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St. Joseph, the most chaste spouse of the Virgin Mary and foster father of Jesus, offers us a model for virtue and holiness where the adage “actions speak louder than words” entirely applies. There are no recorded words of Joseph in the Gospel narratives; however, his actions, when considered and contemplated, speak volumes that every believer can draw upon for their own spiritual growth. 

Pope Francis proclaimed the “Year of St Joseph” on December 8, 2020 to mark the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as patron of the Universal Church. In his Apostolic Letter,  “Patris Corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”), Pope Francis expounds on the character traits of St. Joseph as a virtuous and loving father: welcoming of God’s will, expressing his vocation of fatherhood in a creative and courageous manner, demonstrating the value and dignity of work and making a sincere gift of himself to serve the needs of Mary and Jesus as a “shadow” of our heavenly Father’s love. 

St. Joseph is the exemplary model of the hidden life in our Lenten practices of fasting, almsgiving and prayer called for in the Ash Wednesday Gospel reading “And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

Fasting

Imagine being St. Joseph, along with Mary as the behind the scenes, the preparatory teacher for Jesus entering into his public ministry as the long-awaited Messiah and getting no public accolades of recognition or credit. How often do mothers and fathers perform those innumerable and unacknowledged acts of love and sacrifice that only our heavenly Father recognizes and rewards? This is the Lenten sacrifice of “fasting” from recognition, giving without counting the cost or getting something in return, that we can embrace willingly in our state of life during this Lenten season. 

During the hidden years in Nazareth, Jesus learned at the school of Joseph to do the will of the Father. That will was to be his daily food (cf. Jn 4:34). – PATRIS CORDE

Almsgiving

Imagine how St. Joseph labored day in and day out in his trade as a carpenter, eking out a living to provide for the Holy Family’s needs and allow Mary to be a stay-at-home mom to their son Jesus. Undoubtedly there was discussion about how they had to do without in order to provide for the needs of the family and charitable giving of resources. This is the unrecognized “almsgiving” that one knows in providing for the financial needs of others and putting aside our own needs and preferences that’s especially called for during Lent. 

Saint Joseph was a carpenter who earned an honest living to provide for his family. … He never made himself the centre of things. He did not think of himself, but focused instead on the lives of Mary and Jesus. – PATRIS CORDE

Prayer

Imagine the burden of insurmountable circumstances and hardships that confronted the Holy Family, and St. Joseph’s reliance on God through trusting prayer that allowed him to remain faithful to his calling and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The many displaced and desperate experiences that St. Joseph prayerfully endured and overcame by God’s grace and provision are the “prayer” of Lent that he models for us all as we open up ourselves to God during Lent to realize and receive more of his love for us.  

Even through Joseph’s fears, God’s will, his history and his plan were at work. Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties and our weaknesses. – PATRIS CORDE

Pope Francis concludes his Apostolic Letter PATRIS CORDE with this prayer to St. Joseph: 

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust; with you Christ became man. Blessed Joseph, to us too, show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life. Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen.