as the spouse of the Virgin Mary and guardian of his incarnate Son. This news delighted me because we so often overlook St. Joseph and the example he set for us — as a man of faith and integrity; as a model of fatherhood and family life; and as guardian of the household at Nazareth and of the Church. In fact, as Pope Francis reminded us, Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph the Patron of the Universal Church 150 years ago. The question for us today is what can we, as Knights of Columbus, learn from St. Joseph’s virtues?
First, St. Joseph was a man of faith and integrity. Sometimes we forget how difficult St. Joseph’s unique vocation really was. He was betrothed to Mary when she was found to be with child. Normally, this would be the end of the relationship, and a woman in this situation would be exposed to shame. In the strength of his compassion, St. Joseph was unwilling for that to happen. But what should he do? In a dream, the Lord announced to him that he should have no fear of taking Mary as his wife, for her child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and was to be the long-awaited Messiah (see Mt 1:21-22). When Joseph awoke, he did as the Lord had asked. His deep faith led him to obey the Lord and to fulfill his special vocation with honor. Here was a servant upon whom God could rely to fulfill his purposes.
Is this not what we pledged to be and to become as Knights of Columbus? Men who, with God’s grace, bring our Catholic faith from the periphery of our lives to the center; men who listen to the voice of God in prayer; men who respond to the specific challenges of our lives with honesty; men who reliably serve God and the needs of others?
‘Joseph’s deep faith led him to obey the Lord and to fulfill his special vocation with honor. Here was a servant upon whom God could rely to fulfill his purposes.’
Second, St. Joseph was the husband of Mary and the guardian of Jesus. As we recall the story of Jesus’ birth, let us take note of the pivotal role St. Joseph played. Scripture does not record his words, but it does convey the strength of his tender love for Mary and his fatherly care for the divine child of her womb. When the innkeeper told Joseph that he had no room, Joseph provided for his family as best he could. Imagine how he had to improvise to prepare a crude stable for the birth of the Christ Child. Imagine, too, his role in protecting his family not only against the elements, but also against the machinations of King Herod, who sought to kill the newborn Messiah. What must have gone through Joseph’s mind when, during the Presentation in the Temple, Simeon foretold that Jesus would be “a sign of contradiction” and that Mary’s heart would be pierced with “a sword of sorrow” (cf. Lk 2:34-35)? Returning to Nazareth, Joseph provided for his family by working as a carpenter and shared his daily work with Jesus. In all these things and much more, he remained strong and true as Mary’s spouse and Jesus’ guardian.
The Knights of Columbus continues its founding mission, given by Blessed Michael McGivney, as it helps men to protect and serve their wives and families. And St. Joseph, by his intercession and constant and consistent example of faith, virtue and self-giving love, helps Knights become exemplary husbands and fathers today.
Finally, just as St. Joseph watched over the household in Nazareth, so too he watches over the Church universal. At a time when the Church is beset by divisions and scandals, and people are falling away from the faith, we need St. Joseph’s prayers more than ever. As Knights, let us ask his prayers so that we may continue to be a source of strength and unity for the Church, now and in the years ahead. St. Joseph, pray for us!
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