Most of us prefer to give our lives over to God by the tablespoon; I certainly count myself among that number. Saint Joseph, patron saint of fathers, the Universal Church, and many other patronages, provides an example of a life that was wholly given to serve God. He did not measure out his life when loving and obeying God. And that is what makes him a remarkable person to emulate.
This Saturday, March 19, 2016, will be Saint Joseph’s feast day. My family will be celebrating by making BBQ L.A. Galbi short-ribs, and we’ll be sharing this meal with other families during a fellowship of parents. For this post, I wanted to share quotes from an article that talks about why Saint Joseph’s character is so important for men and husbands, today:
Father Jacques Philippe, in a wonderful little book called Interior Freedom, reminds us that very often the experience of genuine freedom requires acceptance of that which we simply cannot change. He calls it “the paradoxical law of human life,” which grows out of the recognition that “one cannot be truly free unless one accepts not always being free.” In other words, the moments when we are most likely to mature as human beings—enlarging the scope of our own sanctity, as it were—are precisely the times when room to maneuver and master the situation do not exist. But that since life is primarily a gift, why should it matter that we’re unable to manage things?
How piercing the light of that paradox falls upon the life of St. Joseph. Could he, for instance, have imagined a situation in which he was outwardly less free than the one resulting from the fact that his intended bore him a child that did not belong to him? To submit to a situation not of own making? Speaking lines of a script he hadn’t himself written? Had he no other options? Fr. Philippe tells us that when faced with circumstances we do not choose, especially when they appear dangerous and intrusive, there are three possibilities that present themselves to us. There is, to begin with, the option of rebellion, of brazen refusal and revolt in the face of a summons we did not solicit and are loath to welcome. To recoil from the reality before us, says Fr. Philippe, “is often our first, spontaneous reaction to difficulty or suffering. But it has never solved anything.”
Then there is the posture of resignation, which amounts to “a declaration of powerlessness that goes no further. It may be a necessary stage,” he adds, “but if one stops there it also is sterile.”
That leaves option number three, which is an attitude of receptivity leading to real and lasting assent. “We say yes to a reality we initially saw as negative, because we realize that something positive may arise from it.” And the quality of hope hidden in the gesture, as in the willingness of Joseph to extend himself in trust, becomes the grace that ultimately saves. Fr. Philippe is most adamant about the point, assuring us that “the most important thing in our lives is not so much what we can do as leaving room for what God can do. The great secret of all spiritual fruitfulness and growth is learning to let God act.”
I particularly like the quote in the concluding paragraph, attributed to George Bernanos (1888-1948), a French author: “A saint doesn’t live on the interest of his income, or even on his income; he lives on his capital, he gives all of his soul… To engage one’s soul! O, that is not merely a literary image.” This resonates with me because I often find myself obsessed with my family’s investments. The words remind me that I should not be a miser, but to give my whole self over to serve my family, and through them, God.