The School of Love

Day 30

In heaven, all things are simplified, and only one thing remains- Love!

St. Joseph saw the face of God every day in his child. God dwelled in his midst and through this experience his heart was set on fire with love. Mary was overshadowed with the Holy Spirit, who St. Thomas Aquinas calls Love with a capital “L.” Together, Mary and Joseph experienced love on earth in the most profound way.

The secret passage to love, to paradise, is an open door to the Sacred Heart of Christ. His heart was wounded and opened by a sword, so that ours may be healed. An infinite love flows perpetually from his heart. Love is the strongest power in both the world and the heavens. Yes, love is more powerful than even the grips of death. It transcends this life and passes to everlasting life in heaven. Our actions, when done in and through love, transcend this life and have everlasting significance. This is precisely why we can and should find paradise at the School of Nazareth. Quite simply, the daily life of the Holy Family was an explosion of love. When we find pure love and the absence of evil, we find paradise…even on earth.

St. Joseph has guided us throughout this journey and we have reached the end. He walked us through so many heroic virtues and taught us such invaluable wisdom along the way, but in the end he wishes to lead us to one thing- Love. Our hearts must be transformed in and through Love. When we receive the fullness of Divine Love into our own hearts, we receive that for which we were made, and we are transformed into a living flame of love. At this point, paradise doesn’t seem so far away. Instead, you can enjoy a foretaste of paradise today.

Personal Reflection

How can you make your heart and your home a type of paradise? Some may be tempted to think this is only an ideal that cannot be practically lived. You may think that you have particular issues or circumstances in life that make this ideal impossible. Life brings crosses to each and every one of us. The Holy Family had their fair share of them as well. Moreover, they had The Cross. The Holy Family taught us how to love in the midst of suffering, in the midst of trials and in the midst of uncertainty.

Some may be tempted to question how this ideal of paradise in your heart and home can take place if your wife and children are not on board. Let’s be honest, none of us have the Blessed Virgin Mary as our spouse, and none of us have Jesus Christ as our child. Regardless of your particular situation, the real question you should ask yourself is, “How can I enter more deeply into the mystery of love through the pierced heart of the Savior?”

Love conquers all things. When your heart becomes a living flame of love, you cannot force it upon others, and it does not guarantee their conversion, but you can offer it to anyone you encounter. If you reach this point, you have become a reflection of Christ and revelation of God the Father. You have climbed to the heights of sanctity with your most trusted friend, St. Joseph, to guide you every step of the way.

Heavenly Father, fill me at daybreak with your love, for your love is better than life itself. Show me a Father’s love, and teach me to love as you have loved. Purge my heart of all but love, so that even now I may begin to taste the joys of paradise.

St. Joseph,
Mystery hidden from the wise and learned,
But revealed to little ones.
Take me to Nazareth and train me in your ways.
Reveal to me Christ’s hidden face present in my children.
Unveil for me the love of the Holy Spirit present in my spouse.
Teach me to manifest for them the Father who is rich in mercy.
Help me to exclude all evil from my heart and my home,
So that we might find union with God,
And experience his love, peace and joy.  Amen.

 (Prayer written by Steve Bollman.)



Recapping Our Journey

Day 29

We have journeyed with St. Joseph for thirty days, and at last we have reached the end. That being said, hopefully this book is not the end of your pilgrimage as St. Joseph quietly waits to lead you to even greater spiritual heights.

We began this journey by reflecting upon the fact that God did not need Joseph to accomplish his plan for the salvation of the world, but that in his divine providence he chose him. This helped us understand that God has chosen us as well for a specific vocation. Like St. Joseph, God has chosen us to be a constant source of love for those near to us.

Next, we reflected on the silence and hiddenness of St. Joseph and the fact that we do not have a single spoken word from him in all of Scripture. We learned that his silence and obscurity speaks volumes to us. His profound humility before God paved the way for what would be asked of him. St. Joseph was a living example of the famous quote from St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” It proved unnecessary for St. Joseph to use words but instead to make way for the Word Incarnate, Jesus.

Then we considered the three main vocations, or missions, of St. Joseph. He was a just man before God, the spouse of Mary and the foster-father of Jesus. We reflected upon different aspects for each one of these most worthy missions.

Just Man Before God
St. Joseph was the ultimate “man after God’s own heart” because he always did what the Lord asked. His obedience to the voice of God and the will of God was always instantaneous. He was willing to follow God’s plan for him at all costs and even when it appeared to be far from practical at best. We learned that God seeks such men who are filled with humility and obedience, who trust in his providence, and who love him with their whole hearts to bear great fruit in the world. We asked the Lord to transform us into such men.

