The meme below comes to us from the talented and amusing Catholic Meme's FB page. Apparently they pulled a quote from the ever-poignant Father Dwyer of Busted Halo fame and posted it to a rather sleepy photo of dear St. Joseph.
At first glance, you might get a chuckle from it. After all, it's Catholic Memes! They are very tongue-in-cheek and self-aware. I don't think I've ever seen anything outright malicious come from their page. I don't believe this to be any different. It's meant as a light-hearted tease, I'm sure, that (hopefully) points to a more thought-provoking reflection on St. Joseph's quiet contemplation and support for his Holy Family.
However, I could also see how this can be taken to be demeaning to some husbands. Certainly there were a few women who openly heckled their men to be "less" in some way or another. Again, I don't think it was malicious. I think these folks feel comfortable with the Catholic Meme crowd and trust that their teasing won't be misconstrued as mean-spirited or spiteful.
Of course, inevitably someone finds issue with this and some comments spiraled quite a bit down the rabbit hole. However, I posted the following, which I thought was a very important point to make:
Father Dwyer (I think different from the one originally quoted, or maybe I'm just wrong altogether about who was originally quoted), obviously thought my remarks were unwarranted, or that I didn't get the joke, but my point wasn't to be a party pooper. I acknowledged my own giggle, but I didn't want the joke to overshadow a very concrete truth about St. Joseph (and judging from some of the other commentary, that's precisely what happened).
St. Joseph may have had no recorded words in the Gospel narrative, but his fatherly voice has not only resonated through the Gospels - it has resonated through the ages. His quiet, gentle leadership and protection has always been acknowledged like an afterthought. We're all about talking about the Holy Spirit or Our Lady or any number of saints, but when it comes to St. Joseph, his name only seems to be invoked when death is imminent. We don't speak of him much because we don't know much about him.
I was thinking about that because even in my own experience, St. Joseph was this distant father-figure who really didn't factor into Salvation History. He was a statue that held Baby Jesus in the Church. That's about it. That's all I knew about him - until I read The Life of St. Joseph by Sr. Maraia Baij.
I felt like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. That book was my house, and it landed me square in the middle of a world I couldn't even dream of.
As a result, I've really grown to both appreciate and admire St. Joseph's place in both my life and the Church. Thus, any time someone even remotely demeans him (even in the most tongue-in-cheek way), I can't help but feel a bit "icky." This holy, humble, super amazing father-figure should never be emasculated for the purpose of a sexist joke, ya know? At least in my opinion.
It's just off-putting for me.
Anyway, I couldn't get the meme out of my head the last few days, so I finally allowed my mind to wander on it as I drove to work.
Ya know what hit me? Joseph's actions spoke louder than words. He might not have ever had a formal "Fiat" in the manner of Our Lady, but good luck convincing me that Matthew 1:18-25 wasn't the first of many for him:
"...When his mother, Mary, was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary, your wife, into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'
... When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home."
Just think about it! Right after Mary said "Fiat" to Gabriel, she went off for several months to look after her cousin, St. Elizabeth. She was there for six months! Just imagine St. Joseph's surprise when he picked her up and found her to be round with Child!
Now imagine his incredulous shame as his neighbors start insinuating that Mary cheated on him while she was away with Elizabeth. St. Joseph knew Mary was a pure and holy woman, but he couldn't understand the situation as it presented itself. The poor man must've been a mess! Oh, how he must've prayed to the Father for guidance!
And God answered his prayers with a question. He basically said, "Joseph, things are not as they appear to you. You cannot see My Plan for salvation, but I'm asking you to be a part of it just the same. Can you trust Me? Can you endure the stares, the indignation, the misunderstanding of your peers and consent to allow Me to use you for the greater salvation of sinners?"
And St. Joseph, ever the faithful, loving, humble man he was created to be, gave his heart over for the sake of the world. Thus, in every way that Our Lady is, indeed, our mother, St. Joseph is, indeed, our father. Both consented to take part in God's plan for Salvation not for their benefit, but for OURS.
And that, my friends, was, is and always will be St. Joseph's "Fiat."
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