At Our Lady’s University, opportunities to grow in relationship with our mother Mary are joyfully abundant. One could duck into the Mary Chapel at the Basilica or light a candle at the Grotto. Many of our dorm or other campus chapels are dedicated to her, or offer places of special devotion. Her husband, Joseph, remains more (characteristically) hidden — tucked into a corner of the Basilica or depicted under an image of his spouse. But now is the time to seek out Joseph’s intercession in a particular way. Where better to do this than at Notre Dame, where Mary surely delights in sharing her husband with each of us?
On December 8, 2020, Pope Francis declared a year of St. Joseph, to last until December 8, 2021. In a beautiful letter to the Church, Patris Corde — “With a Father’s Heart” — we are offered an extraordinary opportunity to enter into prayer and friendship with St. Joseph and to reflect on his virtues.
Soon after Pope Francis’ announcement, I felt a strong pull on my heart to take this invitation seriously. Despite growing up surrounded by his patronage, I had never paid much attention to the quiet earthly father of Jesus, the hidden spouse of Mary. In my discernment, I always fixed my eyes on Jesus or worked to imitate Mary. As I dove into a consecration to Jesus through Joseph, I realized just how much I had to learn from this holy man.
St. Joseph knows what it’s like for God to reveal plans wildly different than our own. Confronted by Mary’s unexpected pregnancy, he accepted a life and a love that was not what he expected. Despite what must have been countless unknowns and consistent uncertainty, Joseph laid down his life out of love for his beloved spouse and for the son he called his own. We, like Joseph, face uncertainty. But, just as Joseph lived his life in complete obedience to God’s will, he can show us how to surrender our own. As Pope Francis writes in Patris Corde, “the spiritual path that Joseph traces for us is not one that explains, but accepts.” Rather than trying to compose his own explanation, explaining away any unknowns, St. Joseph sets aside his own ideas, accepting the mysterious course of events that the Lord is charting.
St. Joseph teaches us recognition of our poverty and reliance on Divine Providence. When the time comes for the birth of his Messiah, Joseph can only provide a stable. Surely, Joseph worried that he, a simple craftsman, would have nothing to teach the Son of God, who at eight was astounding the teachers of Israel. But it is precisely in this poverty that Joseph’s fatherhood is revealed. He provides for and protects his family; he raises the Christ child in a faith-filled home; he teaches Jesus the work of a carpenter—building and shaping the material that would become the instrument of our salvation. In his poverty, Joseph found true freedom: as Pope Francis writes, “Joseph found happiness not in mere self-sacrifice but in self-gift.” As we face our poverty perhaps more acutely in these continued days of pandemic, Joseph can likewise teach us to humbly rejoice in our spiritual poverty: giving all that we have and are.
St. Joseph is the Terror of Demons, and he desires to protect our Church and our World. After a year marked by terrible suffering, widespread social unrest, and more upheaval than any of us could have foreseen, St. Joseph has stepped forward to reveal himself as a powerful partner in our battle against evil. He desires, like his Son, to see the Church restored, the world healed, and our country brought into justice and peace. As we grow wearier and wearier of these days of COVID-19, frustrated by the restrictions placed on our lives and time at college, it can be all too easy to despair. St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, teaches us to live in unfailing confidence of the goodness of God’s plan. We have only to give Him permission to work.
Finally, St. Joseph desires to bring us closer to Christ and to Our Lady. One of my favorite images of St. Joseph is the depiction of his death in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. As Mary holds Joseph’s hand, Christ sits beside His earthly Father. Joseph is laying almost entirely, not on his bed, but on his son — inclining his head to be as close as he can to the Lord in the last moments of his life. If we live in imitation of Joseph, we are drawn closer to Jesus, confident that He can hold our suffering and, indeed our very life, in His arms.
As the Church prays with St. Joseph this year, I hope that Notre Dame enters more deeply into relationship with him. I encourage you to entrust your vocation to him. Whether it be through a Consecration, a Holy Cloak Novena, or a litany offered on Wednesdays, let’s take Joseph up on his offer, trusting him to be a good father and friend to all who seek God’s will with an open and obedient heart. We may be at Our Lady’s University, but I know Mary is eager that we get to know her beloved Joseph.
Maggie Garnett is a junior studying theology and living in Walsh Hall. Her favorite title of St. Joseph is “Lover of Poverty,” but she’s currently being schooled by “Joseph Most Obedient.” Let her know your favorite title at firstname.lastname@example.org.