The special way of St. Joseph

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This discreet man can teach us a lot about life and how to achieve holiness.

Today the Church celebrates St. Joseph, the model Christian. The Church recognizes him as the greatest saint after the Virgin Mary. What is absolutely remarkable is that the most holy place of Nazareth was also home to great discretion, to such a simple almost ordinary life consisting of married and fatherly love. A life turned completely to God, to observing prayers and religious laws. A life marked by obedience to civil laws and daily monotony. We can never meditate enough on this contrast between St. Joseph’s remarkable sanctity and his modest everyday life.

St. Joseph is the “silent” doctor of this Nazarene school. He mastered the art of listening to the voice of God in reciting “Shema Yisrael” (“Hear, O’ Israel”) twice a day. So, his silence was actually an ability to listen and promptly obey. Here are some examples of his unwavering abandonment to Divine Providence: He took his wife (Matt. 1:24); he went up to Judea, to Bethlehem (Luke 2:4); and he took his wife and the child and fled to Egypt (Matt. 2:13). After Herod had died, he returned to Nazareth together with his wife and child (Mark. 2:19-23).

Through the example of his earthly life, Mary’s husband, the father of Jesus and the village artisan, attests to the mystical life. He was “just” because “the just man is the person who prays, lives by faith, and seeks to do good in every concrete circumstance of life,” said St. John-Paul II.

Something that is never explicitly mentioned about St. Joseph is all those years of love and hard work, which remind us of our own daily lives. It’s as if God is telling us through Joseph: Don’t look anywhere else but your actual life for occasions to be sanctified. Don’t leave it to seek out God; don’t think of your own sanctity – just receive it, work humbly and steadfastly on it in all circumstances, since there are so many occasions and so many places to obey the will of God and to generously give yourself to God and others.

St. Joseph’s sanctity is silent, but it doesn’t lack in eloquence. It invites us to listen to the Word, made flesh, which was the center of his life and has now become the center of ours. 

Father Nicolas Buttet

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