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Without a word

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St. Joseph remains mysterious to us, yet ironically, we probably know more about him than about anyone else mentioned in the Scriptures.

Jaymie Stuart

I'm a real fan girl when it comes to Church holy years. I loved Pope John Paul II's three trinitarian years leading up to the new millennium, Pope Benedict XVI's Year of Faith, and Pope Francis' Year of Mercy. Years like these provide an opportunity to focus our attention on one aspect of our faith in a way that generally doesn't just happen. It's almost like being on a year-long retreat with a billion other believers.

Usually, a holy year is announced well in advance and with a good deal of fanfare and preparation. Materials are made available: a motto is chosen, a logo is designed, a variety of diocesan events are planned, and banners are hung over parish doors. None of that accompanied the announcement of the Year of St. Joseph, commemorating the 150th anniversary of his designation as Patron of the Universal Church. Instead, the Holy Father surprised us all with a new Apostolic Letter this week, "Patris corde" ("With a Father's Heart"), proclaiming a special year that begins, not three or four months from now, but on the day it was published, the Solemnity of Mary's Immaculate Conception.

A whole year dedicated to St. Joseph presents some significant challenges, and not just for DRE's, music directors, and publishers. That's because, despite the undeniably critical role St. Joseph played in the earthly life of Jesus, we don't know much about him and aren't left with much that can help us discover more.

It's a good thing that "actions speak louder than words," because Joseph doesn't utter a single word in the Gospels. We don't hear anything from him, but we see a lot. We see him receiving an angel's reassuring message in a dream, taking Mary to Bethlehem, presenting the infant Jesus at the Temple, greeting the magi, fleeing to Egypt, returning to Nazareth, searching for his missing son, and finding him again in Jerusalem. Joseph enters the story of redemption without acclaim and leaves it without notice.

St. Joseph remains mysterious to us, yet ironically, we probably know more about him than about anyone else mentioned in the Scriptures. Why? Because his life was simple, ordinary, and unremarkable -- like most of ours. Joseph was a man of faith who did what God asked of him, quietly and without fanfare. Once convinced of God's plan for him, he stepped up to the plate and fully embraced salvation -- despite the great personal cost it would exact from him -- and without having to understand it first. He put his whole life behind God's will and trusted God completely. He assumed the responsibility of providing for and protecting Mary and Jesus, not because he knew he was up to the task, but because he knew he had been called to it.

St. Joseph is precisely the patron and example we need, especially in these uncertain times. He knew what it was to wonder about the future, to heed a warning, to pick up everything and move. St. Joseph sacrificed his own desires and plans. He followed God's will without a map. He loved his family wholeheartedly and without reservation. He gave himself completely as a gift to them. He was present to them and attentive to their needs.

The Holy Family isn't just Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; it includes all of us, as well. There are times we live our faith in the dark. St. Joseph is there to guide and protect us. There are times we do not feel equal to what God is asking of us. St. Joseph is there to encourage us. There are times we struggle to find work or to meet our daily needs. St. Joseph understands. There are times we are burdened by responsibility; St. Joseph can show us how to persevere. And he does all this for us, for the Universal Church, the same way he did it for Mary and Jesus, not with words but with a father's heart.

- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.

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