By Tim Scheidler | Guest Blogger
I hate to be the bearer of bad news: there has only been one perfect woman in the history of the world. And she is already taken.
It is easy to fall into the trap of searching for perfection in a potential spouse or hoping that our spouse will eventually change into who we want her to be. The desire for perfection is built into our souls by God Himself, hence St. Augustine’s famous words: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” However, we often try to satisfy that restlessness with worldly creatures that, by their very nature, cannot complete us. Perfection can only be found in Christ. Everything else will fall short.
So stop searching for the perfection of Mary. You aren’t going to find it in this life. (Please don’t misinterpret that. You do want to find/be with a woman yearning to live like Mary. Big difference.) Instead of spending so much time worrying about her, whoever she is, we should start to work on ourselves instead.
If we want a spouse dedicated to God – and that really should be our goal – we need to lead her there. If we want to have a holy family – and that really should be our goal – we need to live like the Holy Family. Gents, it’s time we start to model ourselves after St. Joseph.
It may come as a shock to you that Joseph is considered the second greatest saint (his wife Mary took the #1 spot). Greater than St. Peter and St. Paul, the two titans of the Church. Greater than Blessed Pope John Paul II or Blessed Mother Teresa. It was a surprise to me when I first learned that, but eventually it made sense: Jesus is closest to His two parents.
Joseph wasn’t perfect. He was a sinner, like you and me. But he was chosen by God to be the spouse of Mary, and he is the patron saint of families and fathers. That’s good enough for me. As such, I would like to highlight four traits of St. Joseph that we, as men, should all strive to attain.
Humility. The deadliest of sins is pride. The saintly virtue standing athwart that corrosion of the soul is humility. St. Joseph was a humble man, and in my opinion, that is his most defining characteristic. A prideful man wants his own will above all else. A humble man wants God’s will above all else. I can think of no finer example of a man dying to self and saying yes to God than Joseph in the wake of discovering that Mary was pregnant.
Put yourself in his shoes. Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, remembered the birds and the bees from health class, and knew that something was up. He wanted to wash his hands of the whole matter and make it quietly go away. But God had other plans and sent an angel to change his mind. “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” Imagine how hard it must have been to believe. Imagine how arduous it must have been to walk God’s path for his life. Yet Joseph humbled himself, subjugated his pride, and chose to trust God. Look at the fruits that grew out of that choice: he was given the distinct honor of being father to Jesus and husband to Mary.
I doubt many of us have had to accept something so challenging on faith alone. Yet there are small opportunities we all face every single day where we can say yes to God or yes to ourselves. The trouble is to recognize these moments and to trust as Joseph did. Our faith tells us that God’s plan for our lives will produce similar fruits in our lives if we just follow St. Joseph’s example.
“Joseph, her most chaste spouse.” We say these words in benediction, and often it is just a response we parrot back. Reflect for a moment on what they mean though. As Catholics we believe that Mary is ever-virgin. We say those very words in the penitential act every time we celebrate Mass. How difficult that must have been for Joseph to forgo the beauty of sexual intimacy with his wife! What love he had for Mary to accept her total consecration to God! What an incredible example of chastity for us to look up to!
In today’s culture, we are plagued by pervasive pornography, premarital sex, and adultery. Even if we are doing our best to live chastely, there is always the temptation to go too far with our girlfriend or to think of another woman besides our spouse. Remember that Christ set the bar high: “But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” That seems like an incredibly tough standard to live up to – nearly insurmountable – and makes Jesus look like the chief of the fun police. But Christ didn’t come to give us a list of things we shouldn’t do. He came to change our hearts.
True love wills the good of the other. True love is self-giving. True love has one goal: getting the beloved to heaven. As such, living chastely isn’t about saying no to the pleasures we want. It is about saying yes to loving the way God wants us to love. And there is no finer example of a man doing that than St. Joseph.
The Worker. Joseph was a carpenter. He was an honest man doing an honest trade for an honest wage. He built. He provided for his family. Day in and day out, he just did the work. Every year on May 1st we celebrate the feast of “St. Joseph the Worker,” however it would be a mistake to think that the Church is elevating any specific type of labor. We should focus instead on how Joseph did the job.
Christians believe in sanctification through work. Anything we do can be prayer if we offer it to God to advance His will. Anything we do can build virtue if we are truly doing our best and giving our all. This is exactly what Joseph did for his family. That is exactly why if we are diligent in our efforts for our employers and on behalf of our (future) families, we are actually becoming better men.
Silence. Being quiet is far less about not talking and far more about starting to listen. Joseph was a man who took the time to hear God speak to him. He could’ve dismissed the angels that came to him in his dreams. Those pinnacle moments in his life could have passed him by if he had treated those divine visions as merely fanciful delusions.
In today’s world where/when can we find quiet? We are constantly surrounded by noise: pictures flash at us, iPhones push notifications, we suffer through advertisements on the radio and Hulu, Facebook is a never-ending stream of updates. It will never end, and it is only going to get worse. But we desperately need silence.
I am not advocating that men turn themselves into the “strong and silent” type. Not at all. Real relationships take real communication: both speaking and listening. Communication with your spouse/girlfriend is dialogue. Communication with God is prayer. In order to do both effectively we need to develop an interior silence precisely so that we have the time and space to listen. As such, I challenge you to test yourself, set a 10-minute timer, and just be silent. It will be interesting what you hear…
As men, we should be constantly striving to grow in virtue. While we will never find perfection in ourselves or in our spouse, we have the opportunity to grow closer to Christ every single day. We have the Holy Family as an example to us, showing us the fullest realization of what a good and holy family is.
Joseph is the model for the men seeking to improve themselves for family life, now and in the future. We should all take the time to contemplate why he is one of the greatest saints in the Church and attempt to develop in ourselves humility, chastity, a love of hard work, and an interior silence to help us hear God.
It’s time to start living like Joseph. Let’s get to work.