During the Advent season, we often hear of Mary’s “yes” to God, but it’s rare to hear about the “yes” of St. Joseph. On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 12) in 2020, Pope Francis declared that this new liturgical year would be the year of St. Joseph.
St. Joseph has many names, but he has two that are especially telling of how he lived his life and why he holds such an honored place within the Church: “Chaste Protector of the Virgin” and “Zealous Defender of Christ”.
“Chaste Protector of the Virgin” and “Zealous Defender of Christ”: Our increasingly secularized society tells men and women that they should do and be anything they want, while portraying this message as a simple leveling of the playing field in an effort to make everyone equal. After all, who would say no to equality? But this idealized understanding of men and women is far too simple. When we leave God out of the equation, we might achieve equality, but we run the risk of not fully living out our humanity. St. Joseph understood this as Mary’s husband. Had he not said “yes” to the angel in his dreams telling him to take Mary as his own, he could have denounced her, and in his time, he likely would have been praised for it.
As the Holy Father said in his apostolic letter on St. Joseph, “Joseph is certainly not passively resigned, but courageously and firmly proactive.” In modern times, you often hear the phrase “strong independent woman who don’t need no man.” This phrase is not only grammatically horrendous, but also hits at the core of my point: how many of us men have become passively resigned in a world that tells us we cannot be strong leaders to the women in our lives? How can I be a leader to my mom? To my sister? To my female friends? To the young ladies in youth group? Dads, how can you be a leader to your wife? Your daughters?
It is possible to be a leader without being above the people you try to lead. St. Joseph did not see himself as being above Mary, or better than Jesus. Rather, he valiantly took them into his arms and truly loved them. He willed the good of the people in his life that God asked him to.
Ladies, this reflection is not only for men! Each and every one of us is called to be a chaste protector of the virgin and zealous defender of Christ. Lead the men in your life to holiness. Pray with them. Pray for them. Hold them accountable when they fall short, not to judge but so that they can be the men God calls them to be. God gave us relationships with others, and just as the Holy Family, we cannot fully live out our vocation on earth if we try to do everything alone. As we continue in this new year, let us look to St. Joseph to learn how we can lead those closest to us closer to Christ, and in doing so defend our Lord by showing the world around us the love and mercy we receive from God.
St. Joseph, Chaste Protector of the Virgin and Zealous Defender of Christ, pray for us.