The Greatest Supporting Actor

I am going to abridge and summarize the homily given by my priest today (if he reads this, I apologize in advance for butchering his sermon with my faulty memory).

I remember recently watching the Oscars and they had the one for “Best Supporting Actor” and this got me thinking.  If we were to give an award for best supporting actor during the Nativity, it would have to be St. Joseph.  In our calendar, there are many feasts for the Theotokos but not many for St. Joseph…  One, maybe two (I’m sitting in the pew meanwhile remembering what devotions St. Joseph must endure in the Roman Rite and thinking how good of a thing that actually is).

So, what do we know of St. Joseph?  First, we know he was an old man and some traditions say he had children and was a widower.  One day God comes to him and commands him to watch over this young virgin in the temple and Joseph doesn’t really want to.  He responds that he is old and that a younger man should care for her.  At God’s insistence, Joseph then concedes to be her guardian and takes good care of her.

However, she becomes pregnant and Joseph – realizing how messy this will be for her – decides to divorce her quietly to prevent a disturbance or giving the girl unwanted attention.  God comes to him again and tells him he must not divorce her, but must raise the Child as his own son.  Joseph agrees and thinks that maybe things will get better from here.

And then Caesar calls a census, prompting Joseph to take his pregnant wife to Bethlehem and travel for several days in order to register with the census.  As they sleep in a cave in Bethlehem, Mary brings forth the Child and Joseph thinks that maybe the worst part is now over.   The Child has come and things will get easier.

Then he finds himself in the middle of an international crisis when three wise men from Persia come to the court of Herod, bring tribute to the Child, and go back another way.  Herod begins to slaughter the baby boys and God comes to Joseph again and tells him to take the Child and quickly flee to Egypt.  Not having a minivan, the family travels for months through a harsh desert infested with robbers to make it to a strange land.

One can only imagine how much Joseph must have complained with his lot.  No one could go through all that and not need to complain at least a little.  In the end, though, he did exactly as God asked of him and that is what matters.  Surely, this is an excellent model for us.

Joseph, unlike the holy monastic saints, lived in the world.  He had responsibilities, a job, a family, and many things to worry about.  Yet, he always did as God asked of him even if it was inconvenient or difficult.

When we worry about the pressure of all the things we must take care of, let us not for forget St. Joseph and what he went through.  Let us ask him for help when we are overwhelmed.

Christ is born!  Glorify Him!

Sometimes, we can appreciate something more fully if we don’t inflate it into something it isn’t.

St. Joseph, Pray for us!


2 thoughts on “The Greatest Supporting Actor

  1. Interestingly, the runaway to Egipt is one of the main arguments of “younger Joseph”‘s advocates: being an old man, he could not have taken his family across the desert.

    Anyway, your priest’s homily was truly beatiful, and full of wisdom: st. Joseph carried his burden as we must carry our far softer one.

    K. e.


  2. “One day God comes to him and commands him to watch over this young virgin in the temple and Joseph doesn’t really want to. He responds that he is old and that a younger man should care for her.”

    I like to think that St. Joseph was looking forward to a quiet, contemplative old age, when duty compelled him back into the active life. One can understand his crankiness pretty well in that way, especially after his charge suddenly appeared pregnant, and then was commanded to take the hit for that.


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