Spouse of Mary
Finding these amazing virtues in St. Joseph, God knew he had a suitable match for his most beautiful masterpiece, the one that was full of grace, our mother Mary. We learned that being the spouse of Mary was not for the faint of heart. Instead it was for the most pure of heart! To be the spouse of the Immaculata herself required heroic purity and sacrifice. From the very onset, from the moment of the Annunciation, things got interesting. Joseph was faced with an unprecedented situation and responded with a foreshadowing answer. He chose mercy. He was willing to destroy his reputation for her apparent shame and take it as if it were his own. God brought clarity to the situation through an angel and thirty-three years later offered his only Son instead to carry the burden of our shame. We asked the Lord to help us love our spouses the way St. Joseph did.

Father of Jesus
The ultimate mission of St. Joseph was to be the foster-father of Jesus. As men, we contemplated the profound quote from Saint John Paul II, “In revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God, a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family” (Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, #25). By the nature of God’s calling for him, Joseph became the revelation of God the Father to Jesus. “The admirable St. Joseph was given to the earth to express the adorable perfection of God the Father in a tangible way. In his person alone, he bore the beauties of God the Father … one saint alone is destined to represent God the Father” (Fr. Andrew Doze, The Shadow of the Father). In short, we have to learn how to be not just good dads, but great dads. For better or for worse, our children will form part of their concept of God the Father through us, their earthly fathers. This dignity and responsibility as fathers is enormous, but the joys of living this out are indescribable. In our gift of self to our children, we begin to live the life of God. We become the hands and feet of the loving and merciful Father on the earth.

The School of Nazareth
If we have followed the path of Joseph in becoming men after God’s own heart, developed into incredible spouses willing to sacrifice for our brides, and transformed into fathers who allow God’s love and mercy to shine through us, our homes become nothing short of a type of paradise. We have allowed St. Joseph and the Holy Family to teach us their secrets at the School of Nazareth. Tomorrow, we take one final step.

Personal Reflection

Spend several minutes in silence reflecting on the pathway of St. Joseph and your own journey in the process. Take this opportunity to write down the spiritual insights that he has taught you along the way.

Heavenly Father, our journey with St. Joseph is ultimately a journey towards union with you. You are the one that we seek. You are the one for whom we long. St. Joseph was a just man after your own heart even before Christ came into the world. Therefore, you blessed him with the grace to see the face of God in Jesus Christ. God came to dwell in his home and be with him even here on the earth. Heavenly Father, come be with me. Come into my home. Reveal yourself to me. Open my eyes of faith so that I may see the revelation of your glory in my home. Help me to transform my home into a little Nazareth, a retreat from the world, a little paradise where you are present.

St. Joseph,
Mystery hidden from the wise and learned,
But revealed to little ones.
Take me to Nazareth and train me in your ways.
Reveal to me Christ’s hidden face present in my children.
Unveil for me the love of the Holy Spirit present in my spouse.
Teach me to manifest for them the Father who is rich in mercy.
Help me to exclude all evil from my heart and my home,
So that we might find union with God,
And experience his love, peace and joy.  Amen.

 (Prayer written by Steve Bollman.)



Deeper Silence Still

Day 28


Today is the start of Section 6:

“St. Joseph’s mission is certainly unique and unrepeatable, as Jesus is absolutely unique. However, in protecting Jesus, in teaching him how to grow in age, wisdom and grace, he is a model for every educator, and in particular for every father. … I ask for you the grace to be ever closer to your children, allow them to grow, but be close, close! They need you, your presence, your closeness, your love. Be, for them, like St. Joseph: protectors of their growth in age, wisdom and grace. Guardians of their path, and educators: walk alongside them. And with this closeness, you will be true educators.”

Pope Francis, General Audience, Solemnity of St. Joseph,

March 19, 2014.

Deeper Silence Still

Throughout this journey we have learned of the humility and silence of St. Joseph. As we approach the end of our journey, let us enter even more deeply into this mystery of silence.

We know that Scripture does not record a single spoken word from the mouth of St. Joseph, but let’s take a look at the times he is at least mentioned. Of the 3,725 verses contained in the four Gospels, there are 40 that mention Joseph in some way. This count includes phrases such as “Son of the carpenter,” which is the only way John refers to Joseph. Mark leaves Joseph out altogether. Matthew and Luke give us the most information we have about St. Joseph through the infancy narratives. In addition, Matthew records the dream of St. Joseph for us. It is wise to contemplate the few passages regarding St. Joseph and the greater message made apparent by our conclusion: Joseph is silent and hidden.

Church Fathers:
St. Joseph is virtually absent in the writings of the early Church Fathers. When he is mentioned, it is nearly always a reference to the fact that he guarded Mary’s virginity or that he was the foster-father of Jesus. Conclusion: Joseph is silent and hidden.

The four major churches in Rome are St. Peter’s, St. Paul, Mary Major, and St. John Lateran (named for both John the Baptist and the Apostle John). The next most significant churches have nothing to do with Joseph either. No major church in Rome is named after St. Joseph. Conclusion: Joseph is silent and hidden.


  • 1479 – It took the Church over 1,400 years to officially make a universal feast day for St. Joseph. Pope Sixtus IV declared March 19 the universal Feast of St. Joseph.
  • 1870 – It took almost 1,900 years before Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph the Patron of the Universal Church.
  • 1962 – It took over 19 centuries before Pope John XXIII inserted St. Joseph’s name into the Roman Canon for the Eucharistic prayer. There were 24 saints named before him.

Conclusion: Joseph has been amazingly silent and hidden throughout the history of Church liturgy as well.

It is safe to say that over 2,000 years after the birth of Christ, St. Joseph continues to remain hidden in silence. God speaks in the silence. In order for us to progress in our understanding of St. Joseph, we must turn down the noise in our lives and enter into profound contemplation with him. If we do so, he will teach us the ways of God, the will of God and the adoration of God. He will teach us where to find God. He will teach us how to hear the voice of God and how to act upon it. He will teach us unfailing obedience, heroic trust, peace that surpasses all understanding, purity of heart, mercy that knows no bounds and a love that conquers the grave. Finally, he will invite us into his home and show us the secret delights of the Holy Family in Nazareth. Our journey is coming to an end, but yours with St. Joseph has really just begun!
Personal Reflection:

  • In what ways can you create more silence in your life so that you may hear the voice of the Lord?
  • In which areas of your daily life do you turn on the noise?

Heavenly Father, my journey with St. Joseph is ultimately a journey towards you. I seek to draw closer to you through your saints. Your light and your virtues have shown through them like the rays of sun through a stained glass window. Your beauty is made known through your saints, O Lord. Shine through me as well. Help me to become a light to the world by reflecting your light, O Lord. Open my mind and my heart to the wisdom you wish to teach me through your son and servant, St. Joseph.

St. Joseph,
Mystery hidden from the wise and learned,
But revealed to little ones.
Take me to Nazareth and train me in your ways.
Reveal to me Christ’s hidden face present in my children.
Unveil for me the love of the Holy Spirit present in my spouse.
Teach me to manifest for them the Father who is rich in mercy.
Help me to exclude all evil from my heart and my home,
So that we might find union with God,
And experience his love, peace and joy.  Amen.

 (Prayer written by Steve Bollman.)




Day 27

As a child growing up in the 90’s there is no question that I listened to the Irish rock band, U2. For better or for worse, music is an incredibly powerful form of art. Decades later, I can still remember the lyrics to one of their hit songs, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” This song is considered one of the greatest rock songs of all time for various reasons. In a sense, it resonates within people because deep down there is a universal truth that nothing will satisfy our hearts this side of heaven. Millions have sung along with Bono these very words, “I have climbed the highest mountains. I have run through the fields…but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

Deep down in all of our hearts, God has placed a desire for the infinite. He has placed in us a desire to enter into paradise. Only then will we fully “find what we are looking for.”

Before the fall, Adam and Eve experienced a type of paradise in the Garden of Eden. I had a theology professor in college who liked to speculate on how long it took Adam and Eve to sin. We may never know the real answer but his theory was, “About eight seconds.”

When sin entered the world, paradise was lost. God placed an angel at the garden entrance with a flaming sword “to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24). Ever since, humanity has been toying with every pleasure under the sun to try and satisfy this desire in our hearts. Nothing seems to quench our thirst. On the other hand, God always had a plan to reopen the gates and bring us back to him.

Through some of the most beautiful theology you can imagine, the Church Fathers understood that at the moment of the wounding of Christ’ heart, paradise was restored. “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (John 19:34). The earthly soldier that pierced the heart of Christ with his lance reminds us of the angel that blocked paradise with his sword. We have access to paradise once more through the wounded heart of Christ.

There flowed from his side blood and water. Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that the water and blood symbolized baptism and the Holy Eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born. (St. John Chrysostom, Office of Readings, Good Friday)

Christ’s death on the cross, which is the new tree of life, and the opening of his heart have paid our ransom for sin. From this moment, the Church was born. As St. Augustine mystically made known, “What then was Paradise is now represented by the Church.” From the new tree of life, we also have the new plentiful fruit that sustains us: the Eucharist. Therefore in the Church, we have direct access to paradise every Sunday, and possibly every day for those of us extra thirsty souls.

Where did this fruit from the new tree of life come from? “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus” (Luke 1:42).

The fruit of the new tree of life dwelled in Mary for nine months and subsequently in the home of Joseph and Mary for thirty years. The Holy Family was paradise.

[The Holy Family] was a heaven, a paradise on earth, endless delights in this place of grief; it was a glory already begun in the vileness, abjection and lowliness of their life. (Monsieur Jean-Jacques Olier, The Shadow of the Father)

Personal Reflection

How great is the longing in your heart for paradise? In what ways do you try to quench that thirst with the things of this world?

Today, we discovered an answer to Bono’s thirst as well as our own. In the words of St. Augustine, “The Church becomes a well of satisfaction by this gift of the Spirit … for it is in her a fountain of living water springing up unto everlasting life” (The Writings Against the Manichaens and the Donatists).

Joseph and the Holy Family found this satisfaction, this paradise, right in the midst of their home in Nazareth. The Holy Family is the model and example of what God wishes for your Christian home to become. God wishes for you to enter into the mystery of the School of Nazareth and learn at the side of St. Joseph. In what ways can you bring Christ more intimately into your home and everyday life?

Heavenly Father, my heart longs to enter into yours. Through the wounding of Christ’s heart, your love for me has been poured out in abundance. Help me to bathe in your mercy and grace. Lead me as I find my way to paradise through the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And guide me to discover the mysteries of paradise on earth just as truly as did your servant, St. Joseph.

St. Joseph, take me to Nazareth and train me in your ways. Help me to exclude all evil from my heart and my home. Amen.

Holy Death and Heroic Trust

Day 26

We all have our greatest fear, and in vulnerability I will share mine with you today. As a husband and father of small children, I am afraid that I will pass from this world to the next too soon. As the old country song says, “Lord, I want to go to heaven I just don’t want to go tonight” (Joe Diffie, Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox). The fear is twofold. The obvious reason is that I love my family and cherish every second with them. I have loved every moment of every day during my daughters’ first years. Sure, there may have been a few two year-old moments that I didn’t love so much, but overall every age has brought singular blessings I have been able to joyfully hold on to. I want to see my daughters as six year olds, sixteen year olds and someday as adults with their own children. Moreover, I want to be there through all the struggles in life to teach them, guide them and love them every step of the way.

My second part of this fear is much more intense. I understand that heaven is far better than anything I could hope for or imagine, so while missing out on their lives seems terrifying, I believe in the promises of Christ. I can trust that somehow heaven will be even greater than this. Therefore, the greatest fear is the thought of my wife and children going through life without their husband and father. While I avoid spending my days in fear, I do pray to God for a long life.

Once again, we have an incredible lesson to learn from the life experience of St. Joseph. Through the tradition of the Church, we recognize that Joseph passed from this earth before the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Many believe that Joseph lived with Jesus and Mary for thirty years. Thus we have a thirty day novena to St. Joseph, one day for each year he spent with Jesus and Mary. This idea helped influence this book as a thirty day journey. However long he spent with them, from a human perspective it was far from enough.

From the human relationship between a father and a son and between a husband and a wife it was not enough. Jesus began his public ministry without the presence of St. Joseph. Jesus had to go through the most challenging moments of his life, his bitter passion and death on the cross, without St. Joseph by his side. Mary, who had her loving husband to protect her for so long, had to go through her greatest suffering without him as well.

From a purely human perspective, the death of St. Joseph could appear to be a tragedy. Instead, we hear quite the opposite in Church tradition. The death of St. Joseph is known throughout the Church to have been a holy and peaceful death. If you have ever been to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame, there is a strikingly beautiful painting by Luigi Gregori of the death of St. Joseph with Jesus and Mary at his side. Peace in the midst of what may cause others distress. Peace in the midst of what I could call my deepest fear. How could there be such a superabundant peace in the death of this holy man who was leaving his wife and son behind?

Peace is a fruit brought about by the total abandonment and surrender to the will of God in our lives. Joseph had been through so many miracles in his life. He experienced the bountiful goodness and graciousness of God. Joseph fully trusted God with all of his mind, strength, heart and soul. Although Joseph could not continue to be present and available for his wife and son, he trusted once again in the goodness of God for them. He knew God had a plan. God chose Joseph as the guardian for the Holy Family during those thirty fateful years, but now God could accomplish his most holy will with Joseph alongside him in heaven.

The death of Joseph was not a crisis for Joseph, nor was it a crisis for Mary or Jesus. They knew he was a just man before God, a man after God’s own heart, and that they would be with him once again for all eternity. This deep trust and unshakable faith resulted in a death that was full of peace. They may have felt sadness for their temporary time away from him, but borrowing from the Scriptures, “Perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love (1 John 4:18).

Personal Reflection

Today’s reflection is less about death and more about trust. Trust in God drives out anxiety and fear. Joseph died in the arms of Jesus and Mary, and nothing could be more comforting at the hour of death. May we also rest in the loving arms of Jesus and Mary as we pass from this world to the next.

  • Do you fully trust in the goodness of God for your life and the lives of your loved ones?
  • Do you confide in the fact that God is an even better and more loving father than you are?

