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.


The Second Greatest Saint in Heaven

Day 20

You were made for one purpose: to be a saint. For many of us, this may evoke a sense of doubt and disbelief. We raise the white flag in our hearts and believe that we are not good enough. In our minds, the saints represent a super-holy, select group of people that tower so highly above us that we can hardly make sense of or relate to. Some of their virtues and accomplishments seem so lofty that we are prone to dismiss them as mere ideals that are unpractical for our own lives. If you feel this way, welcome to the club! If you struggle with the weight of your own sinfulness, fears, insecurities and shortcomings, welcome to the human race.  You are not alone!

Alas! I have always noticed that when I compared myself to the saints, there is between them and me the same difference that exists between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and the obscure grain of sand trampled underfoot by passers-by. Instead of becoming discouraged, I said to myself; God cannot inspire unrealizable desires. I can, then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to holiness. It is impossible for me to grow up, and so I must bear with myself such as I am with all my imperfections. (St. Therese, Story of a Soul)

To be a saint, we often feel as though we must travel on mission trips selflessly serving the needs of others, or that this is a calling reserved only for a select number of holy priests and ministers. If only we did not have these jobs to do and have these families to take care of…then we would have time to be saints.

In the fullness of time, God found the greatest man on Earth who did whatever was asked of him, faithfully followed God’s will, didn’t have an enlarged ego, and was willing to lay down his life for others.  With an instrument like this, God was able to give him the greatest mission he could possibly award…drum roll, please…to be a husband and father.

From what we know, the second greatest saint in history did not spend his days preaching around the globe. In fact, as we learned earlier, we have not a single word recorded of anything Joseph said. The second greatest saint in history was a father and a spouse. Notwithstanding his union with God, those two things defined St. Joseph more than anything else.

This is good news for us! It means that we can find holiness and sanctity directly in the context of our ordinary daily lives. Yes, even if your job is mindlessly mundane as you do the exact same thing for eight straight hours every day. You can still come home to your family with joy in your heart, eager to spend the next several hours playing with and taking care of your children. When the day is finally over, entrust it all to the Lord and appeal to him to provide you with the energy to do it again tomorrow. This is the great challenge that lies before us. We can become great saints if we desire it! The daily demands of life and family provide all the obstacles and challenges we need to be men of great virtue and sanctity.

St. Joseph became a great saint because his heart was filled with love, and love is precisely what passes through the grave into everlasting life. The family is where we first learn to love, and it can therefore be called the school of love. Love makes saints because love makes it way to heaven. To make it to heaven is to be a saint!

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love endures all things. Love is not self-seeking but is always at the service of others (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8). This defined the life of St. Joseph. He placed the needs of his wife and his son above his own. Why was Joseph so hidden? How could this obscure historical figure become the second greatest saint of all? As he lived his life completely for others, Joseph became smaller and smaller and his hiddenness “grew”. The wisdom of the Scriptures reveals this great paradox, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave to all” (Mark 10:43).

Personal Reflection:

In Scripture, Joseph disappeared so that the glory of God would shine forth. Joseph did not need glory but offered his life for the greater glory of God. As St. John the Baptist boldly proclaimed, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3: 30). St. Paul said it another way, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). The Jesuits founded an entire order on this maxim: AMDG (All for the Greater Glory of God).

  • Where do you place all of your energy and effort in your life?
  • Do you work for the greater glory of God or for other reasons?
  • What drives you?
  • In what ways can you decrease so that the Lord may increase?
  • In what ways can you grow in holiness and become more saint-like in the context of your everyday life?
  • What is holding you back?

Every generation has its saints. God is calling you.

Heavenly Father, place in me the desire to desire you more. A desire to become a saint right in the midst my everyday life. Help me experience your love and joy more abundantly so that I may bring joy to those around me. Open my heart and mind to learn from the example of St. Joseph. Amen.

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.


St. Joseph the Worker

Day 19

My best friend from college used to affectionately reminisce about a daily conversation he frequently had with his father: “How was work today, Dad?” “Work is work, Johnny boy. That’s why they call it work!”

Work is tedious. Work is a grind. It is hard, long and incredibly laborious. Work is work. At times however, work can also be extremely satisfying. Accomplishing something good, worthwhile and beneficial for others can lead to a gratifying sense of purpose and fulfillment. Through all of the peaks and valleys, one thing is for certain – we can work all day, all week and all year long, but there will always be more that we feel we must get done.

When it comes to labor, we need a patron. Thankfully, the Church points us to our good friend and companion, St. Joseph! The Liturgical Calendar recognizes St. Joseph specifically on two different feast days. The first is the Feast of St. Joseph as the Husband of Mary (March 19), and the other is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker (May 1). How sweet it is to know that we don’t have to toil alone. It is this faithful friend who can inspire us when we need motivation, carry us when we can’t find the energy and remind us of our mission when we forget what it’s all for.

There are certainly moments or even days when we wish we no longer had to work. Sometimes we dream that in a perfect world we could just hang up our bootstraps and chill out in relaxation for the rest of our lives. Is that true? If Adam and Eve had never succumbed to the forbidden fruit, would humanity enjoy perpetual R&R as we leisurely stroll through a life of bliss?

Contrary to popular belief, work has been an integral part of God’s plan for humanity from the very beginning. Before sin entered the world Adam was already called to till the soil. Adam, made in the image and likeness of God, was called to work. The fundamental difference was that Adam’s work was not laborious in nature, and it was always fruitful. After the Fall, Adam was forced to toil by the sweat of his brow and experience thorns and thistles (Cf. Genesis 3:17-18). Work became difficult and was no longer always abundant with fruit.

Amidst the daily grind, we become like God in very tangible ways. First, God allows us to be creative. The Lord is the Creator of the universe, and yet he has given humanity the dignity to participate in his creative genius through our own human creativity. Second, God is the Provider. Through our work, humanity is given the dignity to provide for others as well. This is first and foremost lived out in our homes and our families. We are called by God to selflessly provide for the needs of our loved ones, both big and small. Scripture goes so far as saying, “If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Consecrate your work to the Lord, and he will cultivate it to bear great fruit. The results may not always be what we expected, but God will be faithful when we entrust our lives and our work to him.

Personal Reflection:

In modern American culture, most noble, hard working men do not have a problem with making the daily sacrifices necessary, in order to take care of their families. Rather, more men today are wrestling with the pressure and temptation to overwork, all veiled under the slogans so commonly known as “Ambition”, “Winning” and “Success”. For many, the temptation is so great that they rarely ever see or relate to their families. Blindly, we sometimes believe that the more money we make, the better we can take care of our families. But when work and family collide and the balance begins to unravel, the cost of our absence from our families outweighs the benefits and in some cases, the damage has been done and cannot easily be reversed.

Consider St. Joseph. He was a carpenter by trade, and let’s safely assume he was a very good carpenter. If Joseph thought like a modern-day American and understood that in order to take care of his family, he needed to grow his business as much as possible and make as much money as he could; what should he have done? Was it a wise decision to have moved to Nazareth? Can anything good come out of Nazareth (Cf. John 1:46)? Nazareth was by no means the mecca for business nor did it have a robust economy. Let me help you out, Joseph, with a little practical advice for your trade: move to Jerusalem. More people, more work, more money to be made, and therefore more success. Joseph, don’t you know you need to provide for your family?

Joseph moved to Nazareth because he listened to the voice of God. The Lord was his guide in all things including his practical business decisions, even if it affected his earning potential. Living in Nazareth was precisely what was needed for the protection and support of the Holy Family.

Having success and building wealth is not a bad thing, so long as we never lose focus on what is most important and we unwaveringly follow God’s desires for our lives.

  • Do you perform honest and noble work in order to support your family?
  • Do you make it home to have dinner with your family at least five days a week?
  • While you are at the dinner table with your family, do you check work emails, text messages and/or phone calls?
  • After a long day’s work, do you waste potentially valuable and precious time with your family on TV and/or other social media?

Heavenly Father, inspire me to emulate and consecrate all my work to you through St. Joseph.

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.


The Revelation of the Father

Day 18

Show us the Father and that shall be enough for us” (John 14:8).

The Apostle Philip professed these words to Christ in the Upper Room during the Last Supper. Apparently something in Philip’s heart was not satisfied. Christ rebuked him saying, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Philip did not fully understand that Jesus Christ himself was the Revelation of the Father. Nonetheless, Philip teaches us an invaluable lesson that the ultimate desire of the human heart is to be with God our Father, to glimpse the face of God and live. St. Augustine reaffirms this reality that resides in all of us, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” To put this in perspective, Philip had previously witnessed the multiplication of the loaves, a blind man receiving sight, a paralyzed man rise up and walk, the calming of a storm, his friend Peter walk on water and even a dead man raised to life. What more could Philip possibly have wanted to see?

The desire to see the Father is a universal truth written into our hearts. The human heart thirsts for union with the infinite God, the source of life, love and superabundant mercy, and therefore cannot be fully satisfied with anything less. This perpetual yearning is part of the poverty we must face during our journey back to the Father.

When you consider these truths, the words of St. John Paul II come alive in a profound way when he says, “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).

Wow! What dignity! What responsibility! What a noble and meaningful calling and vocation to which we all can strive!

Amazingly, by this definition, Joseph had the singular dignity to relive and reveal on Earth the very fatherhood of God to Jesus himself. God hand-picked Joseph for this vocation. Therefore, when the Christ-child looked up in admiration at his earthly father, he saw a man who was rich in mercy and love. Jesus saw a man who constantly poured himself out in sacrifice for the good of others. Second only to Jesus Himself, Joseph lived the words of St. John Paul II more fully and completely than any other man in history.

Personal Reflection:

Joseph was chosen by God for Jesus. Correspondingly, you were chosen by God for your children (or future children). You are called to become the revelation of the Father. When your children see you, they should see a man so entirely in love with God the Father that you manifest his love. They must see a man who regularly receives the mercy of God himself, so that you may manifest his mercy to others.

Unfortunately, many men have a wounded image of God because of the shortcomings of their own earthly father. Countless fathers have fouled up their fatherly vocation and fall short of this description of fatherhood. If your earthly father has wounded your image of God, draw closer to St. Joseph, who will point you in the direction of your Father in heaven. He will also lead you to his Son, the ultimate revelation of the Father.

Heavenly Father, my heart is restless until it rests in you. You are my ultimate desire. Help me never to settle for anything less. Instill a hunger in me to draw closer to you so that I may be filled with your love and mercy. Your grace is sufficient, Lord. You are enough. Amen.

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.



Day 17

There are times in life when everything seems right and perfect, and other times when we feel completely lost and don’t even know why. We experience those moments when our faith is strong, and feel as if we could handle anything that comes our way. Just when things get into a groove, our faith then falters, and we feel weak and frail. The human soul goes through many seasons in the journey to eternal life. The good news is that the God who created us knows and understands our human condition and frailty even better than we do. Our God is meek and humble and thirsts for our hearts and souls in every season, good or bad. God always desires to be near us regardless of our sin and lack of faith. In the midst of our anxiety, Christ wishes to meet us right where we are and bring us peace.

It may be comforting to know that Scripture tells us of a time when St. Joseph experienced anxiety. When Jesus was 12 years old, Mary and Joseph realized that they had left him behind in the Temple. Only afterwards do we hear relief in Mary’s voice once they finally found him, “Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously” (Luke 2:48).

This story is more than a testament of Mary and Joseph’s humanity.  It is a simple yet fundamental lesson for us all: They were both anxious precisely when they lost Jesus! The disappearance of Jesus at the Temple and the subsequent anxiety that followed illustrates undoubtedly what happens to the rest of us in our own spiritual lives. When we lose sight of Jesus and all of our worries and distractions get in the way, our vision becomes unclear. Where is Jesus in the midst of all the distractions?

As the author of the famous poem Footprints in the Sand contemplated, is it Jesus that deserts us in our time of need, or is it we that lose sight of him in those times when we need him the most? Discovering Jesus’ presence ensures that he will restore peace once again in our lives. Fortunately, this story gives both the Holy Family and all of us the key to where to find him: at the Temple. As Jesus said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)

Personal Reflection

When do you most often fall into anxiety, and what are the main causes?

When you find yourself anxious and distressed, ask the Lord to come to your assistance. Ask him to show you his hidden face right in the midst of your crisis and fears. The Lord wishes to make himself known to you in the midst of any struggle you are going through, and he will be by your side through it all. Life will not be without burdens, struggles, disappointments, tragedy, loss and eventually even death, but our God promises that we do not have to endure these things alone.

When you come to these moments in life and are looking for a sign that God is real, cares for you and loves you, remember what Mary and Joseph had to do to relieve their anxiety. They had to find Jesus. They did not give into despair when they realized that they were the ones that left him behind, but instead they sought after him. Seek him and you will find him. In your pain, find him in his. Contemplate the scourging, the crown of thorns placed upon his head, the nails through his hands and feet, and the sword that pierced his heart. His heart was opened that you might receive his infinite love and mercy that flows without limits. When you are looking for a sign of the Father’s love for you, gaze upon the cross and remember that there is no greater love. When the troubles of life become so great that your heart is completely open before God, and you find yourself begging and asking if everything will be “okay”, gaze upon the cross and recall how the story ends. God brings a greater good. Easter Resurrection will come! Trust in the Lord.

What are some things you can do when the trials of life come your way so that the next time you will quickly turn to Jesus?

Heavenly Father, help me to trust in you with all that I am. Be near me especially in times of great anxiety. Bring clarity to me in these moments, Lord. I place my life in your hands and trust in your goodness. Bring me peace when I am troubled. Come to my aid. Seek after me when I lose sight of you. Forgive me for the times that I cannot find you because I have placed things in front of you that block my vision. Open my eyes Lord, as I want to see your face. Help me know that you are near.

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.


Honor Your Father and Mother

Day 16

It can be intriguing to ponder the inner workings and interactions of the Holy Family. The first family member in the line-up is the Word Incarnate, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity in the flesh. Then, there is the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was immaculately conceived and sinless. She embodies the masterpiece of the Father’s creation and is entirely full of grace. Finally, there is St. Joseph, who was a simple carpenter and a man who spoke not a word in the Scriptures.

In this unique family, who was in charge? Who was teaching whom? Is it possible for humans to tell the Christ, the God-Man, what to do? Did they teach him how to do things, when to do things, how to treat people and how to put on sandals? Did his father teach him how to cut and handle wood? Was the Co-Creator of the Universe, who was there in the beginning with God, taught how to craft a table and chair with his own hands? These questions evoke great mysteries worth spending generous time contemplating, even if we cannot definitively come up with precise answers.

We learn from Scripture that “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:53). Jesus grew in his understanding of the world and his mission as he developed in age. Jesus was the most perfect version of a three year old, but he grew into the most perfect version of a four year old …and so on. In his humanity, he developed from perfection to perfection.

We can also presume that Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Commandments. Therefore, he honored his father and mother more perfectly than any child ever has or ever will. As St. Luke tells us, “he went down with [Mary and Joseph] and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them” (Luke 2:51).

If this is true, what can we learn about St. Joseph as a father? How could Jesus have never sinned and always followed the will of the Heavenly Father, while still remaining obedient to his earthly father? The only reasonable explanation is that Joseph must have never asked anything of Jesus that was contrary or in opposition to God’s will. Joseph was so in touch with the will of God the Father that he himself never led Jesus astray… ever. God the Father knew he could choose and entrust Joseph with this unique mission.

Personal Reflection:

Are we single-minded in raising our children in the ways of the Lord? When we teach our children how to make decisions, do we teach them to ask God what he desires and to consider his will for their path? Do we seek God’s will in their choice of friends, in what school they should attend, for which charities they should serve, whom they should date, how they should spend their money, what media they consume, how many siblings they should have and so on? The most important and practical thing we can do in our lives is to follow the will of God. Do we lead our children with this same perspective, or do we simply shelter them from any discomfort that may come their way? Seek the intercession of St. Joseph in raising your children. Ask that he may reveal his wisdom to you so that you may grow in wisdom, knowledge and virtue as an individual and a parent.

Heavenly Father, since you commanded my children to honor me, encourage me to become a more honorable man. Stand by me as I discern your holy will in my own life so that I may guide those entrusted to me in your ways. Let me never lead them astray. Amen.

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.


The Heart of a Father

Day 15

Today is the start of Section 4:
The Father of 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

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”
Malachi 4:6 

Day 15

The Heart of a Father

The summer before my freshman year of college, everything changed for me. It was then that I had my first authentic, life-altering encounter with the living God. Having tasted this goodness there was no going back. As I entered into my first few years at a state school, I began to dive deeper into the theology of the Catholic Church and my hunger for the fullness of truth only seemed to grow. By the end of my sophomore year, I was spending more time listening to audiocassette tapes about the faith and reading Dr. Scott Hahn books than I was applying to my finance degree. Through this experience, I felt God calling me to transfer to Franciscan University of Steubenville and earn some college credits for those theology studies!

Upon arriving at Franciscan, my heart came alive as it was exposed to even more opportunities for growth. This being said, as a typical young man in college, it was easy to fall in love. Love was in the air at Steubenville, and I fell head over heels in love with none other than St. Therese of Lisieux. Don’t worry, you can tell my wife. She knows all about it! I’m actually pretty sure Therese is the one who introduced me to my wife, Katie, but that is another story. During this first year at Franciscan, I was introduced to a work on St. Therese that remains my favorite spiritual book, I Believe in Love, by Fr. Jean C. J. d’Elbée. It’s the only book that I have read close to a dozen times. I have no doubt that God placed Therese in my path intentionally, but it would take several more years for me to fully understand the Lord’s master plan.

As the story continues, Katie and I got married and named our first child after my favorite saint – Maria Therese. Through her birth, God promptly placed a new favorite in my path, St. Louis Martin, the father of St. Therese. After reading the book, The Father of the Little Flower, I was stunned to discover that the vast majority of the spiritual gems I loved in St. Therese actually originated from her father! St. Therese has been acclaimed “the greatest saint of modern times,” precisely because many believe she is the one who understood most simply and most profoundly the fatherhood of God. Her vision of God the Father was shaped by daily witness of her earthly father. St. John Paul II beautifully proclaimed that men relive and reveal on earth the very fatherhood of God (Cf. Familiaris Consortio). St. Louis Martin had five daughters and every one of them became a nun. I knew then that the Lord introduced me to St. Therese in order for her to introduce me to her father. He was teaching me my ultimate mission in life – to be a father and, with his grace, to help form souls for heaven.

I dare say St. Louis Martin would have never been known in my life or in the life of the Church had it not been for his daughter Therese. The same can be said about St. Joseph. The sanctity of the child enlightened us in hindsight about the father. Both Louis Martin and Joseph lived their lives in service to the mission and vocation that God handed them; namely their children. They were both willing to go unnoticed in the world and lay down their personal ambitions. The heart of a father beats for his children. As fathers, what greater legacy can we possibly dream of than this?

 Personal Reflection

It is easy to get wrapped up in the cares and trappings of the world and be tempted to identify ourselves with our achievements. In heaven, no one will care about your earthly bank account, home or popularity. Your life will not be judged by your worldly success, but based on your personal sanctity and extent at which you helped lead other souls to heaven. We know St. Joseph and St. Louis Martin in light of their children. You can become a great saint, known or unknown does not matter, if you are willing to help form your children into saints. Lead them to God by your words and all your actions every single day. Parents are the primary and most influential teachers of the faith to their children.

  • Are you raising your children to become saints?
  • Do you teach your children that pleasing God is more important than pleasing the world?
  • In what ways can you refocus your everyday life to be more oriented towards this calling?

Heavenly Father, you are the ultimate Father. Please forgive me for the times I have not lived up to the dignity of fatherhood. Forgive my father for his shortcomings as well.  Help all of us to embrace the responsibility to raise children according to your holy will and to teach them your ways. Grant me the grace to be an example to my children through my actions each day. Above all, create in me a heart to always provide a source of unconditional love for them.

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.