Book Break: St. Joseph, Unsung Hero

Growing up, many of my heroes were “the strong, silent type”—men of few words and decisive, often violent, action, who always knew the right thing to do and had the ability to carry it out. Small, bookish, and emotional, I admired men like that, even though I was not that type myself.

Since I didn’t grow up in the Church, I knew only a few Bible stories. The heroes of those stories seemed larger than life—even the shepherd boy, David, who slew Goliath, has already been chosen by God, anointed by Samuel, and filled with the Spirit of the Lord before he ever took the field against the Philistine.

I knew the story of the birth of Jesus, but I didn’t think of Joseph as a hero.

Fast forward to February 2022: A friend and I decided to start a new men’s group. The first decision the members made was that we didn’t want a study group—but a group that met regularly, shared our lives, encouraged one another, and pray together.

The next decision was to set aside the first and read Consecration to St. Joseph: the Wonders of Our Spiritual Father by Donald H. Calloway, MIC.

Structured similarly to Father Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory—a guide for consecration to the Blessed Virgin—the book is wonderful, deep dive into what we know about St. Joseph, what we can infer from Scripture, and what various Venerables, Blesseds, and Saints have believed and taught that we might not have heard.

St. Joseph appears little in the gospels and is never quoted, but the material gleaned from Scripture and the saints deep and convincing. For example, I’d heard the tradition that Joseph was a much older man, a widower perhaps, when he took Mary as his bride. The “old Joseph” view was advanced, in part, to help explain away the difficulty of Mary remaining a virgin. (St. Joseph wasn’t heroically chaste—he was just old.) But I’d never heard evidence to the contrary.

Father Calloway offers plenty—most memorably, a quote from EWTN founder Mother Angelica, who said simply, “Old men don’t walk to Egypt.” Or protect and provide for a young wife and child along the way, set up shop in a foreign country, then pack up and walk back again when the threat at home had passed.

The picture of St. Joseph that emerges is young, strong, virile, and capable; heroically virtuous, humble, and longsuffering; not desiring to divorce his wife because he suspects her of sin, but because he is unworthy of one so singularly espoused by God. It’s not settled doctrine, but I found it personally convincing—especially because so many of the saints who held this view are close to my heart: my patron, St. Francis de Sales; Jodi’s patron, St. Bridget of Sweden; St. Therese, St. John Paul II; Augustine; Aquinas…the list goes on.

How is it that, 2,000 years after Jesus, we are just coming to understand the “strong, silent type” who facilitated the central mystery of human history?

Fr. Calloway’s style is a bit repetitive in the early going, and the length of the readings vary widely from day to day, from a couple pages to 10 or more. But your persistence will be rewarded with a new captain for your Saint Squad: St. Joseph of Nazareth, Unsung Hero. I highly recommend it!

This post appeared in the Sunday, April 3, edition of the St. Michael Catholic Church bulletin.

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