“Cast your worries upon him who cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Heavenly Father, thank you for my life and the time that you have given me on this Earth. Thank you for the loved ones with whom you have filled my life. I repent of not trusting you with all my heart, of all my doubt and fears. Lord, you are all good and all merciful. Increase my faith and grant that I may walk in joy and peace all my days. It is for freedom that you have set me free. Give me the grace that I may not waste time in anxiety and fear. Jesus, I trust in you.

St. Joseph, take me to Nazareth and train me in your ways. Help me to exclude all evil from my heart and my home. Amen.

The Program of Saint John Paul II

Day 25

At the turn of the millennium, we find a world that has become increasingly secularized, yet amidst the darkness there remains great hope. Saint John Paul II led us into this new era with a culture he described as “a culture of death.” However, the Holy Father was also the one whose hope remained firm as he spoke of a “new springtime for Christianity.”

How do we combat the evils of our times? We experience wars, abortions, morality issues, justifications of sin of every sort, threatened religious liberties, attacks on the institution of marriage, the rise of atheism and agnosticism and the explosion of pornography. The list could go on. What gives? What are we to do? What is our plan?

Fully aware of the evil at hand, John Paul II had the boldness to speak of hope as he presented Christians with an earth-shattering plan. “To contemplate the face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the ‘programme’ which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium, summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization” (Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucaristia, #6).

At the heart of the matter, the Holy Father pointed us back in simplicity to the Way, the Truth, and the Life; namely Jesus Christ. The world’s problems are solved in a heartfelt return to the face of Jesus Christ. The statement above also shows us quite simply why the world is experiencing such difficult times and massive evil, precisely because it has turned away from the face of Christ. When we turn from the Lord, everything unravels and evil gets a foot in the door. When we turn from the Lord, we are left to ourselves and our firm foundations turn to sand.  As such, we cannot weather the storms of time alone. When we turn from the face of Christ, the Evil One outsmarts us every time. Every sin becomes justifiable in our eyes. We settle for comforts and creatures rather than the love of the Creator. In essence, when we turn from the face of Christ, we become lost. Lost in the culture, lost in our own humanity and lost in our journey to eternal life.

The Holy Father provides the simplest of solutions: contemplate Christ. When we contemplate Christ, we find love, not love that we find in the modern world, but divine love. “Merely to look upon the crucified God is to begin to understand that what passes for human love is often nothing more than a front for the sheer egoism of the self-centered self” (Regis Martin, Still Point). Christ teaches us the meaning of life. His sacrifice on the cross can’t help but remind us of sin and the human condition. It reminds us that we need a Savior.

The second aspect of the “program” that Pope John Paul II left with us challenges us to contemplate the face of Christ with Mary. Why? Because Mary knew Christ the best! She always contemplated the mysteries of Christ in her heart (Cf. Luke 2:19). Her heart was more closely united to the heart of Christ than any other heart. She was there when he was conceived. She was there when he was born. She was there when he started his public ministry. She was there when he emptied himself upon the cross. She witnessed the Resurrected Christ not only as a bystander, but also as a mother. She was there at Pentecost for the gift of the Holy Spirit. And she was there for thirty years of his hidden life in Nazareth. Who could possibly be a better model and companion for us as we contemplate the face of Christ?

Who first contemplated the face of Christ with Mary? You guessed it – Joseph. St. Joseph most perfectly lived these words. He was the first to gaze upon the Savior, to look into the eyes of love and mercy, to bring Christ into his heart and his home and to see the Word become flesh. There is no doubt that his mind was in constant contemplation through his everyday experiences. He witnessed all these things contemplatively with Mary at his side. Together, they entered into the greatest mystery of love the world has ever known. Through the Holy Family, Salvation himself entered into the world.

Another way to understand the ‘program’ put in place for this new millennium and new evangelization is to enter into the mystery of St. Joseph. He is hidden in Scripture and is even hidden in John Paul’s statement. Although veiled in obscurity, he is present, and he is fruitful. Joseph once again teaches us a great lesson in humility.  It’s not about making sure you are known or making a statement in this world so that others may praise you, it’s about being close to God and gazing upon his face. That is precisely when God can fully accomplish his will through you.

Personal Reflection

One of the most practical ways to contemplate the face of Christ with Mary is to contemplate the mysteries of Christ’s life through the Rosary. Together with Our Lady, you draw deeper into the glorious story of our salvation filled with great sorrows, lasting joys and final victory. Consider incorporating the Rosary into your daily spiritual life and ask St. Joseph to be with you as you enter into the contemplation with Our Lady.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of the Holy Family. Help me to enter more deeply into their life with Christ. Please forgive me for the times I have turned to the world for answers instead of gazing upon the face of Christ. As I seek his face today, I already experience the peace. Ease the doubts, fears and distractions in my life.

St. Joseph, take me to Nazareth and train me in your ways. Help me to exclude all evil from my heart and my home. Amen.

Two Turtle Doves

Day 24

Often times, the decisions of the people in the Old Testament honestly leave me baffled. The story that gets me every time is the account of the Israelites building the golden calf to worship (Cf. Exodus 32:3-8). Seriously? They waited for years while begging for God to set them free from the bondage of the Pharaoh in Egypt. God liberated his people in dramatic fashion with plagues, miracles and the parting of the Red Sea, and yet they respond by building a senseless idol? Can humanity really choose lowly idolatry after they have seen the hand of God in action? In modern times, do we as Christians even run the risk of falling into idolatry? I think it is safe to say that we have aligned with the Israelites in choosing “idols” over God at times in our lives.

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). Scripture equates covetousness, which is another word for greed, with idolatry. In fact, anything we place above God in our hearts and minds can become an idol, even if it can be construed as a good thing. Nonetheless, Scripture places a bone-chilling emphasis on money as highlighted in the following verses:

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24)

The eye of the covetous man is insatiable in his portion of iniquity: he will not be satisfied till he consumes his own soul. (Sirach 14:9)

The love of money is the root of all evil. (1 Tim 6:10)

It is safe to say that, in our culture, many people love money with greater emphasis and intensity than they love God. Once again, humanity has found another golden calf to worship. Unfortunately, this obsession with money has crept into most of our lives in one way or another. When you swim in the ocean, you start to smell like fish!

We impulsively think that money will bring happiness, peace and security. We assume that money will solve our problems and help us to do God’s work better. If we could just find a little more money!

When the Holy Family went to the temple once a year to offer their sacrifice, they offered a pair of turtledoves (Cf. Luke 2:24). This was the offering of a poor family (Cf. Leviticus 12:8). The Holy Family was not rich; rather, Jesus, Mary and Joseph were poor but not wanting. If you asked St. Joseph, he would tell you to substitute the name of Jesus for the word money in all of those beliefs. Jesus will bring you happiness. Jesus will bring your family peace and security. Jesus will solve all your problems. Jesus will help you to do God’s work better. If you could just get a little more Jesus!

It is certainly true that we have to work hard to earn money because we need food, shelter, and other essentials to provide for ourselves and our families. In reality, money itself is neither good nor bad. How we make it, how we spend it and how we place the notion of money in our hearts are of greater concern. I’ve heard it said, “You can have money, you just can’t let money have you.”

At the School of Nazareth the poverty of the Holy Family teaches us that money is not our ultimate answer. The wisest, most fruitful, most blessed and most inspiring family in human history did not have a large bank account and significant net worth. They were content with what they had. They had Jesus. 

Personal Reflection:

Do you have an insatiable desire for wealth and material possessions? Do you worry more about your financial state or your spiritual state of life?

And he said to them, “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions … he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass which is alive in the field today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O men of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be of anxious mind. For all the nations of the world seek these things; and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things shall be yours as well. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12: 15 – 34)

Heavenly Father, have mercy on us when we place worldly things in front of you. Increase our faith in order to trust in your fatherly care for our needs. Help us to learn from St. Joseph that if we have Jesus, we have enough. Give us this day our daily bread. Support us as we provide sufficiently for our families. If we have surplus, teach us to use it according to your holy will.

St. Joseph, take me to Nazareth and train me in your ways. Help me to exclude all evil from my heart and my home. Amen.

Good Morning, God

Day 23

Occasionally our faith is so incredibly incarnational that it seems almost scandalous to think about. The beauty of God becoming man and walking the earth can almost seem too much to bear. Consider each morning in the home of the Holy Family. Joseph could wake up every morning and walk over to Jesus’ room, open the door and say, “Good morning, God.” The climax of human history is that our God became man and dwelt among us.

To express ourselves in accordance with the paradox of the Incarnation we can certainly say that God gave himself a human face, the Face of Jesus, and consequently, from now on, if we truly want to know the Face of God, all we have to do is to contemplate the Face of Jesus! In his Face we truly see who God is and what he looks like! (Pope Benedict XVI, 6 September 2006)

The home in which Joseph lived was by definition a temple because God, the Word Incarnate, dwelt there! Joseph lived and breathed every day in the temple of his very home. Joseph went about his daily routine in the presence of God.

No man has gazed upon Christ with the love and affection of St. Joseph. His eyes have seen, ears have heard, hands have touched, arms have carried and heart has been set on fire by the glory of the Lord. Invite St. Joseph into your life so that he may help to set your heart on fire with the love of God and love for your children.

Personal Reflection

Close your eyes and imagine looking into the eyes of your child in the morning and saying, “Good morning, God.” Reflect upon how that might transform your life and your home. Ponder to yourself if that knowledge would change the way your raise him or her.

