TRAN: Lessons for Lent and life with St. Joseph

March 9, 2021

Photo by James Ramos/Herald

This month the Church celebrates the Solemnity of St. Joseph, which warrants some added attention during this commemorative year of the patron of the Universal Church. We are encouraged and inspired to contemplate more deeply on the life of the man who was called by God to be the foster father of the Messiah and protector of the Holy Family.

This March also marks one year since our local communities began quarantining. The ebb and flood tides of these unprecedented times were made up of a bewildering combination of the pandemic, growing global crises, and political unrest intermixed with some hazardous weather events. These experiences have induced within many of us, including myself, moments of heightened degrees of weariness and distress.

But this year, as our Church looks to the model of St. Joseph, we are reminded to hold onto a genuine trust in our Lord, and that with hope springs forth a spirit of resiliency.
During this Lent especially, the Church reflects on the spiritual disposition of St. Joseph for inspiration in taking up these 40 days. The holiness of St. Joseph was lived through “ordinary” means but illustrates for us his extraordinary interior life. St. Joseph’s performative faith is observed in seemingly subtle yet actually profound ways.

There is so much to learn from Joseph’s “just” (Mt. 1:19) desire to love and protect Mary and the Holy Child. In accepting Mary and Jesus into his home, he allowed himself to be present and at service for our Lord daily.

“St. Joseph also experienced moments of difficulty, but he never lost faith and was able to overcome them, in the certainty that God never abandons us” (Pope Francis, General Audience, May 1st, 2013). St. Joseph trusted God radically. In moments of trials, he did not know of the ways that God would carry him through the daunting task of being the earthly provider and protector of the Holy Family, but his spectacular faith and trust in God fueled his spiritual endurance and propelled him onward.

He trusted completely in God’s providential care and accorded his own life to His will: a true exemplar of the virtues of faith, hope and love.

In the recent and ongoing circumstances of our times, we have been primed to participate in this Lenten season in new ways. This Lent invites us to experience our finite moments of joy and suffering more richly and to offer them to the Lord in a way that connects us to the infinite more deeply.

We are encouraged to fully live a life for God, a life that stems from the gift of trustworthy hope. “Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present…” (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi) even an arduous present which can be accepted if we understand the goal which is great enough to justify the trials of the journey: beatific union with God.

May St. Joseph’s model continue to encourage and accompany each of us on our journeys through Lent and life. 

Mimi Tran is the Catholic campus minister at Rice University.