As a Sister of St. Joseph, I have seen many depictions of St. Joseph over the years.
Most of them show Joseph holding a baby or toddler Jesus, teaching an adolescent Jesus the carpenter’s trade, embracing Mary, or some combination.
Each depiction gives me a surprising opportunity to explore who Joseph is for me, once again. I can imprint my heart’s needs onto him with confidence that he will hold them, much like he holds a young Jesus, with the tenderness and strength of a carpenter's arms.
My favorite depictions of Joseph are those that show him in different cultural contexts, with an African, Middle Eastern, or Asian face — the ones that remind me that Joseph belongs to everyone, everywhere.
Indeed, Joseph can be a strong, tender leader to all of us. His faithfulness to God and to us spans time and space, and because of this, he’s able to help us hold so many of the fears and struggles of our modern day.
In our present time, injustice abounds. The climate is in crisis; incarceration rates are sky high; people see only the “other”; millions make long, life-threatening journeys to safer lands; and people hurt so much.
In all this, we can turn to Joseph to be our strong, resolute leader. We can ask him to help us hold these heavy burdens. And Joseph, who courageously did as the angel commanded him in today’s Gospel — who took his wife into his home and did not become afraid — never fails to be strong for us too.
It's not so much what Joseph would be doing in our chaotic, unjust world — it’s the how. It’s the way in which he’d encounter this world so in need of healing.
Consider it: Joseph was a risk-taker for the sake of caring for others. Joseph was faithful to his family and his work. Joseph looked people in the eye and held them only in love. Joseph was humble, as the one always behind the scenes.
Each time I study a depiction of Joseph, I understand all these things anew. I ask Joseph to help me be more like him, as I try to follow in his footsteps to hold some of this world’s pain.
His example calls me to really see each person and to hold each with tender love. He calls me to be strong, as I dismantle the tendency toward “othering” that lurks in my heart and mind. He calls me to uphold, protect, and advocate for the invisible ones in my neighborhood and our world. He calls me to not linger in fear as I face the next right thing to do.
Joseph encourages me to hold it all, and to not be afraid.
What is Joseph calling you to be about? Not to fear, Joseph is with you.
Congregation of St. Joseph
Catholic Mobilizing Network is a founding member of the Congregation of St. Joseph Mission Network. We are proud to extend the CSJ's mission of unity among the dear neighbor in our work to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice.
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