Happy Feast of Saint Joseph!
Saint Joseph is an unknown saint. Not only do we know so little about him, we often don’t really explore what little we do know or what he can teach us. This past week we all have been following Flight 370 and the 239 people who are still mysteriously missing. As one commentator said, we feel almost glued to our screens—whether TV, computer, tablet or phone—grasping any detail that can help our minds make sense of what has happened. If we can’t find who or what caused the plane’s disappearance, we can’t restore our own mental concept of how the world works. There is, as it were, a giant question mark in the back of our minds, and we face a scary unknown that we can’t quite wrap our heads around. We almost don’t want to admit to ourselves that the unknown, any unknown, could also happen to us.
After Joseph had, on the angel’s word, taken Mary to be his wife, he too had to lean continuously into the unknown. Guardian of the Son of God and Mary, he stood a sentinel at the stable’s door, in wonderment at a Babe that looked like every other newborn, yet was heralded by angels, or so the visiting shepherds said. Exiled to Egypt, he left without word and without a trace in order to protect the Child at the command given in a dream. Years later he returned to Nazareth and settled into quiet years of mentoring the Savior of the world. The anxiety that may have accompanied the “not knowing,” and the initial attempts to put together bits of information in order to make sense of the mysterious unfolding of events, were reconciled at last only when Saint Joseph tasted the powerful love of his God who was walking with him even through situations that seemed so senseless.
Joseph discovered he was truly more secure in the unknown than in what he himself could figure out, because it was mystery that led him at last to rely absolutely, only, and entirely on a God who turned out to be utterly reliable and trustworthy.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the passengers and crew, as well as the families who are each day clinging to even the smallest scrap of hope. However, we also realize that this tragedy affects us all. Saint Joseph is a man who had the courage to believe that God’s presence could not be eclipsed by the darkness in the world. He can lead us from simple curiosity to true engagement, from anxiety to a growing comfort with a Mystery that embraces us even as we struggle with the inexplicable mysteries that frighten and frustrate us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us. Pray for us all.
Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP