In the last few years, a number of friends asked me to pray for their families. A friend asked me to pray for her uncle in the United States who had been unsuccessful looking for a job. A coworker asked me to pray for her 19-year-old niece who has been suffering from anorexia and is on the brink of an imminent death. Another friend asked me to pray for her family without telling me why. A mother asked me to pray for her daughter who had falsely accused of her own father of physical abuse.
Many people today are suffering from all kinds of heart-breaking problems in their families. On March 19, we celebrate the feast day of St. Joseph who is the protector of families. Let us learn from the examples of some great saints who had prayed to St. Joseph for his powerful help.
“I begin in the name of the Lord, taking for my help His glorious Mother, whose habit I wear, although unworthily, and also my glorious father and lord, St. Joseph, in whose house I am, for he is the patron of this monastery of discalced nuns, through whose prayer I have been continually helped.” --- from the Prologue of The Foundations written by St. Teresa of Avila
St. Therese of Lisieux also said that, for a period of time, every day she prayed to St. Joseph for protection.
St. Joseph was a man of silence. We do not find any words spoken by him in the Bible. There were four Biblical events that we are all familiar with that show St. Joseph was a man with much faith and trust in God. 1. Mary’s conception – St. Joseph’s faith and trust was put to test when he was ignorant of the secret of Mary’s virginal conception. Fortunately, his anxiety did not last very long when an angel put an end to his anguish by commanding him to take Mary as his spouse. In his obedience, he believed the angel without hesitation, and received Mary into his home. 2. The birth of Jesus – Joseph and Mary obeyed King Caesar Augustus’s decree and had to leave their home in Nazareth as the birth of Jesus was approaching. Joseph saw God’s divine will in the emperor’s decree. With complete trust in God, Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem. Finding no room in Bethlehem, Joseph was forced to take shelter in a cave. 3. The flight into Egypt – An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and asked him, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you otherwise. Herod is searching for the child to destroy him.” ( Matthew 2: 13 ) Although Joseph did not have time for any preparation for this unexpected journey to Egypt, and in spite of the fact that he had no idea how long he would need to stay in Egypt with his wife and child, he trusted God completely and carried out the angel’s order without delay. 4. The return to Israel – After Herod’s death, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph again in a dream, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and set out for the land of Israel. Those who had designs on the life of the child are dead.” ( Matthew 2: 19 – 20 ) Once again, with complete trust in the Lord, St. Joseph carried out the angel’s order without delay.
From these four Biblical events, we can see that St. Joseph experienced the anguish caused by obscurities that surrounded the mystery of the Incarnation. The only strength that he had was the complete trust and confidence in God’s divine will. Unlike us, Joseph was enlightened by an angel as to God’s divine will in these painful circumstances. Joseph did not hesitate. Nor did he make any objections. He obeyed God, trusted Him, and cooperated with God’s will to carry out what he was asked to do.
God does not send an angel to us to make His will known to us. Today, God wants us to listen to the teachings of the Church to find out His will. Sometimes, however, our human intelligence cannot fully comprehend God’s divine will as sometimes His will seems to be obscure. We may then need to learn from St. Joseph’s ‘obedience of faith’ that demands the surrender of our mind in a humble way.
St. Joseph’s humble ‘obedience of faith’ is what our chaotic world needs today. When we humbly listen to the teachings of the Church and practice what the Church teaches us, the mind of man will come into contact with the mind of God. Through this humble submission of mind, the mystery of the Incarnation was gradually revealed to St. Joseph; likewise the chaotic world that we know today will gradually return to a world of peace and mutual respect.
We all have painful experiences in our life when God seems to work in a hidden way. It is a time when we need God’s timely assistance but the much-desired assistance is sometimes nowhere to be found. Our limited human intelligence does not comprehend His mysterious ways. It is then we need a deep faith like St. Joseph. We need an unfaltering faith in the guiding hands of the divine Providence. We need to trust God, like St. Joseph, that His wisdom and love is allowing this to happen. We need to believe that God is so powerful that He can bring good out of every miserable situation. St. Paul said, “We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who have been called to his decree.” ( Romans 8: 28 )
The fact that St. Joseph was a carpenter in Nazareth has made him a model and patron for workers. The fact that he ended his life on earth in the intimate presence of Jesus and Mary has made him the patron of a happy death. He was the head of the Holy Family, so he has been declared the patron of the universal family of God which is the Church. Due to his justice, prudence, faith, obedience, and patience, he is the patron for fathers. He was a man of silent prayers and reflection, so he is a special patron for those seeking a deeper interior life.
St. Joseph obtains favors of any kind, but particularly in family problems, financial needs, purity, dangers, work, housing, and a happy death.
Remember, most pure spouse of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, our beloved patron, never was it known that anyone invoked your protection and sought your aid without being comforted. Inspired with this confidence, I come to you and commend myself to you. Do not despise my petition, dear foster father of our Redeemer, but accept them graciously and pray for me to your adopted Son, Our Lord. Amen.