You do not have to imagine any longer. Listen and contemplate deeply these words of Christ, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” (Matthew 18:5).

If you have the eyes of faith, you are called to find the hidden face of Christ dwelling in your midst. If you have the ears to hear it, at times you are even called to hear God speak to you through your children. Like the Holy Family, your home is called to be a temple where the Lord dwells, the domestic church. Like the Holy Family, even if perhaps more hidden, you can truly find the face of God in your midst.

I believe we all understand that our children are not God Incarnate, but in a mystical yet real way Jesus Christ still resides hidden within them. The more you contemplate it, the more you will discover this awesome mystery. The more you discover the mystery, the more your life and your home will be transformed. It is the home that will renew the world. “The future of the world and of the Church passes through the family” (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio).

Recalling our contemplation from yesterday, it is no wonder John Paul II could give us such a simple ‘program’ to follow. With St. Joseph as your guide, set out with renewed hope seeking the hidden face of Christ in your midst.

If you are not yet married with children, you can still seek the hidden face of Christ in others. Blessed Mother Teresa founded an entire religious order on this principle and spent her entire life doing so. She found that within the poorest of the poor dwelt the hidden face of Jesus, resonating the words spoken from Christ, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me” (Matthew 25:40).

Christ awaits us in others. Seek and you will find him.

Heavenly Father, open my eyes that I may find your hidden face dwelling in others, especially my wife and children. Inspire me to learn from St. Joseph and from the marvelous mysteries of the life of the Holy Family. Help me to make my heart and my home a worthy sanctuary for you. Come dwell within me, O Lord. “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10).

St. Joseph, take me to Nazareth and train me in your ways. Help me to exclude all evil from my heart and my home. Amen.

Joseph the Warrior

Day 22

Today is the start of Section 5:
The School of Nazareth

“The word of God presents the family as the first school of wisdom, a school which trains its members in the practice of those virtues which make for authentic happiness and lasting fulfillment.”
Pope Benedict XVI Homily, Mass at Nazareth, May 14, 2009

“Nazareth is a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ’s life was like and even to understand his Gospel … Here everything speaks to us, everything has meaning … How I would like to return to my childhood and attend the simple yet profound school that is Nazareth!”
Pope Paul VI, Address at the Basilica of the Annunciation, January 5, 1964

Joseph the Warrior

All of us have heard the phrase, “Nice guys finish last.” There is this idea in the world today that “Meekness equals weakness,” and humility so often implied that you will get walked on. Unfortunately, in many cases the meek and the humble do very well go unnoticed in their accomplishments and may not get the same attention, job opportunities or as many “likes” on their latest social media sites. Instead of encouraging men to be meek and humble, the world teaches men to go out into the world and dominate. We are encouraged to out-perform others so as to prove ourselves through our bank accounts, our possessions and our record of achievements. As someone once said, “Money is just a way of keeping score.” Many men are totally dedicated to winning the game, as if life were a game to begin with.

Nevertheless, Christian men are called to be meek and humble. “Far from being weak, however, the meek possess an inner strength to restrain anger and discouragement in the midst of adversity” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible). We can practice these ideals in the simple ways in which we respond to the challenges of everyday life. Whether our wives snap at us at the end of a long and frustrating day, or a guy rudely cuts us off on the freeway, our responses define us. It is inevitable that life will provide us with major adversities in which to practice these difficult virtues! How you respond to God’s grace can truly make or break these experiences. We are called to be charitable, to love others and even pray for our enemies. It takes heroic strength and defining virtue!

Courage is also needed in order to withstand the storms of life that come our way. I can’t help but call to mind one of my favorite speeches from the classic movie, The Count of Monte Cristo:

Life is a storm my young friend, you will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into the storm as you shout as you did in Rome. Do your worst for I will do mine. Then the Fates will know you as we know you as Albert Mondego, the man.

There is something compelling in a man that seems to be calling us to fight and compete; but where is our ultimate battle? With whom are we fighting?

Joseph is our ultimate example of what it means to live authentic masculine Christianity. He was quite possibly the meekest and most humble of all. Yet at the same time, he was without question a warrior and a fighter. He participated in the greatest battle of all time. However, it was precisely his humility and meekness that allowed him to trample over the Evil One rather than faltering before him.

St. John Paul II proclaimed, “The family is placed at the heart of the great struggle between good and evil, between life and death, between love and all that is opposed to love” (Letter to Families, #23). Pope John Paul II insists that at the core and heart of Satan’s attack is the family. We see this vividly played out in the book of Revelation. “And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne” (Rev 12:4-5).

The Church understands this passage to have multiple meanings, but it is particularly clear that evil is attacking Our Lady and the Christ-child. This verse strikingly illustrates the attack of Satan at the very heart of the family. This is both a spiritual and a practical truth.

