As a kid I remember staying up late on Friday nights, saying a rosary together with my whole family. Like many other Filipino families, our devotion to her was strong, but it wasn’t until college that I realized the importance of Joseph’s role in the history of God’s promises. There are many ways I could describe him, but I think the word that fits most is leadership. So here are seven ways to lead like St. Joseph:
1. BE STRONGER THAN FEAR
Things seemed peaceful in their engagement until Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant, and it’s not with him. It’s difficult to understand but in that culture, adultery was a scandal that was punishable by death. But scripture says that Joseph was a “righteous man,” “unwilling to expose her to shame” and “decided to divorce her quietly.” Until he had a dream from an angel that said, “Do not be afraid.”
I’m obviously not St. Joseph, but I often wonder how I would do in these situations. How would I take the news? Would I be willing to hear my spouse’s story? In a way, the story seems devastating, so broken, so contrary to everything that Joseph must have had planned in his head. Who could have expected this, anyway? When it feels like everything is spiraling out of control, fear finds a way to consume me, and I become paralyzed. So it seems to me that Joseph’s dream came at a providential time. God came to him in a dream begging Joseph not to be afraid, to rise above his own selfish plans and to humbly accept the bigger plan that God was working. Strong leadership overcomes fear with the help of God’s grace.
St. Joseph, make us stronger than fear.
2. SUFFER WITH OTHERS
When Joseph discovered the news, his initial plan was to leave her quietly, but he stayed. What’s interesting to me in this situation is his compassion. The word literally means “with” (com) “suffering” (passion). So to have compassion means to suffer with another. This is one of Joseph’s most profound acts of leadership, and I often think about the ways Joseph taught Jesus about compassion. We all know that Jesus shows the ultimate act of compassion, so He must have learned a lot from his father, Joseph. Throughout his life, Joseph stayed and suffered with Mary. Her struggles became their struggles, and together they grew in love.
St. Joseph, help us to suffer with those who suffer
3. KNOW THAT LESS IS MORE
Scripture and tradition tells us that Joseph was a carpenter. He was a simple and hardworking man. We know that he wasn’t rich because when he took Jesus to the temple to be circumcised, he offered a sacrifice of two turtle doves, which was only an exception for those who couldn’t afford the traditional lamb.
My dad, too, was a simple, hardworking young man born in the Philippines and immigrated over to the Cleveland in the 1980’s. He was also a carpenter and as a child, I was ashamed of how “unrich” we were. I remember visiting him and working with him on random projects and, to be honest, it never seemed like glamorous work. My dad wasn’t one to chase riches or to be the hero, but he was committed to our family. Whether it was painfully sanding the wooden floor by hand in my room because he didn’t have the money for power tools, building random shelves from wood scraps, the unending list of household repairs, or constantly driving me around town before I had my license, these small acts of love added up into something that wasn’t very small at all. It was heroic. I’ll never be able to thank him as I want but his love saved my life.
Joseph never sought to be the hero. He knew that less was actually much more, that small acts lead us all into heroic love. Joseph’s humility might very well be the hallmark of his leadership.
St. Joseph, help us trust that less is more
4. GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY
I have countless photos of me and my dad working on projects together. We were usually depicted on the ground, on our knees, both of us sweaty, tired and sore and we weren’t afraid to get dirty. A true leader is a servant who isn’t afraid to use their hands for the “dirty work.” No matter how successful you become or how much money you make, don’t let yourself believe that you’re above anyone else. No one is above cleaning toilets and mopping floors. We know from both Joseph and Jesus that to lead is to serve.
5. NEVER EVER GIVE UP
Joseph always had hope. Even in seemly hopeless situations. When Joseph was told that there was no room at the inn, I imagine him praying to God with a simple question: “Lord, what can I do next?” The story of the Holy Family is dramatic yet so filled with God’s grace. But it’s too often that I pout and express, “Lord, why is this happening?”
Joseph is good that staying grounded and focusing on the real situation at hand. Rather than complaining, Joseph reacts with readiness and trust. We, too, can learn from his flexibility to work through the obstacles.
St. Joseph, help us to ask humbly, “What can I do next?”
6. DON’T GET MAD THAT YOU’RE NOT FAMOUS
Unlike Mary, Joseph wasn’t present during Jesus’ public ministry, death, or resurrection. Most of his life is unknown, and yet he is still a saint. He lives a hidden life, and most of his work as a father and husband will go undocumented. We simply do not know them. However, Fr. Jim Martin also speaks about St. Joseph and says that the secret to our holiness is doing things that are “hidden from other people but known by God.”*
Isn’t that the way life works? Do we even have a choice? If we’re honest, most of us won’t end up in a newspaper let alone a history book. Fr. Martin gives examples like a single parent working two jobs or an adult-child caring for their sick parent, or even if you’re a teacher, minister, sister, or priest–the work we do is often hidden, it’s not advertised, and we rarely get recognition for the things we do. But as we’ve seen from St. Joseph we can rest easy today, knowing that it’s the simple, quiet acts of love and sacrifice that make us holy.
St. Joseph, help us to lead hidden lives of love.
7. STRENGTH FOR THE JOURNEY
In our own journey to become saints, it’s easier, more fun when we can journey together. For those looking for an ongoing faith challenge, check out thelivingperson.com and join hundreds of Catholics who are striving to become the best version of themselves. Take The Living Person Challenge today.
St. Joseph, pray for us.