Theology of the Heart- the Saints

ST. JOSEPH AND SUFFERING
by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan


Because so little is expressed in Sacred Scripture regarding Saint Joseph, there is a significant risk that Catholics will forget to consider this "just man" as a true model of the spiritual life. This would be unfortunate indeed. The foster father of the Lord Jesus, the most chaste spouse of Our Blessed Lady, and the powerful patron of the universal Church -we know from tradition-lived a humble yet heroic life of authentic virtue steeped in and strengthened by an exemplary acceptance of personal suffering.

Saint Joseph has something to teach us about the willing acceptance of suffering. What we do know from the New Testament about Saint Joseph is actually related to suffering; his honorable name seems particularly synonymous with the quiet acceptance of various obstacles to be patiently surrendered to and eventually hurdled.

Does this mean that Joseph was, sadly, a man with bad luck? No! The presence or absence of so-called "good luck"-which has customarily been the long-awaited dream of those who had little faith and relationship with the living God but which the disciples of Christ are to readily reject as not taking into account the love and providence of the beneficient Lord -had nothing to do with Saint Joseph. The all-wise Creator allowed his cherished son Joseph certain demanding sufferings, knowing that he would persevere and reconfirm his utter confidence in the Almighty.

Here are a few of the truths concerning suffering found in the life of Saint Joseph:

- 1) The suffering which God permits is not meant to punish those, like Saint
Joseph, who are sincerely seeking the Lord. The foster father of Jesus, in all reputable interpretations, was one who faithfully heeded the divine Word. The suffering which God allowed him to experience was not designed to crush this good man but to enable him to share in some way the life-giving cross of the Child under his capable guardianship.

- 2) Suffering which comes to us because of the sin of another is not to make us "bitter" but "better." How easy it would have been for Joseph to respond in anger when he was told by the Angel to flee Israel and travel to Egypt. It was not Saint Joseph's fault that King Herod was insanely jealous and desired to destroy the Babe of Bethlehem. But Joseph packed his
bags and took Mary and the Messiah to a safe refuge. Such tranquillity inspires us to remember that our heavenly Father really cares for us-His sons and daughters-regardless of the arduous trials which surround and inflict us. Saint Joseph did not hate Herod for his unreasonable envy but instead placed all his trust in the Lord, resulting in an intensification of supernatural grace within his soul.

- 3) Suffering to which we genuinely yield leads to God's further glory and our salvation. Anyone who-thanks to the superabundant grace of Jesus Christ-triumphs over sin and human weakness testifies to the overwhelming goodness of God. He alone brings fruit from out efforts. The Lord is the Harvest-Master, we the servants who only perform our duty. Not only is He honored by our holy endeavors in His Name, including the acceptance of suffering which He permits, but we also are assisted along the challenging path to Paradise. No one can be redeemed without Calvary; no one can be saved without being washed in the Precious Blood of Christ shed for our sins.
Saint Joseph is an excellent and much-needed companion during the forty penitential days of Lent. His intercession and stellar example help us to appreciate more fully the inestimable value of "voluntary penance" (i.e., that mortification which we choose to practice) which provides a solid foundation for the cheerful acceptance of that "involuntary penance" (i.e., that mortification which we do not actually choose) which many times comprises the suffering of our lives and is sometimes difficult to receive with trust in God's love and mercy for us.

Everyone in Heaven today would strongly agree: suffering is to become the friend of the Christian. Suffering accepted in union with the Passion of Jesus Christ will one day give way to everlasting joy. Suffering will find no welcome at the banquet table in the unending Kingdom of God. Those-like Saint Joseph-who victoriously reign with the Savior in the next life will be devoid of any suffering but rather filled with unfathomable peace and happiness.

Saint Joseph: a man of suffering. Saint Joseph: a man of joy. The Beatific Vision which Saint Joseph now enjoys has eclipsed any remnant of agony which he knew here on earth. Lent is the perfect time for us to make the commitment to follow the Lord God and obey His commands as Saint Joseph did without deviation. Our acceptance of the suffering which the compassionate Lord allows us will be the preparation for the acceptance of another gift: union with the Blessed Trinity forever.

 


Msgr. Charles M. Mangan is a priest of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, SD. A prolific writer, Monsignor is a member of the Vaticanís Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. He has an S.T.L. in Canon Law and is currently completing a doctorate in Mariology.


 

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