A Patron Saint for Overcoming Fear with Love

Perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:18)

Icon of Saint Joseph, Moraga, Saint Mary’s College Chapel

Fear is in the air. It is palpable and even visible in the eyes above the masks we pass in the marketplace and in our newscasts. Dante paints the remotest region of hell as a place gripped in cold, chest-gripping fear. For the spiritually sensitive, fear is not the absence of courage, but rather the absence of love. The antidote to fear, the poetic fear of Dante or the very real fear that haunts the American landscape today, is love. There is no greater witness to the redeeming power of love than the response of Joseph, the husband of Mary, who chose to become the father of her child. He overcame concerns of honor, doubts about his betrothed, and the fear of what others would say or what he would think about himself as a man. Dreams helped. But in the end, we can simply say that Joseph loved. He loved Mary. His paternal, protective love kicked in with just the thought of the child that she carried in her womb. John Lynch, A Woman Wrapped in Silence, a narrative poem on the life of the Virgin, ends the section on Joseph wrestling with his fears with a description of his approach to Mary.

“We may not know for sure, and yet, and yet, / May we not see how quietly he came / And spoke no word. And Mary saw him come, / Finding a new thing shining in her eyes. / And when quick tears of gladness and relief / Were done, she saw him kneel, lift up his hands, / Two hands that held invisibly, his life. / She may have reached her own pale fingers out / And found them … calloused, generous and strong” [1].

Joseph and Jesus, Paris, Cathedral of Notre Dame, right aisle

The Church gives us Saint Joseph as a patron. Saint La Salle gave us Joseph as the guardian of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. The carpenter of Nazareth is the patron saint of workers, and for all humanity, the patron saint of a happy death.

Samuel Ruddock, The Death of Saint Joseph, 1874, Sligo Cathedral, Ireland

In honor of the 150th anniversary of Blessed Pius IX’s naming Joseph the patron saint of the universal Church, Pope Francis named this the year of Saint Joseph. The decision is more than a pious honoring of tradition. The Pope seeks to animate Christians with the much-needed example and patronage of the foster-father of Jesus. In his apostolic letter, “With a Father’s Heart,” Pope Francis identifies timely themes in the life of Joseph. In the flight to Egypt of the Holy Family, Joseph reminds us that he can be found in the faces and trials of emigrant families today fleeing in order to save their families. Catholic Charities USA has recorded manifold stories of journeys just like Joseph’s. “In one case, a father was detained by DHS at the Port Isabel Detention Facility in Texas, while his 8-year-old son was placed into ORR foster care in New York. The father said: “I felt like I was never going to see him again, like I couldn’t keep living without him” [2]. Another man, who was rescued with his child by Catholic Charities, Angel Bonilla, recounted meeting another man, who was not so fortunate: “Bonilla said he saw another man who was separated from his child in the detention facility and that he knew that the same thing could happen to him. ‘I’ve always had faith in God,’ he said. ‘I heard that when I was detained that I might be separated from my child, but my faith was keeping me going forward’” [3]. God gives us the saints as advocates and inspirations for ever-new worldly trials. Pope Francis evokes this awareness in his letter: “I consider Saint Joseph the special patron of all those forced to leave their native lands because of war, hatred, persecution and poverty” [4]. Fatherhood and chastity (the pure devotion to a singular holy calling) are among the other virtues highlighted in the papal letter announcing the Year of Saint Joseph.

El Greco, Saint Joseph and the Christ Child, 1597-1599, Toledo, Spain, Cathedral

The love that can get us all through the dangers near and far of our present troubled time has been in the world always. The world was made by love. The same Love came into the world as flesh by the gracious courage of a faith-filled young woman and a common laborer with a head full of dreams and a love greater than fear.

Saint Joseph, loving foster-father of Our Savior, pray for us!

Pietro Annigoni, Saint Joseph the Worker, 1964, Florence, Church of San Lorenzo

[1] John W. Lynch, A Woman Wrapped in Silence (New York: 1950), p. 25.

[2] https://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/story/restoring-human-dignity-after-family-separation/

January 10, 2019. Accessed January 8, 2021.

[3] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/06/the-immigrants-who-escaped-family-separation/563363/ June 21, 2018. Accessed January 8, 2021.

___________________________

Photo Credits: Brother Charles, Brother Michael Meister (Saint Joseph the Worker), and Andreas F. Borchert, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45760493 (Death of Saint Joseph)

6 thoughts on “A Patron Saint for Overcoming Fear with Love

  1. Timothy Coldwell, FSC says:

    Thank you for the heartfelt tour of the images and import of Saint Joseph in history and contemporary life. It is an exciting opportunity to bring the memory and meaning of Saint Joseph into our lives this year. Thank you for offering a reflection to start us off and one which we can return to.

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  2. Brother Bernard L OCoco says:

    Once again Brother Charles you have brought hope and light during a time of darkness and discouragement.
    For me fear is overcome with love, but love fostered by a trust in Divine Providence.
    Thank you for also sharing such lovely images of Joseph and the use of other authors.
    Brother Bernie

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  3. Brother David L.Caretti, FSC says:

    May Saint Joseph and his example continue to guide our ministry here at Saint Mary’s College and within the Lasallian Family.

    Like

  4. Pamela Thomas says:

    Thank you, Brother Charles. Your posting reminded me of a reflection from “Living Faith” and is offered below.

    In moments or seasons of overwhelmingness, we have only two options. We can either choose fear, or we can choose love. As impossible as that seems, especially when we are overwhelmed by so many things at once, it really is that simple. If we choose fear, we choose to focus on the chaos, the situation, the circumstance, the impending doom and everything that is wrong with this picture. Consequently, these things grow, increasing our anxiety, our misery, our suffering, and then we are overwhelmed. If we choose love, we choose to focus on God. We choose to focus on his power and his wisdom rather than our own perceived lack. We choose the peace that transcends understanding. We choose to have our minds blown by a miracle. We get to pick what we look at in any given moment. Do we choose fear or love? What we focus on expands.
    – Kristin Armstrong

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  5. Doug Paxton says:

    These initial words are a treasure, and a powerful reminder to us all. Thank you Brother Charles!

    Fear is in the air. It is palpable and even visible in the eyes above the masks we pass in the marketplace and in our newscasts. Dante paints the remotest region of hell as a place gripped in cold, chest-gripping fear. For the spiritually sensitive, fear is not the absence of courage, but rather the absence of love. The antidote to fear, the poetic fear of Dante or the very real fear that haunts the American landscape today, is love.

    Like

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