Our oldest daughter, Chiara, is getting married this July. I’m happy to say that God has brought her a wonderful man. My wife, Clare, and I are convinced that St. Joseph has had a hand in it.
You see, Clare started praying in a special way for our two girls (we also have three grown sons) when Chiara was about 8 years old and her sister, Elena, was 5. Clare entrusted them to the protection of St. Joseph and prayed that, if they were called to marriage, he would find them husbands after his own heart.
Chiara met her fiancé, Ezequiel, for the first time at a SEEK conference sponsored by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) in Chicago in January of 2018. There were thousands of young people in attendance, but she and Ezequiel kept running into each other, and Chiara had an early sense that he might be “the one.” They corresponded for about a year, since he was at Georgia State University and she was attending the University of Oklahoma for performance ballet. They talked and prayed together at least weekly, and their friendship deepened.
Ezequiel decided to fly to Oklahoma in March of 2019 for their first date. When Chiara called Clare to tell her she was picking him up at the airport, Clare asked if she knew what day it was. “No,” Chiara replied. “Well,” Clare said, “it’s the feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary!” That cinched it; the first thing they did after Ezequiel landed was go to Mass at the cathedral in Oklahoma City. St. Joseph has been their guide and protector ever since, and they have both made their consecration to him. It is providential that they will be married during this Year of St. Joseph.
From his litany, we know St. Joseph as “Spouse of the Mother of God” and “Pillar of Families,” as well as supremely “chaste,” “strong” and “faithful,” among many other titles. With the daunting challenges young people face today, Joseph is the perfect saint to guide them through courtship and marriage.
Indeed, there has never been—nor will there ever be—a greater love story than that of Joseph and Mary. St. Bernardine of Siena wrote: “They were two in one same mind, one same affection, and each of them was the other’s second half. The heart of Mary with that of Joseph, and the heart of Joseph with that of Mary, who ever could imagine a union so intimate, a grace so great!”
Still, I confess that prior to reading Father Donald Calloway’s “Consecration to St. Joseph” and making my own consecration some months ago, I gave little thought to Mary and Joseph’s life as a love story. Religious art and popular piety have been so careful to safeguard the holy couple’s virginity that any hint of romantic tenderness was seen as suspect. This is one reason Joseph was often depicted as an old man, who would pose no threat to Mary’s perpetual virginity. Thankfully, we have mostly moved beyond that well-intentioned image. It is so much better to think of Joseph as a virtuous young man who had mastered his virility, rather than an old man who had lost it.
Certainly, the love between Joseph and Mary was anchored in their awareness that each was consecrated to God, renouncing the one-flesh marital embrace in light of their unique vocation. But there is no scandal in supposing that Joseph delighted in the grace and femininity of his beautiful bride, and Mary in the masculine strength of her husband. There is no scandal in believing that they experienced an ecstatic union of heart and soul when they prayed together and when they looked into each other’s eyes as beloved spouses.
There had to be, also, the “everyday stuff” of marriage and family life. Joseph and Mary would have taken walks together, enjoyed meals with friends, washed the dishes, tidied their modest home. They would have delighted together in their unique son, Jesus, as they watched Him grow from infancy to manhood, and as Joseph taught Him his trade at the carpenter’s bench.
All of this makes Joseph and Mary relatable. It helps motivate us to turn to them in the many day-to-day challenges of courtship and marriage. Human love is painfully inadequate until it is touched by grace, until it is elevated and transformed by God’s love. As the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote of Joseph and Mary, “They did not go to God through love of one another; rather, because they went first to God, they had a deep and pure love for one another.”
If we ask him, St. Joseph will help us get our own hearts in order, leading us first of all to God, so that our human love can be brought back transformed, deep and pure, to our spouses and families, to all our relationships. Love transformed is so badly needed, whether by a young man and woman on their first date or a married couple celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary.
Yes, my fondest hope for Chiara and Ezequiel is that St. Joseph, along with his bride, the Virgin Mary, will accompany them throughout their marriage, elevating and transforming their love for each other. All of us can aspire—for ourselves, for our loved ones and for this hurting world—to imitate the greatest love story the world has ever seen.
O St. Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer and Husband of Mary, pray for us.
O Mary Immaculate, Mother of God and Bride of Joseph, pray for us.
Bless our marriage and those of our children and grandchildren.
Show mankind the splendor to which human love is called.
Director of the Office for Ministries and Social Concerns
Published in the July/August 2021 Catholic Life Issue