I have the good fortune to have two of the best-known saints as my name patrons, and they are both celebrated in March. My first name being Joseph and my second name Patrick, it’s pretty obvious that this is a special week of celebration for me (St. Patrick’s feast day is March 17, followed two days later by the feast of St. Joseph).
The COVID-19 outbreak has put a damper on all the festivities, to be sure. But both saints are a special inspiration at a time like this. We all need strong models of courage and faith in God when things look bleak. Given that we are in uncharted territory when it comes to dealing with this global pandemic, praying to either of these saints (or both) is not a bad idea.
St. Joseph, in particular, shows us how trust in God, despite uncertainty about the future, is especially important.
We don’t know much about him, other than he served as the father of Jesus on earth, could have been a carpenter and that he didn’t talk much. Or at least that’s the impression you get from the gospels as there isn’t a single word coming out of Joseph’s mouth in any of the four accounts of the evangelists. But at key moments, Joseph played a vital role in the life of the child Jesus.
Even before Jesus was born, Joseph had to decide what to do about Mary. He was betrothed to this young woman when he discovered she was pregnant with the unborn Son of God. His culture would have strongly supported a move to denounce her and break off the engagement.
But an angel — God’s favourite busybodies — intervened. In a dream, an angel told Joseph to not fear taking Mary as his wife, and informed him that the child she carried was from God.
Joseph decided to ignore his community’s custom and have faith that God knew what He was doing. The rest, as they say, is history.
Shortly after Jesus was born, Joseph faced another life-and-death choice. When Herod sent out his minions to kill the young children in his jurisdiction in an effort to eliminate what he saw as a threat to his dominion — that is Jesus — another angel, again in a dream, told Joseph to take the family to Egypt and wait out the danger. Once again, Joseph had faith enough in God to do as the angel advised. When Herod died and the threat had passed, the family returned to Israel, ultimately settling in Galilee.
In both instances, it would have been easier for Joseph to make less onerous choices. But even though he did not know what the future held for him, he obeyed God’s instructions.
Very few of us will be instructed by angels in dreams on how to deal with the problems we face in our lives. And at the moment, life is looking rather scary. We do not know how the current global crisis will unfold, or how long it will take for our lives to return to normal. It’s quite possible they will never go back to the convenience we took for granted only a short time ago.
Yet, as Joseph showed by his actions, God knows our needs and will not leave us alone to deal with our problems. It is not easy at this time, but we need to dig a little deeper inside to trust in God. It will take some big breaths, and a lot of prayer.
St. Joseph, patron of Canada, pray for us.
–Joseph Sinasac, Publishing Director