ST. JOSEPH: THE MODEL OF MANHOOD

By Maduduza Gabriel Zwane

Italy – St. Joseph and the art of custodyFrom St. Jose Maria Escriva we get to understand that St. Joseph was an ordinary sort of man on whom God relied on to do great things.  He did exactly what the Lord wanted him to do, in each event that went to make up his life. Members of the St Joseph sodality are proud of the fact that the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus is the model for every man.

One might say – but we know so little about him! How can we imitate a man we barely know? We know more about St. Joseph than you might think. St. Joseph has close to 20 virtues which are found in the Litany of St. Joseph but I will highlight only a few of these that men in the church can imitate. I am sure bomake will be pleased to know what we men aim to live up to in our families. In the sodality our aim is to be Holy “for God did not call us to impurity but to holiness”.

St. Joseph was a righteous man – Scripture refers to Joseph as a “righteous” man (Matthew 1:19) – “Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly”. In other words, he was a holy and devout Jew who fulfilled the two greatest commandments— he loved the Lord his God with all his heart and strength, and he loved his neighbour as himself. He was also a man of prayer who knew the Psalms and the Mosaic Law inside and out, and, like all devout Jews, he prayed at least 3 times daily. He fulfilled all that was required of him with a humble heart of worship. Unlike the Pharisees, he understood the spirit as well as the letter of the law.

As Catholics, we can imitate St. Joseph by giving God the first place in our lives and by loving our neighbour selflessly. As a Sodality we give God the first place in our lives by encouraging men to go to mass every Sunday and to pray at home with their families. One of the reasons for fights, quarrels, separations, indifference, apathy, and divorce is the lack of prayer in the family. Prayer should be at the very centre and heart of the family life. We must remember the words of the Rosary Priest Father Patrick Peyton – “The family that prays together, stays together”.

Men are heads of families just as St. Joseph headed the Holy family. The mother is the heart of the family. Without the head of the family the family is a disaster and without the heart of the family the family is dead. The father must assume the role of a spiritual leader in the family. The Sodality encourages men to be priests at their domestic church the home. There is a need to for us to purify, improve and perfect our families. St Pope John Paul 11 expressed this truth so clearly – “The family is the basic building block of society … and as the family goes, so goes the society”. As men especially Catholics and members of the sodality we have a struggle to form good families. We must not despair because there is nothing impossible with God. As a spiritual leader in the family, the father should be a leader in the prayer life of his family. The most splendid example of a best father is St. Joseph. We can fulfil the commandments of Holy Mother Church without grumbling or complaining. We encourage men to be always at the forefront on matters that involve the church. They should not be backbenchers. They must always take the lead and participate in the activities of the church in the diocese.

To demonstrate the love for our neighbours the sodality readily participates in charity appeals by the diocese without complaining or grumbling. During the year of St. Joseph, the sodality has pledged to provide groceries for the Hope House every month. We fully assist members who are bereaved by mourning, contributions towards funeral expenses and burying their dead. St Joseph was a man of prayer. Because we have consecrated ourselves to St. Joseph who is the man of prayer our spiritual director Father Christopher Maseko provides us with daily readings. This promotes the spirit of prayer because our earthly father St. Joseph we emulate was prayerful. We read scripture daily and reflect on the readings. We emphasize that praying is very important because prayer nurtures faith and holiness and enables us to grow in our spiritual lives. We encourage men to be prayerful.

We know that our coming together due to Corona Virus is limited. To sustain the culture of praying together and to keep the sodality alive, we have a scheduled virtual prayer every Wednesday evening. We are pleased that some of the priests and the bishop join us in this prayer. Please bomake encourage your husbands to pray with us. You are also free to join us. You may give me your email address and cell phone numbers if interested.

St. Joseph loved Jesus – Joseph was entrusted with the care of Jesus, the Son of God. While this is an awe-inspiring thought, his encounters with Jesus were those of a normal father. He held Jesus lovingly in the stable at Bethlehem. He helped him learn to walk. When Jesus hurt himself (as all little boys do), he comforted him. They prayed together, they talked together, they spent many long hours in the shop together working with their hands. In short, St. Joseph had the deep love as a father for Jesus. If you’ve ever had children, you know the kind of love I’m talking about. Jesus loved St. Joseph, and He loves you and I with all the fiery intensity of Divine Love.  We can imitate St. Joseph by loving Jesus fervently and by giving our lives to Him. Similarly, we should love our children as St. Joseph loved Jesus. Loving children means showing them the right way of life here on earth and eternally. Loving children is to show them that praying is important in life. Loving children is to always avail yourself with them to lead in prayer. Loving your children means the recognition of their birthdays. Loving your children is to educate them. Though not in our culture let us get to the habit of eating together at table with our children.

St. Joseph loved Mary – Imagine being married to the perfect woman. Our wives in the Catholic church are perfect women. We can boldly say “Our wives are the Queens of the Universe” with a straight face. Joseph loved Mary devotedly as his wife— because that’s exactly what she was a perfect queen. He would have died to protect her honour. When she was distraught, he comforted her. When she was tired, she leaned on him. He patiently listened to her, and he worked long hours to provide for her. He was the best husband to the greatest woman who ever lived. In our Sodality we aspire to be best husbands like Joseph to our wives we have ever lived with. We encourage our men to be devoted to their wives always. Husband and wife life is a life that needs to be nurtured. Recognize her birthdays and when you are away send messages to her assuring her that you love her. This is a sign that you love her. Don’t leave her behind when you are going to great occasions. Decline invitations where you are invited alone. St. joseph would not leave Mary behind. They went to the temple together. He did not take her to church and returned at the doorsteps of the church to drink wine or to watch a football game. Every man should have a devotion to Mary. She is our mother and our Queen. Let’s love her, protect her honour and give ourselves to her like St. Joseph did.

St. Joseph embraced work – he is known as “the worker.” He worked so hard that work is forever identified with his name. He wasn’t a lazy procrastinator, and he didn’t idolize comfort and ease as we so often do. He laboured with his hands to provide for his wife and Son, and no task was too insignificant for him. He poured his body and soul into his daily duties, and this work was an act of worship and prayer. As men, we are called to embrace our work like St. Joseph, no matter how mundane it may be. Wherever we are working we can glorify God with the labour of our minds and bodies. We must work for the church without complaining or grumbling.

St Joseph was an extraordinary man, the holy head of the Holy Family. While Jesus and Mary were both sinless, they both obeyed St. Joseph. He had the toughest job on the planet, and he passed with flying colours. He has a special place in heaven and a special place in the hearts of Jesus and Mary. He is also patron of the Universal Church and one of the most powerful intercessors among the saints.  If you are in trouble, if you are tempted, if you need anything at all, turn to St. Joseph for help. I’m asking you to meditate on his life and his interactions with Jesus and Mary. Ask for his intercession. It will make you a better man. If one were to wish to join this sodality it should be men baptized and married in the church. The fee is currently E600.00 per year or E50.00/ month. We have monthly meetings to review ourselves and map out our way forward. On a parting short, I want to say, Josefa loNgcwele Sithandazele!

Article sourced from Siyatfunywa News (Diocese of Manzini Newsletter) 1st Edition published October 2021.