By Debbie Shelley
The Catholic Commentator
(Second in a series)
Imagine St. Joseph’s reaction when he learned his betrothed Mary, whom he had not yet had relations, is with child.
Did St. Joseph’s heart pound as he felt his dreams shatter? Hurt and confused, did he withdraw from Mary and struggle with anger and self-pity before deciding to divorce her quietly? And when he resolved to end things civilly an angel appeared and further turned his world upside down by telling him his betrothed is carrying the son of God.
Joseph, why were you so quiet? Why didn’t you shout out to the world while all those things happened?
Because humble, obedient St. Joseph followed his dreams and was willing to go where God sent him without knowing where it would take him, say deacons and lay faithful of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.
Concerning Mary’s news about her pregnancy, Scott Smith, vice-chairman of the Men of the Immaculata, said, “St. Joseph responds as Christ would. St. Joseph sacrifices himself, his pain, indignation and shame, rather than cast it off onto Mary.”
St. Joseph received help in facing such turbulence in his life through dreams, noted Deacon Mike Chiappetta, deacon assistant at Immaculate Conception Church in Denham Springs.
Deacon Chiappetta pointed out that St. Joseph had four dreams: when the angel told him to not be afraid to take Mary into his home; to flee to Egypt; to return to the land of Israel; and directing him to live in Nazareth to keep his family safe.
“I know from personal experience that dreams are a powerful tool for God to speak to us without our ‘screens,’ prejudices and biases getting in the way,” said Deacon Chiappetta.
The deacon is involved in hospice work after he was led through dreams to help loved ones have a peaceful death.
Scott said God continually spoke to St. Joseph through dreams, which helped him stay strong during times of trial and tribulation.
“God’s own screams as an incarnated newborn would have certainly infiltrated his sleep and dreams,” quipped Scott.
With dreams serving as a directional for God’s plan for the Holy Family, St. Joseph responded with trust.
“As men, we are often too proud to ask for directions much less fully trust in God’s will without understanding the destination,” said Mark Hermann, chairman of the Men of the Immaculata.
Yet, St. Joseph’s background provided him the strength to follow God’s directions.
“To be chosen by God to be the spiritual foster father of the son of man, Joseph had to be a man of prayer, faithfulness and total trust in God,” said Hermann. “This deep-rooted prayer life allowed him to discern the events taking place and trust in God’s will without understanding and even before the angel’s appearance.
“While I can surely believe he must have been anxious about how things were unfolding, and was likely confused initially on what it all meant, through unity in prayer, his final decision was definitive and absolute.”
Which allowed St. Joseph to step forward with confidence.
“I know we tend to focus on the great responsibility that St. Joseph takes on, but as a father, I see another dimension to this. God has my back,” said Scott. “That’s how I would feel as Joseph. Joseph won’t have to bear this burden alone. There’s an extremely rough road ahead, but God’s angels will never be far off. I would be emboldened to, as St. John Paul II says, ‘Put out into the deep.’ ”
Deacon Chiappetta agreed, saying “God is always two steps ahead. And we don’t need to know it.”
Because of his trust, St. Joseph took care of the Holy Family even if it went “beyond the parameters of comfort and security for him,” noted Deacon Chiappetta.
By turning over his plans to care for the Blessed Mother and Christ child to God, St. Joseph is a powerful intercessor for families, agreed Hermann, Scott and Deacon Chiappetta.
“St. Joseph has been a powerful intercessor for my family. I remember receiving my first job out of law school on the ninth day of a St. Joseph novena that my wife and I prayed together,” said Scott.
And St. Joseph leads and intercedes quietly, according to Hermann.
“With 30 of 33 years of Jesus’ life veiled with the walls of the Holy House in Nazareth, we know St. Joseph taught Jesus how to live and work within society while knowing all along that he was the son of God. The second greatest saint, having lived as a humble husband and father and craftsman, never a word of his was recorded in Scripture. That is why it was so difficult for the people of Nazareth to grasp how Jesus could be the son of God, coming from such a humble home, shrouded in peace and tranquility,” said Hermann.
When reflecting this Advent on the life of the unassuming husband of Mary, people can see it wasn’t because of St. Joseph’s greatness, but his availability that he was chosen to play an important role in God’s incarnation, said Deacon Chiappetta.
“In masculine terms, God was looking for ‘an average Joe,’ ” he said. “You don’t have to be wealthy or have high status to accomplish the works of the Lord. No matter who you are or where you are in the social structure, you have something to offer.”