The spirituality of Saint Joseph (I)
By Margaret Ogbebor SSMA
Spirituality is the recognition of a feeling or a feeling of belief that there is something greater than oneself, something beyond the physical or the ordinary. It always shows our connection (of man) with the divine (God). Spirituality reveals to us that our lives and experiences have a deep meaning, something very meaningful that unfolds gradually as we continue to grow. Spirituality involves the human person trying to explore a universal truth to find its meaning. Due to the continuous search for meaning, a man is able to find answers to certain questions that would help him develop his life. It is a way of life that we have chosen to live in the other to connect with the divine (God), it requires some practice or discipline to “progress” in our spiritual life.
The foundation of all spiritual life involves prayer, meditation and contemplation, these help to shape and mold one’s life to the conformity of a spiritual being. Achieving perfection can be very difficult without spiritual practices. The love of God is the ultimate in this regard. No wonder saints and martyrs have this love of God in their hearts and do little things in extraordinary ways. In the Gospel of Matthew 13:46 we read how a merchant discovers a pearl found on land does all he can to see that he has bought the land because of the treasure it contains, the saints do also do their best to make sure they own the kingdom of God no matter what. Saints are also called friends of God. Being friends of God gives them the opportunity to enjoy special privileges (grace) as children of God. Saint Joseph also enjoyed this unique privilege as a friend of God and had the opportunity to be the foster father of our Lord Jesus Christ. As a father, he was able to teach Jesus Christ the way to perfection even though he was God. He diligently accomplished this task until the end of his life. Her spirituality gives us a complete picture of her kind of person because grace is often based on nature. The nature of Saint Joseph is like that of an angel, no wonder he was able to form Jesus in this way.
Holiness of life is one of the characteristics of spirituality, which is also attributed to all saints. In the case of Saint-Joseph, there was no exception; he has a total holiness that runs through all aspects of his life. In Matthew 1:19 we see how the Bible views him as a righteous man and did not want to shame Mary. His life of holiness earned him honor in the community where he lived. He was well respected by all; because he had a good name (good names are often better than riches). He was a man of justice, he was not capricious, he always believed in what is right, that is, to do the will of God (obedience). This was seen in the Gospel of Matthew 1:20, when he was told to take Mary as a wife and he accepted without complaint. Often we see ourselves fluctuating in our spiritual lives, today we are holy, tomorrow we are not. We are blowing hot and cold at the same time, but in the case of Saint Joseph, it was in accordance with his state of life (holiness). We have always seen him do the will of God which is the requirement of every true Christian. Trust and obey because there is no other way to be happy with Jesus. In his practices of holiness, he did not “choose”, he was in the foreground in trying to please God with his ways of life (words, actions, thoughts and relationships). His practices of holiness were both interior and exterior. It serves as an example to imitate. Some of us only practice holiness in the sight of certain people, but within us we are something else. Saint Joseph was totally different. His way of life was real, practical and genuine.
Another spirituality of Saint Joseph was his strong “faith” in God, an important role in the history of our salvation. From the stories we read in the Bible, we can see that it was only through dreams that God taught him (Joseph) and that he believed and did what he was instructed. The first time was when he was told to take Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:20) and the second time when he was told to take the child (Jesus) to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill him (Matthew 2: 13-23), all of these instructions came to him through dreams and he believed without arguing or wondering whether it was God’s will or not. According to the catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), “faith is a supernatural gift from God which enables us to believe without doubting all that God has revealed”. Her strong faith in God made her believe what God communicated to her in the dream. Saint Joseph saw the gift of his dream as a channel through which God communicates with him and continued to operate the channel to be faithful to him, taking the instructions of the dream with faith and courage. It takes strong faith to believe that what he saw in the dream was not a mirage, illusion, or imagination. His strong faith in God came into play when he was told that his future bride (Mary) is already pregnant not with the help of another man but by the power of the Holy Spirit. It takes someone with a high level of faith to believe that situations like this could actually happen. Looking at the whole life of Saint Joseph, we can see that he worked by faith and not by sight. This made him stand out among those who had led a righteous life. The gift of faith that Saint Joseph possessed is what the Lord asked of us as Christians. “If your faith is like that of a grain of mustard, you will be able to move mountains” (Luke 17: 5-6). Faith should be the foundation of every Christian because without faith our Christianity is nothing. Our faith in God helps us believe that if we ask him something, he will do it. We can only see God through the eyes of faith. Faith is an important part of our Christian belief. Faith is the powerful force that pushes us forward even when our physical bodies are not moved. It is a gift bestowed on us from above. It helps us do things we wouldn’t normally do. Faith prompts God to act and also helps us to trust him.
“If you love me, keep my commandment” (John 14:15). Loving God is not just when we pray, go to church frequently, or sing hymns of praise and thanksgiving. He is more than that; it involves the whole of the human person, body, soul and spirit. Loving God helps us to know him better and also to understand what he expects from us. Loving God is a gift that each of us should have as Christians, because he was the first to love us by “sending his son into the world, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life”. (John 3:16). This love flowed constantly in the spirit of Saint Joseph who made him obey all the commandments of God without reserve. The love of God is another spirituality practiced by Saint Joseph. He was a man of love; he was able to show this love to the members of his family (Jesus and Mary) and even to the people around him. He loved and protected his family from the clutches of Herod and his evil plans. Looking at our lives as Christians, the element of love is very important in everything we do; we are supposed to love God and our neighbors (those around us) and always forgive our enemies. Love never stops because it is continuous. The love of God is above human standards and no one can understand it. God’s love for us was demonstrated on the cross when he sacrificed his only son for the salvation of the world. Saint Joseph also followed this step by sacrificing his personal happiness for our salvation, so that we could be saved and redeemed. Often times, as Christians, we find it difficult to love God because of our own selfish interests. We must always remember that love is good, love is patient, love is not boastful, it does not rejoice in evil but rejoices in the truth (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8). The above qualities regarding love were found in the life of Saint Joseph.
Sr. Margret Ogbebor SSMA is a Catholic nun, working in the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto. She is the director of the St Martin nursery and primary school in Porres Katsina. [email protected]