abuse,  Catholic Spirituality,  current events,  Family Life

Go to Joseph

“May you live in interesting times.”

This purported ancient Chinese proverb is usually ironically bestowed as more curse than blessing. We are certainly living in them, we Catholics in these waning days of the summer of 2018.

I feel an almost crushing burden of confusion, more than anything else, when I spend too much time going down rabbit holes and clicking over to related content, my mind swirling for somewhere firm to land. I told a friend this morning that I’ve had the sensation of my brain, not unlike an airplane, circling the airport looking for an open runway and, finding nowhere safe to land, being forced to remain in a frustrating holding pattern. I feel like I’m running out of fuel, to add insult to injury.

But when I ponder these days of crises with a more sober and serious disposition, I am forced to admit that my lived reality, my day-to-day tasks and struggles and responsibilities, remain almost maddeningly the same: deepen my own interior life. Be faithful to my vocation – and to the sacred vows I made. And teach my children the Gospel.

All else is, as they say, vanity.

And perhaps if I spent overly much time before July of this year letting priests and bishops and “the hierarchy” carry water for me, spiritually speaking, that time has passed. I cannot rely any longer on my own nasty little habit of clericalism, assuming the best of men of the cloth.

Are there good and holy priests? Of course. Real saints among us. And devils, too? Yes. Aren’t we finding out how very many…

And yet, what is this to you, and to me? Will a holy priest get me to heaven? Not if I don’t avail myself of the Sacraments of which he is a humble custodian, pursuing my own path of holiness with the aid of the mysterious sustenance Christ left for our earthly sojourn. A wicked priest is, too, only a humble custodian of God’s mercy, no matter the delusions of grandeur or murderous arrogance he may harbor.

I keep coming back to the thing I know to be true in these difficult times: Jesus.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. As I am not without sin like the first two, I find myself wanting to cling to the best practices of that last guy and live as closely by his example as possible.

How did Joseph become a saint?

He lived with Jesus and Mary.

He was probably rarely outside of their physical presence, and he carried their spiritual presence with him like a flame in his heart at his work table. How often he must have paused in his necessary, earthly, mundane, exhausting work to take a cool drink offered by the little boy Jesus, to share a quick visit with Mary and feel the consolation of her gentle hand on his aching back. His sole concern as their provider and protector was to do his work to the best of his ability so that they would be fed, clothed, and sheltered for the glory of God.

Are my responsibilities as a mother much different? Can I push aside my immediate responsibilities to fret over what more I should be doing besides working quietly to the absolute limits of my human frailty to provide for the family whom God has entrusted me with?

Maybe you’re not a parent. Maybe your current vocation is to a classroom full of children or a conference room full of employees, or even an auditorium full of fellow students. But I feel certain that we are each being called to emulate Joseph to the best of our abilities, executing our work on earth with as much care and humility as possible.

I cannot hope for Mary to hand me a cool drink of water or offer a clean cloth to wipe the sweat from my brow while I toil in the laundry room downstairs, fighting spiders and acedia to fulfill my daily duties, but I can turn to her in the rosary. I can align my heart with hers, praying for her Son to intercede in the lives of those other sons of her heart, her priests, that they would become more conformed to His passion.

I can’t open my arms for toddler Jesus to come running full tilt to leap in after a long day in the woodshed, but I can open my arms to my own children, pulling them into my lap to pray through the Scriptures, or bringing them along for the world’s fastest and least reflective visits to Jesus, fully present in Eucharistic Adoration.

I can go to Joseph. The first disciple of Jesus Christ in so many ways. I can love what he loved and live for what he lived for: the Mother, and the Son.

St. Joseph, terror of demons, pray for us.


  • Lindsey

    Love, Jenny! Love love love. You are so right. St. Joseph is such a perfect saint to turn to at this time. All of us- laypeople and priests- have something to learn from his example.
    Also, I agree with the airplane analogy. There isn’t much of a place to land yet. But it will come.

  • Amanda

    Thank you for your words and reflection, Jenny. I too have found myself feeling called to “go all in” if you will on my daily duties and to offer up the junk out of them LOL not only for my own (and my families’ sanctity) but the whole Church’s. I feel this craving to bring Our Lady into every part of the day and to let Jesus flood even the smallest of tasks I have to accomplish. Things I wish I’d wanted to do all along…but it’s taken an earthquake to reawaken this deeper call to pray and sacrifice. Will run to Joseph alongside you and my sisters in Christ. 🙂

  • jeanette

    A very well considered reflection on St. Joseph.

    But, I have a thought on your statement “I cannot rely any longer on my own nasty little habit of clericalism, assuming the best of men of the cloth.”

    When I had just graduated from 8th grade, I was offered a job working in the rectory as a receptionist. So were several other girls from our class. One had an older brother and sister who had worked there previously. There was another girl who was at the local college as well. So, we had the duty during afternoons and off business hours to answer the phones and doors and occasionally do other tasks.

    There were 6 priests on staff (imagine that!) and the rectory was joined to the office in one building. It was a massive place. What I got was a first hand experience of what a priest is. And you know what? He is a human being, just like us.

    So, I wouldn’t take it so far as to stop believing the best of our priests, anymore than you would stop believing in the best of others. Until someone proves otherwise, believe the best of them. Obviously we have to get to know someone and build trust. Right now, trust sounds really thin to you. But trust doesn’t have to be blind, it still is something that takes time. So, no, instant trust because someone is wearing a collar would be a bad idea, just like we don’t instantly trust anyone else. But don’t hold them suspect for the wrongdoing of others.

    • Sarah

      Your posts reminds me how I keep thinking that our secular world is undergoing the same issues with a profession that should be trustworthy too: that of policemen and women. Individuals of the badge are similar to priests: they don’t make the laws, but they know them and help guide us to live by them. Police offer fines or prison to atone for breaking the law; priests offer confession to atone for sins. Just as policemen and women can be corrupt, so can priests (both are human after all with human failings). Just as good policemen and women have to gain the public’s trust after cases of racial profiling and deaths related to profiling, so too do priests have to re-gain our trust. Both are subject to a higher power and both professions/vocations are subject to uphold that higher power’s laws.

      Unfortunately, it hurts me much more to have lost trust in priests than in police though, since I deal with priests more often than the police (as far as I’m aware, I’m law-abiding most of the time).

  • Remi Lessore

    It is certain that the misbehaviour of a few (even of many) is awful and the scandal will be magnified by an anti-christian media.
    … but who of us could hope for clemency from our ruthless world if light were shone on the desires of our hearts?
    The harm these priests have caused will be like a forest fire. It will be immediately catastrophic but burning away dead wood – those who had little or no practical understanding of the Faith – without imputing guilt to them – they were also victims of mediocre teaching and example.
    These scandals will leave those from whom authentic faith can grow, those who realise that they are no better than these priests, and but for their opportunities and the grace of God, might have behaved even more badly.
    Let us pray for the grace to be among those God chooses to carry the Faith forwards.

  • Mary A Patti

    Love your post. Do not forget that the Church has had troubled times before and will have more in the future. But in those past troubled times the Church has held on to Sacred Scripture, Holy Tradition and the Sacraments. Cling to those and Jesus in Adoration. There are many good and holy priests.
    St Joseph, pray for us.

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