I have always been fascinated yet frustrated with the fact that not one word spoken by Joseph is recorded in the Bible. We learn he was a just and honorable man, but I want more. I want to know what he said when he learned Mary was with child and not his child. What did he say when he saw an angel? What did he say when he wasn’t sure what path to take to the cave? What did he say as he waited for his Advent to be complete? What did he say to comfort Mary as she labored to give birth? Did he rub her back? Did he kiss her forehead? Did he step out for a breath of fresh air? What were his first words as he held baby Jesus? How did he tell Mary he had everything ready to go to Egypt?
Pope Benedict XVI said this about St. Joseph and fatherhood:
“He is not the biological father of Jesus, whose father is God alone, and yet he lives his fatherhood fully and completely. To be a father means above all to be at the service of life and growth. Saint Joseph, in this sense, gave proof of great devotion. For the sake of Christ he experienced persecution, exile and the poverty which this entails. Hew had to settle far from his native town. His only reward was to be with Christ.”
Pope John Paul II said:
“Sacred Scripture says little of him. It does not record even one word spoken by Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth. And yet, even without words, he shows the depth of his faith, his greatness. Saint Joseph is a man of great spirit. He is great in faith, not because he speaks his own words, but above all because he listens to the words of the Living God. He listens in silence. And his heart ceaselessly perseveres in the readiness to accept the Truth contained in the word of the Living God.”
This Advent, I pondered on St. Joseph often. I witness many fathers demonstrating their own examples of fatherhood as Joseph did. A new father with a sick child, taking turns with his wife holding, rocking and humming to a sick child. A father combing his daughter’s hair and taking her school with a quick goodbye kiss. A father taking five of his kids for hair cuts while forgoing his own. My own father becoming more frail with age but still loving to talk on the phone and ask how things are going.
We have a father in our parish who has me in awe every Sunday. He and his wife coming in with children in tow. Their youngest is a Down’s child. He appears to be flourishing in the glow of love from his whole family. Each parent takes a turn holding, hushing and swaying back and forth, sometimes to comfort him and other times just to keep him entertained as the priest speaks from the alter. One Sunday, the little one was bent on being held by whatever parent didn’t have him! They passed his back and forth several times and finally, Dad kept him and held him close. The little boy pushed his father’s face away and fought to get down. I couldn’t help but to think about how often we act just like that little boy as God tries to hold us close and shower us with kisses.
One Sunday, their middle son fell asleep. He slept on the pew as the family got up to go for Holy Communion. With the movement around him, he awoke, alone and confused to where his family was. His father heading down the isle seemed to know almost by instinct something was wrong. He turned, saw his son and walking against the tide of people moving forward, returned to his son. He picked him up, comforted him and got back in line to receive our Lord.
These fathers are quite, just and honorable men showing more often their love, compassion and concern by acts and less by words. Remind you of anyone?
Dear St. Joseph, help teach me how to practice quite, trusting faith as you did.