No more important battle exists in our time than protecting marriage. Even the life issues stem in no small part from the marriage crisis. How would civilization survive the complete political undermining of such an important pillar of human life? As the foundation goes, so goes the whole house. Which is why we need special spiritual powers for this struggle.
I’ve been involved in this struggle from early on, and have watched the margins favoring the protection of marriage fluctuate state by state. Some pundits have said it is simply a matter of time till the tide tips in favor of a political redefinition. And no wonder. The younger generation has been subject to much propaganda in this regard in schools across the nation.
Along the way, there have been important milestones that have slowed the supposedly inevitable march to redefine reality. Each time the issue comes before voters, nature is affirmed, thus shoring up the common sense about marriage. The Chick-fil-A episode was an unexpected bonus in this regard.
Is the destruction of real marriage inevitable? Absolutely not. But the slowly dwindling majorities cannot be ignored.
I’ve always thought that every Catholic should be involved in at least one prolife apostolate, no matter how small. I now think the same about the protection of marriage.
St. Ignatius, it has been said, advised his followers that we should act as if everything depends on us and pray as if everything depends on God. This equation demands much of us, but also allows us to sleep peacefully at night.
We Catholics are fond of placing everything under the protection of patron saints. As protector of the Holy Family, St. Joseph seems a perfect candidate for the struggle to protect marriage.
As a way to advance this practice, Leo XIII included a prayer to be added at the end of the Rosary during the month of October. He hoped that this would become an annual devotion. Almost a century and a quarter later, perhaps we should make it a daily one.
If you reflect for a moment on the life of St. Joseph, it’s easy to understand why he is such a powerful advocate.
Mary was not an “unwed mother” at the time of the Annunciation, but already the true spouse of Joseph. Jewish betrothal was a real exchange of marital consent. Thus the Incarnation awaited the marriage of Mary and Joseph. This fact has not been adequately appreciated, and some, it appears, would
even prefer not to know about it.
Marriage involves a mutual gift of self. For her part, Mary’s gift was her most exquisite and total consecration to God (which made her the perfect Mother of God.) Joseph’s reciprocal gift was the sacrifice of the conjugal life allowing Mary’s consecration to be fully realized.
Through his sacrifice, Joseph laid down his life for Mary, and as a consequence he was able to take it up again in an extraordinary way by becoming the father of God, in mind, not in the flesh, when Mary his wife, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So while the virginal Mary conceived in an altogether miraculous way and remained a virgin, the love of Mary and Joseph was a truly spousal union of hearts and was blessed in a singular way by the Incarnation.
Blessed John Paul II points out much of this in Redemptoris Custos which states, “The Savior began the work of salvation by this virginal and holy union. . . . Joseph and Mary are the summit from which holiness spreads all over the earth.”
We can imagine that Joseph was well prepared by God for this blessed role of husband to Mary and thus legal father to the Savior of the World. Joseph was entrusted with guarding the mystery of the Incarnation.
It couldn’t have been easy for this humble man of God to assume the exalted role of Guardian of the Son of God. Despite his divine nature, Jesus would pattern his human nature in part on the example of St. Joseph. And just as Jesus has offered us His mother, so also does he offer us this loving father.
Next to Mary, Joseph is the holiest human creature who ever lived. As Quamquam Pluries states, “But as Joseph has been united to the Blessed Virgin by the ties of marriage, it may not be doubted that he approached nearer than any to the eminent dignity by which the Mother of God surpasses so nobly all created natures. For marriage is the most intimate of all unions which from its essence imparts a community of gifts between those that by it are joined together.”
As the battle for marriage rages on, we need this often-overlooked patron. I can’t think of a better person to watch our backs than dear St. Joseph.