What Can One Man Do?
Famine and fortune
How many times have you heard someone say, when discussing the world’s problems and the dismal moral crises of our age, “what can one man do?” During the early stages of the history of the Israelites, Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, begot twelve sons—one of whom was named Joseph. During this time, Joseph was the youngest of the twelve sons and his father’s favorite, and because of this favor, his brothers grew exceedingly jealous; so much so, that they sold him to a group of nomadic gum traders, who in turn, sold him as a slave to the Egyptians. While in prison in Egypt, Joseph was summoned to interpret Pharaoh’s dream—which he interpreted successfully. Pharaoh’s dream prophetically foretold that the world would benefit from seven years of bountiful, fruitful harvest, which would subsequently be followed by seven years of famine. Because of Joseph’s ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, Pharaoh gave Joseph authority over all of Egypt, making him master of his household—second only to the authority of Pharaoh. During the seven years of plenty, Joseph commanded his people to gather the grain and retain the harvest in the Egyptian storehouses in order to prepare for the foretold famine. When the famine struck the land, the inhabitants of the middle-eastern world turned to Egypt and its Pharaoh, who then directed the people, “Go to Joseph, what he say to you, do.” (Gen 45?) Inhabitants from all over the middle-eastern world obtained grain from Joseph, and from this grain made themselves bread, and thus were spared from starving. God, through one man, saved the world from peril.
The Famine of Fatherhood
Today, much like the epoch of Joseph the Patriarch, there exists a famine—a spiritual famine—the famine of fatherhood. Our wives and children, our Church and parish communities are starving for authentic fatherly, leadership. To whom should we turn to obtain the spiritual food needed to overcome this famine? To whom should we go to obtain bread in this season of need? To God of course, but to whom does God direct us? Recall the words of the last divine utterance in the old Testament, spoken through the prophet Malachi “I will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.” (Mal 4:6) Fast forward to the New Testament—to the first time that God speaks to His people concerning His divine plan—“I will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just. (Lk ?) The similarity is not only striking but deliberately loaded with meaning. Notice that the first half of the message given by the angel Gabriel is the same as the divine utterance given to Malachi: God will provide a special grace, prompting fathers to turn their gaze to their children, in order that their children may experience the Father’s gaze through their own dads, and thus turn toward their Father in heaven. However, the second half of the prophecy is altered with slightly different language: and he will turn the hearts of the incredulous, that is, those who are rebellious and disbelieving, to the wisdom of the just. By connecting these two prophecies, we begin to understand that the incredulous are the disbelieving children whose hearts can be converted by turning toward the just, wise fathers.
Joseph—Over the Household
But who is the just, wise father from whom we fathers can learn how to become just and wise? Who is the just steward who will give us men, who are starving for spiritual leadership, the very bread, the very Word of God that we are called to transmit to our wives and children? Returning to the original question: Who will give us spiritual bread in this time of famine—to whom is God directing us? As Jesus puts it, “Who then is the faithful (just) and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?” (Mt 24:25) The Sacred Scriptures attest that St. Joseph was a “just man” (Mt 1:29) who was placed over the Master’s Household, that is, over the Lord’s family—Jesus and Mary—to exercise charitable authority by protecting feeding and teaching them. In the Latin text, the phrase, “master over the household”, is interpreted as “pater familias”—father of the family. St. Joseph, the just and wise steward has not only been divinely ordained to be the pater familias, the father of the Holy Family, but also was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1870, as the patron and protector of the universal Church. The word patron is derived from the Latin root word “pater”—meaning father. Recall that the macro-Church is comprised of the micro-church of the family. If the Church is to become a holy family, it should be comprised of holy families who are modeled after the Holy Family. If God deemed it appropriate that St. Joseph be the steward, patron, and father of the archetype and model of the Church—the Holy Family—it is only fitting that he also be our spiritual patron, pater, father, as well. God has placed Joseph “over the household” of the Church, with authority second only to God, with the purpose of obtaining for us the spiritual food necessary to overcome spiritual famine. In our age, God is saying, “go to Joseph, what he says to you, do.”
One man—can Do
Returning to the question: What can one man do? By embracing his identity as husband of the Mother of God and father of the Son of God, Joseph became the savior of the Savior, the teacher of the Teacher, the master of the Master, the king of the King of kings, one who fed bread to the Bread of Life, and from this Bread we all receive life. Joseph’s vocation, his very identity, has helped to feed this spiritually starving world with the only food that will satisfy—Jesus. One man—with God—can change the world. Joseph’s identity led him to his destiny. His fatherhood leads us to God’s Fatherhood. And by allowing him to be master over our households, we can become men who, by discovering our identity, via our vocation as husbands and fathers, change the course of history and achieve our destiny.
Entrusting ourselves to St. Joseph—the Way of the Great Saints
What does it mean to make Joseph master over your household? It means entrusting your cares, your needs, your dreams, your work, your very fatherhood and marriage to him. Joseph provided for the Holy Family and he will obtain from our Lord the blessings your need to succeed. Just in case there is any doubt, I will quote a couple of the Church’s big guns—great and lauded saints. St. Thomas Aquinas said, “Some saints are privileged to extend to us their patronage with particular efficacy in certain needs, but not in others; but our holy patron St. Joseph has the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, in every undertaking.” And St. Theresa of Avila said, “To other saints Our Lord seems to have given the power to succor us in some special necessity—but to this glorious Saint, I know by experience, he has given power to help us in all. Our Lord would have us understand that as He was subject to St. Joseph on earth—for St. Joseph bearing the title of father, being His guardian, could command Him—so now in Heaven Our Lord grants all his petitions. I have asked others to recommend themselves to St. Joseph, and they, too, know the same by experience.” If we entrust our vocation as husbands and fathers to this the greatest father that lived on earth, we will obtain all we need to succeed in this endeavor.