Q: Archbishop J, tell me truthfully, why St Joseph?
“St Joseph is a very, very hard sell for a Caribbean man!” That is how the conversation began. It continued with the speaker expressing the view that “no self-respecting Caribbean man would take a woman as his wife who got pregnant, but not for him”.
“How can this be a role model?”
Also, “You hear little about the man in the Bible, so there is not too much to go on anyway”.
“A whole year”? was another question. “You have to tell me what you really see in this man?” “Tell me truthfully, why St Joseph?”
There is so much here in these questions, that I could not resist either the conversation or writing on them.
St Joseph and Caribbean manhood
St Joseph is a real man! He accepts responsibility: he is not a biological father, but he is a daddy. He does not grab the headlines but stays in the background and serves humbly. He is nobility (of the house of David), but he acts as a servant. The Bible calls him “an honourable man”.
This is his character, which we learn before he undertakes any actions. An honourable man will do the right thing because it is right, regardless of consequences.
St Joseph raises the bar for manhood; he demonstrates incredible qualities. The New Testament only has 19 verses about him; he never speaks, yet there is so much we actually know.
Just from looking at his list of qualities, we know there is a significant value that St Joseph brings to Caribbean manhood. There is a lot we can learn. If we, the men of this region, could be half the man St Joseph was, there would be a significant growth in family, priesthood, and all spheres of discipline in our region.
Some years ago, a young man said to me: “We have plenty fathers, but we do not have enough daddies!” St Joseph was a daddy to Jesus.
Just think: if you had to leave your child for another man to raise, what qualities would you want to see in that other man? That is the question that God the Father asked Himself. His answer was St Joseph.
From this perspective, we need to see St Joseph as the model of manhood and the model of fatherhood. He was given the responsibility to stand in the place of God the Father in raising God’s Son from a baby to a man. This makes him a worthy candidate for patron of Caribbean men.
If the Caribbean is to move forward in any significant way, we need men who will take “exaggerated responsibility” for their children, their family and for the society as a whole. This is Joseph’s example, and it is in this way he will love us into manhood and into responsibility.
Why St Joseph?
From my perspective, one of the greatest qualities of St Joseph is that he is a man of God. Twice in the Bible, when the life of Jesus hanged in a balance, Joseph was willing to be obedient to God.
When he was told of the pregnancy, he was willing to divorce Mary informally. But then he encountered God in a dream, and he relented and took Mary as his wife.
This bending of the heart to the will of God, is for me his most noble characteristic. It is here that the mystery hidden from before all time is revealed. Here that Joseph becomes integrally tied up with salvation history.
We are accustomed to hearing about the Annunciation to Mary. Well, Joseph also had an annunciation: “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
Joseph had a choice. Like us, he was conceived with original sin; he, too, would have had his plan for his life. Yet, when God asked him to abandon his plan and to take Mary to his home, he bends his heart to God’s will.
Adam and Eve refused to serve God. Mary and Joseph bent their hearts to God’s will to allow the plan of salvation to come about.
The term “honourable man” (Mt 1:19) that we use has a loaded content behind it. If we go to the Hebrew behind the term, it could mean—a man of the torah. That is a man steeped in Sacred Scripture or a man of God.
We can learn so much from Joseph. Because he was steeped in Sacred Scripture, he was able to listen and discern God’s voice and act on it.
St Joseph the role model
What are the characteristics that we see in Caribbean manhood today? Irresponsibility—men only grow up when they absolutely have to!
Not great at managing emotions—many have been spoiled by mum and are accustomed to getting what they want.
Violence! So many men are violent towards women and children.
Joseph was disappointed. He must have felt a wide range of emotions when Mary gave him the news of her pregnancy. It was his right to have her stoned to death. He did not choose the violent option; he chose to spare her publicity. In this, he showed he was a man of nonviolence and peace.
We need to raise the bar of masculinity in the Caribbean. For this to happen, men have to have something to point their lives towards that exemplifies saintly masculinity. From my perspective, there is no better model or guide than St Joseph. He was God’s choice. That is enough for me.
St Joseph, the real man, presents us Caribbean men with a model, a guide, and a pathway to sanctity.
On February 15, we will begin the 33-day challenge leading to a consecration to St Joseph. This is an excellent opportunity to meditate on the attributes of this extraordinary man who God chose to be the father of Jesus.