“The world in which we live is filled with sufferings that cause anxiety, but let us invoke Saint Joseph and we shall be protected; in all our trials let us go to Joseph” (Moreau’s Meditations)
Recently I had a conversation with my father asking him what inspired him and my mother to give me the name, Joseph, as my middle name. I thought for certain that it was due to a devotion to Saint Joseph, or at the least, the inspiration of Joseph’s love and unselfishness as the foster Father of Jesus and the loving husband to the mother of God, Mary. The answer was much simpler, I was given that name after a beloved uncle in the family as an example of the kind of man they hoped I would become.
During this season of Advent and Christmas, I often think about Saint Joseph, his willingness to listen and heed to God’s call and his trust in accepting God’s providence, his love and dedication as protector of the Holy Family, and his role as teacher and foster father to the savior of the world. What were his emotions? Did he ever ask God, why me? Did he ever doubt that he was capable and worthy for such a noble calling? Did he ever think about walking away?
Throughout my life and career, I have certainly felt every one of these fears, anxieties, and doubts as a father, husband, friend, son, brother, mentor, and Catholic educator. Throughout it all, however, I have found myself gravitating to Joseph for strength, guidance, and wisdom. Everywhere my wife and I travel, we look for the churches and cathedrals in that region to visit. Big and small, old, and new, we are drawn to them all. During these visits, if I wander off on my own (which I often do!), Peggy knows that she can find me praying before St. Joseph. How appropriate it is today that I have the great privilege to worship, adore, and praise God on the campus at Holy Cross College in our St. Joseph Chapel, and attend daily mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church in South Bend, just a few blocks from our home. More so, what an honor it is for me to serve in the role as president of Holy Cross College, founded by the Brothers of the Congregation of Holy Cross, whose patron saint and origins are founded as the Society of the Brothers of St. Joseph.
In one of Blessed Father Moreau’s sermons he stated this about St. Joseph: “In the poverty and anguish of the Savior, Saint Joseph responded to the will of God and accepted the custody of Jesus. He took care of his needs; he showed him the affection of his heart; he fulfilled all the duties of a father to Jesus. Saint Joseph procured for Jesus the food that made his sacred body grow in strength and stature and that filled his veins with the precious blood that he shed for the salvation of the world. Therefore, God the Father gave divinity to Jesus Christ. Mary gave Jesus his body, and our patron saint preserved his existence. "
The Bible tells us very little of Joseph, but from the early chapters of Matthew and Luke we glean that he was a kind, just, and pious man, and a most excellent husband and father. Scripture tells us that Joseph took Mary with him from Nazareth to Bethlehem, cared for and was beside Mary in the stable at the birth of the Lord, brought Jesus to the temple according to Mosaic law, fled with his family into Egypt to escape the wrath of the jealous King Herod, and remained in Egypt until word came of Herod's death when it was safe for them to return to their homeland, and later was anxious when Jesus disappeared in the temple in his youth. With what little we know about Joseph, one thing Scripture assures us is that he was a gentle, protective father and husband.
From my days as a high school student attending Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, to the past 25 years that I have joyfully served alongside the Brothers and Priests of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the role of gentle, protective father and husband has been a personal witness by those men who I learned from, have been mentored by, and have strived to live like.
I recall in 2021 the words spoken by Brother George Schmitz, C.S.C.., in celebration of the year of Saint Joseph: “The plans that God has for us are not happenstance or a coincidence. God chose Saint Joseph to teach Jesus more than a trade by which he could support himself. God chose Saint Joseph as an instrument in God’s plan of salvation; Saint Joseph's charge, though unknown, was to form Jesus for the mission of God. As Saint Joseph learned to conform his heart to the will of God, so he taught Jesus. Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane, ‘not my will, but yours be done' is a prayer of trust that reflects the capacity to see and the courage to act of that same man who accepted Mary into his home as his wife” (St. Joseph: An Image of God's Love and Kingdom, Published: March 19, 2021)
During this Christmas season, let us turn to Joseph in gratitude for his loving care and example. Let us also pray for the Holy Cross men whose footsteps we follow in today. As we read in the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross, “The footsteps of those men who called us to walk in their company left deep prints, as of men carrying heavy burdens. But they did not trudge; they strode. For they had the hope” (8:122). Just as Joseph did and the Brothers and Priests who came before us, may we too recognize that the plans that God has for us are not coincidence and that as instruments in God’s plan of salvation, conforming to the will of God, may we possess the competence to see and courage to act, and may we never lose sight of the hope.
This reflection for Christmas was written by Dr. Marco J. Clark, President of Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Indiana, in the United States. Dr. Clark has a long history of collaborating with the Congregation of Holy Cross. After serving as President and CEO of Bishop McNamara High School, in Forestville, Maryland, he became the first layperson to serve as Executive Director of the Holy Cross Institute at St. Edward’s University in 2019. He became the first lay President of Holy Cross College, a ministry of the Midwest Province of Brothers, on July 1, 2022.