A few months ago, I stumbled upon a homily written by Father Jon Vander Ploeg, Director of Spiritual Formation at St. Paul Seminary where we are blessed to have four seminarians studying. Father Jon preached about the profound hiddenness of the life of St. Thérèse. So simple was her life that as she lay on her deathbed, her own sisters worried aloud outside her window that there wouldn’t be anything worthy of note in her obituary. Without worldly accomplishments and hardly known to any outside the convent, St. Thérèse’s exceptional holiness was quietly tucked away in the shadow of the cloister, only to reverberate throughout the world after her death.
It was this reflection that came to mind as I prayed in the St. Joseph’s Chapel of the Cathedral in early Advent. Much like the life of St. Thérèse, the ornate stained-glass windows in this chapel depict the relatively hidden life of St. Joseph and the limited information the Gospels give us about him. Never speaking a recorded word, the details surrounding his early life and death are absent from the biblical text entirely. But nonetheless, St. Joseph had a crucial role to play in the unfolding of the Nativity story and remains a pillar of obedience in the Church.
During these final days of Advent, I think it’s worth reflecting on the humility of St. Joseph and what his example can teach us about family life. In an age where all things clamor for attention and applause, his silent devotion exists in stark contrast.
With Mary, we know that St. Joseph was a privileged witness to the birth of the Son of God on Christmas night. Within the walls of his Nazarene home, the Christ child spent the years of his own hidden life, embraced by the love and protection of the Holy Family. Christ’s coming into the world this way establishes a close bond with every human family.
In the same way God relied on St. Joseph and the Holy Family, He invites every family to participate in the work of redemption. Our homes too, like that of Nazareth, are sacred spaces where virtue is practiced, and the light of Christ is kindled. The vast majority of this holy effort is found in the hidden sacrifices made by parents. Experiencing sleepless nights, tending to sick kids, preparing meals, helping with schoolwork and shuttling children to every worthy extracurricular activity imaginable, when done through faith, and with countless whispered prayers, are just a few of the unseen acts of love by which parents participate in the work of providence.
As we await the birth of Jesus, God uses the humble witness of St. Joseph as an invitation for us all. Let’s recognize and cherish the hidden moments of family life. Let’s trust that, just as St. Joseph’s quiet obedience played a crucial role in salvation history, God can use our families to reveal His face on earth today.