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Saint Joseph the Worker


What do you suppose Joseph thought about and prayed about as the drama unfolded?

josephuuiuCertainly it must have become clear to him fairly quickly that he was to be in faithful attendance on this that God was doing in and through the woman.... Protect Mary; maintain the household; keep bread on the table; be a father to this boy as best you can.... Surely you and I may be encouraged when we reflect that Saint Joseph, patron of the universal Church, had a vocation that kept him always out of the limelight.  It required that he be content to attend on something immense that God seemed to be doing in someone else....

Nobody knows when Joseph died, of course: Mary may have been widowed early on.  But for whatever his allotted span of time was, Joseph exists for us all, it seems to me, as the very icon of the faithful servant of God.  Obscurity, yes, but obscurity is not a category in the precincts of heaven. Fidelity is.

This is hard for us mortals to live with, sometimes.  So much else seems so attractive.  Surely just a bit of celebrity would spice things up, or a dash of wealth, or influence, or some exciting connections, or some great success that would set us apart — even a little bit apart....

Well — there is the icon of Saint Joseph for us to contemplate, and in front of which we may want to pour out some prayers from the depths of our being.  What, I may ask, is the particular obscurity the angel of God has assigned to me as the specific realm in which I may win through to sainthood?  If I keep Saint Joseph in my vision, I will have a most encouraging model.



howardtThomas Howard. "Saint Joseph the Worker." from  The Night Is Far Spent: A Treasury of Thomas Howard (San Francisco, CA.: Ignatius Press,  2007).

Reprinted with permission of Ignatius Press.

Painting by Michael O'Brien

The Author

HowardThomas Howard taught for many years at St. John's Seminary College, the Roman Catholic seminary of the archdiocese of Boston. He became Episcopalian in his mid-twenties, then entered the Catholic Church in 1985. Among the books he has authored are Chance or the Dance?The Night Is Far Spent, Evangelical is Not Enough, If Your Mind Wanders at Mass, On Being CatholicDove Descending: A Journey Into T.S. Eliot's Four Quartetsand The Secret of New York Revealed. Howard's story of why he became Catholic is called Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome.

Copyright © 2007 Ignatius Press
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