What’s in a name? In the case of
Dominican Father Michel Gasnier, author of Joseph the Silent (Scepter, 2002), notes that the humble carpenter’s name is an acronym pointing to his most outstanding virtues: Justness, Obedience, Silence, Experience (wisdom), Purity and Humility.
So it is that
Let’s start with the first of those, urges Oblate of St. Joseph Father Larry Toschi, pastor of St. Joachim Parish in Madera, Calif. Justness, he explains, is often translated as “righteous” and applied to the greatest of the patriarchs, such as Noah and Abraham.
“To be just means to be holy as God is holy,” adds Father Toschi. “Being just means being centered in God. It encompasses all the virtues in the Bible. The upright man is a man of faith and trust in God’s providence.”
There you have
“We can imitate him by putting God first in our lives,” says Father Toschi, who wrote Joseph in the New Testament (Guardian of the Redeemer Books, 1993).
But we’re only getting started. For Joseph is also an obedient man. He never questions what
God tells him and follows the Lord’s lead without delay, explains Father
Toschi. The flight into
“Then there’s the obedience in his daily life as father, husband and worker,” continues Father Toschi. “He obeys God’s will for him in the ordinary duties of daily life.”
In Flowery Branch,
Fiorentino knows his duties and goes to work joyfully even on days when his enthusiasm for the particulars of his job might be lagging. “There’s a peace,” he says, “knowing you’re doing what God wants you to do.”
Fiorentino tries to practice “the responsibility of the
present moment — what God calls you to every second of the day, really living a
consecrated life, basically abandoning every minute to God and asking him to
guide you through your day. To me,
He’s trying to instill in his children — his wife, Nancy, points out that he and their four sons have “Joseph” as part of their names — that feelings should never take priority over faithfulness. On nights they don’t feel like feeding the dog, he reminds them that, if they go by their feelings on the matter, the beloved family pet would starve.
Prayer and Action
As Brian Holt, a father of seven youngsters in
That brings up silence, another of Joseph’s virtues needing especial imitation in today’s noisy culture. Father Toschi reminds that Joseph was a man of contemplation as well as action.
“He’s called the man of silence because Scripture records no words he said,” Father Toschi points out. “The one word we know he had to say was ‘Jesus’ because he was told by an angel what to name Mary’s child.”
“We must say the name of Jesus as Joseph did: with faith,” he counsels. Using it with reverence counteracts the way many people today use Jesus’ name to express anger or shock. Such irreverence, he says, is a byproduct by our culture’s lack of silence.
As for experience
(wisdom), what more do we need to know about
Today we also need to look to Joseph’s purity. He didn’t enter marriage with Mary seeking self-satisfaction, explains Father Toschi. Likewise, married couples have to always express self-giving and be sensitive to one another.
“It’s important not to use contraception,” he says, “because it offends against purity.”
Of course, true purity
is even more about what we should do than what we shouldn’t.
“Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance,” the Catechism reminds us (No. 2521).
“Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to
unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose
sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves
toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.”
She admires the way he gets up and walks away when his co-workers start “trash talking” during break time. “He doesn’t participate in that kind of talk,” she says.
“He actually took a
stand against pornography at his old company,” she says of the material one
worker posted. “Pete told them, ‘Either that goes or I go.’ He said he couldn’t
The company removed the offensive material. The bonus: “People said to Pete, ‘I really appreciated your stand on that.’”
The Montion family — including eight children — have a daily devotion to
Kathy sees her husband
“He never put himself on a pedestal, she says. “He does beautiful carpentry work and doesn’t take credit for it. He does that all the time.”
Kathy points out that, many times in the carpentry business, men will only work on jobs they think are interesting and fun. But her husband has always done less “glamorous” work, such as roofing, “because he’s happy to provide for the family,” even though he’d much rather be doing the creative and artistic works he’s capable of.
This is exactly the
kind of humility
In his 1989 encyclical Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the
Redeemer), Pope John Paul II quoted his predecessor Paul VI on this very
“[H]e is the proof that in order to be a good and genuine follower of Christ, there is no need of ‘great things’ — it is enough to have the common, simple and human virtues, but they need to be true and authentic.”
That’s the stuff that makes us saints. We have no better model of that to follow than St. J-O-S-E-P-H.
Joseph Pronechen writes from