The Silent Strength of Joseph
"We rarely think of Joseph as anxious. Yet what we see in Tissot’s painting is a man who knew worry and uncertainty. Joseph found himself unexpectedly about to become a father, under mysterious circumstances no less. He must have wondered how he would support this suddenly growing family, as well as how he would explain what had happened to a doubting, judgmental world.
On a more personal level, Joseph knew the anxiety of any man about to become a father. He must have asked himself: am I ready for this? Am I good enough, strong enough, wise enough? And then, confronting the very real possibility of scandal, Joseph must have had more than a few sleepless nights. How, he must have wondered, could he protect and spare the woman he loved? And — like Mary, the woman he loved — he also must have thought at some point: this is not what I had planned. Everything is suddenly different.
How many of us have said that about our own lives? How many of us have had to face, like Joseph, a confusing world with uncertainty, and doubt, and anxiety and fear? How many of us have felt like the man in that Tissot drawing, frozen in place, while the world moves on around us, and we stand there and worry and wonder: what do I do? How will I get through this?
St. Joseph can be an advocate and intercessor for us. He weeps with us, grieves with us, and prays for us. He knows the only thing that prevented his family from [additional] suffering was the voice of an angel—and his own faith-filled surrender to God’s plan. His example of quiet strength can serve as an encouragement to all of us as we struggle to maintain hope in times of difficulty and personal pain. This simple man of modest means understood, more than we may realize, what it is to care for a family in a challenging or dangerous or violent time. Whenever we ask God to comfort the grieving, lift up the downtrodden, and console the terrified, Joseph joins us as an empathetic and compassionate intercessor.
The anxiety of Joseph is the anxiety of any nervous expectant father. It is the anxiety of anyone facing a future that seems overwhelming or a mystery that seems unsolvable or a job that seems too daunting. His worries are familiar to anyone who has ever felt that the world’s burdens were too heavy to bear. This is why we can all relate to him. In moments of worry and uncertainty, Joseph holds onto faith, hope, and trust. His example shows us how to do the same.
Joseph, the great silent partner of the Holy Family is a model of courage and perseverance in troubled times. When our lives can seem a nightmare, we cannot forget to dream. Hold onto the words of the angel that echoed down to him—and to us—as the great defining message of hope: Do not be afraid."
St. Joseph pray for us!