God chose Joseph for this battle because Joseph was a warrior for God. When Joseph said “Yes” to take Mary as his bride and Jesus as his Son, he was avowing “Yes” to engage in the most epic battle in human history. He was prepared to fight to the end to keep his family safe. From the beginning of Christ’s life, the powers of darkness wanted Joseph’s child dead and were willing to go to extreme lengths to accomplish their ambition. It’s incredibly ironic that Herod needed to take the life of an infant, the weakest and most helpless of mankind, in order for him to remain in a position of absolute power and strength. Herod represents an icon of what men who desire power over humility are willing to do and what men of humility are up against.

On the other hand, Joseph was willing to do whatever the Lord asked of him no matter what the personal cost. What strength! Most men lack the strength because most men lack the meekness.

Personal Reflection:

Imagine that an intruder, or even worse, the Evil One himself, comes into your home every night while you are sleeping and slips directly into your children’s room. He does not physically hurt them but instead tries to corrupt their minds and souls. He feeds them with lies and lust and anything else in opposition to God. Imagine now that he comes in through a subtle opening. He does not break in through the door or break the code from your alarm system. He is sly and cunning. He comes through your child’s TV, his cell phone, her iPad and her computer. Like St. Joseph, are we protecting our children from the Evil One, or are we ignorantly inviting him in for easy and direct access?

Are we willing to fight for the souls of our children even when the battles seem increasingly difficult and unpractical in our eyes? We have been traveling with St. Joseph for quite some time now; what would he do? The technology we bring into our home is just one example. In what other scenarios do we need to stand strong?

Warriors don’t fret or complain because they understand there is a monumental battle at hand; they are fighting against something bigger than themselves. Mary and Joseph resisted the lure to complain when they had nowhere to sleep the night of the birth of Jesus. How unpractical to take Mary into the middle of nowhere precisely when she was about to go into labor; but that is exactly what Joseph did!

  • Are you prepared to fight for the souls of each and every member of your family?
  • Are you willing to make spiritual sacrifices for them?
  • Are you poised to be there for them in the toughest of times?

Heavenly Father, encourage me to get my priorities in order so that I may focus my attention on being a warrior for Christ and for my family. Strengthen me to fight the good fight of faith and stand firm as a guardian against evil for my own soul and those of my family. Illuminate my heart and mind so as to not get caught up in trying to impress the world or in gaining power and strength in the eyes of the world. My strength is in you. You alone are my rock and my fortress. Take my desire to battle and use it against the Evil One. Take my desire to compete and use it for your glory, O Lord. Make me a warrior for your kingdom.

St. Joseph, take me to Nazareth and train me in your ways. Help me to exclude all evil from my heart and my home. Amen.

Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

Day 21

“Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’

Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’

Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’” John 1: 45-46

Philip’s heart overflowed with excitement as he shared his joy with Nathanael. At that moment, he could have told him all about Jesus, but at the end of day, Philip knew that Nathanael had to experience Jesus for himself. He invited Nathanael into this relationship with Jesus Christ with three simple words, “Come and see.”

This week, we enter into the School of Nazareth, and St. Joseph will be our host and guide to “come and see” the beauties and mystery of their home. Our goal will be to become acquainted with the inner workings of the Holy Family by peering into the lives they lived together. I believe that this is much more than an informational history lesson. We can truly enter into a spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ and the saints in heaven as they share with us the secrets of virtue and sanctity. Although it is mysterious and hidden, let us enter prayerfully into the School of Nazareth.

Personal Reflection:

Philip’s simple invitation, “Come and see,” contains more anticipation and promise than any words that I could ever write. Words can be an effective tool for an inspiring invitation, but nothing can replace a personal encounter. Your own experience of the Holy Family will be much more powerful and real than any explanation that I can give. In order for this to occur, you must enter more deeply into a relationship with Jesus, Mary and Joseph. This week, I invite you to deepen these relationships and ask the Lord to open your eyes and heart to the mystery of the Holy Family.

Nathanael was persuaded by Philip to meet Jesus, and we know from Scripture that it lived up to the hype. “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel” (John 1:49).

I have no doubt that if you earnestly seek to meet the Holy Family and join in the School of Nazareth, you will find a treasure.

Heavenly Father, aid us as we enter into the mystery of the Holy Family this week. Help us to learn whatever you wish to teach us. Give us the grace to make our families holy. Encourage us to never “judge a book by its cover” or judge other people by their appearance, race or gender. Comfort us to trust that you can and will bring good out of the least likely of places, just as you did at Nazareth, to Nathanael’s dismay.

St. Joseph, reveal to me Christ’s hidden face present in my children. Teach me to manifest for them the Father who is rich in mercy. Amen.