I have a confession to make. I am very satisfied with my life and can count my blessings but have problems in one area: I want a home of my own. I know, I know. People all over the world live in hovels and can't care for their beloved children because of poverty/natural disaster/wars/general upheaval. I should feel very, very lucky. But at the moment I don't. I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. It doesn't help that the neighbors wake up my children, either.
So what do I do? I say a novena to St. Joseph. (For those whose lore of saints is as weak as mine, St. Joseph is Mary's spouse, stepdad to Jesus, and patron of fathers, families, homes, and carpenters among his many roles.)
Now, I'm thinking that this is great! I want a home. My husband wants meaningful employment. We need peace in the extended family. And what do I get for praying the novena? Do I get sleeping babies? Quiet neighbors? A change in circumstances? No. I was the one who was called to change.
What does St. Joseph have to do with us moms? I'm glad you asked. St. Joseph did whatever God asked of him. St. Joseph followed Judaic law with all his heart but loved God more. When Mary was found to be with child he was going to divorce her quietly out of compassion for her. He could have been cruel and exposed her. He didn't. He loved Mary more than his own manly pride. Then God told St. Joseph to take Mary for his wife. He did. Then move to Egypt and back again. And, oh yes, raise a child who is not his own. He did all of this lovingly and without question.
It's very tricky to tell a woman, a mother, to humble herself and give of herself without question. So many times it is used as an excuse to subjugate her. But humility to the will of God is different than subjugation to religious or societal norms which are man-made and often unjust. Remember that we are also God's beloved daughters.
If we are to follow St. Joseph's example we should first look to our faith. What does Catholic teaching tell us? This can help us get through many difficult situations or avoid them entirely. Think of it this way: we are transformed by prayer. When we ask God what His will is for us we admit that we cannot see the universe in its entirety and maybe we are not asking for the right things. If we are stubborn, we are so busy being 'right' that we are willfully blind to the graces and beauty around us. We should persevere instead. In this way we work towards our dreams while being open to achieving them in a different, often better, way. When we are tempted to pray "God, help me get through this", maybe we should pray "God, help me transcend this". The difference is subtle but important. Do we want to just make it through or do we want to become closer to God? Because, Ladies, we have a tough job. God demands our bodies, our sleep, our time, our ambitions for the future, and even our ambitions for our children. We are strong. We have to be. We are unsung. We are under constant scrutiny. We are nothing to the world but we are the world to those who rely on us. Imagine the comfort and guidance we can give to our children. Imagine the damage we can do to them.
I never thought I would feel such devotion to a male saint. I never thought that one could teach me how to be a better mother. But St. Joseph is a beautiful example of someone who allows God to meet him where he is. God called St. Joseph to protect and raise Jesus in much the same way we are called to protect and raise our own babies. He did this quietly and humbly. St. Joseph doesn't have one spoken word in the bible but his life is a beacon two thousand years later.
I learned all of this because I wanted a home of my own.
St. Joseph, Ora Pro Nobis