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.
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.