The Spiritual Path of St. Joseph

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

Often in life, things happen whose meaning we do not understand. Our first reaction is frequently one of disappointment and rebellion. Joseph set aside his own ideas in order to accept the course of events and, mysterious as they seemed, to embrace them, take responsibility for them, and make them part of his own history.

(Pope Francis, Patris Corde)

In observance of this special Year of St. Joseph, Pope Francis has given us a beautiful little letter about St. Joseph, Patris Corde, that is, “With a Father’s Heart.” In his letter, our Holy Father offers a reflection on the various ways in which Joseph fulfilled his vocation to be a father.
The reference cited above is from the section I found to be especially insightful, a section entitled “An accepting father,” which describes the attitude of Joseph that allowed him to accept the things God sent his way, even though, perhaps, he didn’t understand. “The spiritual path that Joseph traces for us is not one that explains, but accepts,” the Pope writes.
Our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, had the same virtue. When Mary accepted God’s invitation to become the Mother of God, she couldn’t possibly have understood everything that would mean for her. And yet, because of her faith and trust, she said yes: “Let it be done unto me according to thy word.” (Lk 1:38)
And it’s an attitude that’s helpful for us too. As we’ve made our way through this “valley of tears,” how often have things come our way that we didn’t expect, didn’t want, and didn’t understand? Perhaps a sudden illness, the death of a loved one, a serious accident, a family problem, a financial crisis? The Pope explains that “the spiritual path that Joseph traces for us is not one that explains, but accepts.”
But this spirit of acceptance, the Pope hastens to add, isn’t just a caving in and giving up: “Joseph is certainly not passively resigned, but courageously and firmly proactive. In our own lives, acceptance and welcome can be an expression of the Holy Spirit’s gift of fortitude.”
Such a beautiful and helpful example we find in St. Joseph as he teaches us to accept, and work with, whatever the Lord sends our way.
Something to think about: In his letter, Pope Francis writes: “We need to be reconciled to the flesh of our own history.” What does that phrase mean for you?


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