St Joseph: Journeying with his family in Truth and Courage
The treatment of women in our community has been the focus of media attention recently. It is very sad and discomforting that many women feel compromised and unsafe in their work, home and social environments. It is also clear that we need to nurture our young men and provide them with strong masculine role models who treat everyone with respect and dignity in all circumstances. Role models who nurture, who are kind and compassionate, who are strong in their values, who are empathetic and wise, who teach us how to live meaningful and fulfilling lives. We also need to celebrate and acknowledge those men nearest and dearest to us who are those role models. We need to focus on the virtues that they live by and encourage the development of these virtues in our young men.
Pope Francis, to mark the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, has dedicated most of 2021 to St Joseph. It is an ideal opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the role of St Joseph in nurturing and supporting Jesus and Mary. In doing so, we reflect on what it means to be a positive male role model in our society. Our world today needs such men. Pope Francis reminds us that the world has no use for tyrants who domineer others as a means of compensating for their own needs. It rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, discussion with oppression, charity with a welfare mentality, power with destruction. These characteristics have been very much in evidence in our media representations recently.
In the Gospels, says the Pope, St Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, with a great tenderness of heart, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. He shows a deep respect for his faith, his community, his work, his family – and this respect permeates his attitudes, behaviour and relationships.
Pope Francis further reflects that St Joseph is an extraordinary person who epitomises our own experiences. By reflecting on Joseph’s life, we can appreciate that God calls each of us to love freely, to accept our responsibility to welcome and serve others, to use and develop our gifts and talents, to appreciate the value and dignity of honest work, to overcome our challenges and become “courageously and firmly proactive” in our daily living. “A respectful and sensitive man, St Joseph did not look for shortcuts, but confronted reality with open eyes and accepted personal responsibility for it.”
A Year 12 RE class at SFX recently discussed a series of questions on the topic of being respectful and being male in the world today. I noted the questions and the student answers – the two responses below certainly embody the spirit of St Joseph and we should be heartened by their sincere responses.
- What does modern society think it means to be a man?
Faithful to partner, family, friends, colleagues, able to ask for assistance, not streamlining social norms and being able to think for yourself.
- What does it mean to be a positive male role model in your community in the 21st century?
Show emotion, discuss mental health, be prepared to have difficult conversations, sets a good example for younger generations, tries their best, avoids the toxic stereotypes, willing to ask for assistance and not go it alone.
We are also going to explore the spirituality of St Joseph and the example he gives us today about Christian living in other RE classes later this term. Hopefully all students will take the opportunity to be inspired by his example of being respectful, kind, compassionate and faithful.
There is a prayer practice in the Church called ‘Visio Divina’. This praying through art is a multi-sensory way to connect to God through prayer. ‘Visio Divina’ is one form of prayer using images – works of art, stained glass windows, icons, even images in nature. ‘Visio Divina’ is translated as “divine seeing.” It is related to the prayer form Lectio Divina (divine reading), but instead of Scripture, this form of prayer uses visual elements to help set your mind on prayer. It allows God to speak into your heart through the image.
How can we see St Joseph as the model of a man of God? Examine the three images below:
- What is the image communicating?
- What does the image say to me?
- What do I want to say to God about the image?
- What difference will this image make in my life?
- What does each image reveal about how St Joseph can be a role model for us?
Finally, what do these images tell us about nurturing our young men and encouraging them to be the best that they can be/become?
These images also connect with what modern psychology tells us about nurturing our young men and encouraging them to be the best that they can be/become. The following articles make links with the actions and body language in the images.
A prayer for living fully with St Joseph as our model
(Adapted from https://www.praywithme.com/prayer-to-st-joseph.html)
Oh God, speak to me, as you did to St. Joseph, and help me accomplish the things you give me to do.
O God, you love your people and bless the ordinary lives we quietly live. As you blessed St. Joseph, bless what I do, however, hidden and simple it may be, and let all I do be done with love.
O God, ever faithful, you remember us always and in time reveal your blessings. Help me trust in you, as St. Joseph faithfully trusted, and never let me lose faith in the wonderful gifts you promise me.
God of families, bless the family that is mine. Keep us safe from harm, and never let disharmony come between us. Let peace remain in our hearts.
O God, who loves children, be kind to our children today. Give them eyes of faith for seeing far, a loving heart for welcoming life, and a place always at your side.
God of our heavenly home, bless our home on earth. Let the spirit of Mary and Joseph rest at our table, shape our words and actions, and bring blessing to our children.
God, our Father, give your fatherly spirit to those who are fathers now. Like Joseph, give them hearts of devoted love for their wives and children and strength for forgiveness and patience.
Give shelter, O God, to those who need it, and bring together families divided. Give us enough to eat, and decent work to earn our bread. Care for us, O God.
Bless all families, O Lord especially those in need. Remembering the life of your Son, we pray for the poor, for those who lack a good home, for those in exile. Grant them a protector like Joseph, O God.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i27FqIyk2qY – Visio Divina, Fr James Martin shows us how to pray using Lectio Divina.
- https://www.sosj.org.au/year-of-st-joseph-20/ – Sisters of St Joseph reflect on the Year of St Joseph.
- https://catholicoutlook.org/a-reflection-on-the-feast-of-st-joseph-the-worker/ – Andrew Hamilton SJ reflects on St Joseph and the dignity of work.
- https://aleteia.org/2021/03/19/popes-new-reflection-on-st-joseph-to-take-to-prayer-today/ – Pope’s reflection on the dreams of St Joseph.
- https://www.australiancatholics.com.au/article/year-of-st-joseph – The Year of St Joseph.