By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published January 12, 2021
So often today, the role models offered to children and teens consist of sports idols and rock stars. Both groups, alas, are prone to multiple marriages, drug use, infidelity and having children out of wedlock.
As Catholics, we are blessed to call the saints our role models. And since Pope Francis declared 2021 “The Year of St. Joseph,” I felt moved to reflect on Joseph’s virtues.
First, Joseph is a quiet man, who doesn’t say one word in Scripture. His silence reminds us of the wonderful virtue of discernment, which helps us know when to talk and when to remain quiet.
This is a tough lesson for me, since sometimes thoughts jump into my head and emerge from my mouth before they’ve been edited. It’s tempting to share a witty comment or an opinion, when listening would be more appropriate.
Joseph’s silence also calls us to bring serenity into our homes by turning off gadgets and stilling the chatter of news reports. As Mother Teresa said, “In the silence of the heart, God speaks.”
St. Joseph, help me realize that silence is a great gift.
Second, Joseph is a traditional family man, whose role is protecting two vulnerable people—Mary and the Christ Child. Joseph accepted this calling when he heeded the angel’s messages in two crucial dreams.
In the first dream, an angel assured him the child in Mary’s womb was conceived through the Holy Spirit. This realization led Joseph to accept Mary into his household—and become her protector when she gave birth to Jesus.
In the second dream, the angel told Joseph that King Herod sought to kill the Christ Child. Joseph risked his own safety to protect Mary and Jesus by taking them to Egypt.
Joseph and Mary knew their essential role in life was caring for their helpless baby. They are models of self-sacrifice in our world today, where selfishness so often takes the lead.
When Joseph alerted Mary about the threat to the baby, she put aside her concerns and got ready to travel. She surely knew it would be difficult taking a baby on a potentially dangerous journey to a foreign land. They would face many hardships along the way, but she trusted Joseph to protect them.
St. Joseph, help me protect vulnerable people, especially babies and children.
Third, Scripture shows us Joseph had a compassionate heart. We are told in Matthew’s Gospel that Joseph was a righteous man, which means he obeyed the Mosaic laws. One of the laws said adultery was punishable by stoning.
When he first heard about Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph probably suspected she’d been unfaithful to him. He could have shamed her publicly, which would’ve led to the horrific punishment of stoning.
But because of his kind heart, he was “unwilling to expose her to shame” and planned to divorce her quietly.
Of course, once he realized the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Joseph forgot about divorce and instead took Mary into his home.
St. Joseph, please help me to show compassion toward others instead of judging them.
As we start a new year, dear readers, let us look to St. Joseph as a role model for leading a life in which silence plays a key part. Let’s imitate his compassion and his willingness to protect vulnerable people.
Artwork by Lorraine’s late husband, Jef Murray (jefmurray.com). Lorraine’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.