Five years ago as I was having my breakfast one morning, I was watching the Today show on NBC. They were holding one of their outdoor concerts on Rockefeller Plaza. An all-boy-band, One Direction, was performing for a huge crowd of screaming girls. Some of the girls were teens, others were in their twenties and some were even in their forties. They were all adoring fans who delighted basking in their idols’ presence. When Matt Lauer asked One Direction what they were planning for the next five to ten years, they replied that they were enjoying all the adulation and praise right at that moment. They admitted that they loved the limelight. The boy band was on top of their game and they wanted to stay there.
One Direction is not alone in this. Everyone loves the limelight. We all want our fifteen minutes of celebrity. We want to be recognized, to be praised and to be rewarded for everything we do. I am sure you remember the days when there was only one movie awards show – the Oscars? Now we have four because we have to show our appreciation to more individuals.
In recent years there has been a mushrooming of reality TV shows. People who should be forbidden to sing even in the shower get on national TV to show off their pitiful musical skills. They embarrass themselves and their families by their deplorable singing and yet they want that attention though negative it may be. People are willing to gulp down exotic foods in an attempt to show their survival skills in the wild. Others are prepared to race around the globe not merely to win a substantial monetary award but also to be on the national consciousness.
Unfortunately the same trend has crept into ecclesiastical circles in recent years. During the Pre-Vatican II years the church culture was awash with titles and awards, and awarding titles to loyal clergymen and faithful Catholics was the leadership’s way of solidifying its hold. After the council the titles went out the window. However in the last few years the trend is reversed as more and more dioceses are once again creating monsignors and awarding special recognition to some.
In stark contrast to this backdrop of our insatiable appetite for recognition and praise, stands a saint who is humble and obscure. Even though he was chosen by the Holy Trinity to play a very significant role in the history of salvation, he continues to vanish into the shadows. I am referring to St Joseph, the foster father of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the chaste spouse of the Virgin Mother of God. Most Catholics, even today, hardly notice his feast or even his important place in the Church. His feast falls on March 19 which date is always during Lent. This year it was celebrated last Monday, March 20th, because the feast fell on a Sunday. Once again poor Joseph was pushed aside and I know he does not mind.
St Bernardine of Siena, a great devotee of St Joseph, wrote these words about the foster father of Jesus:
A comparison can be made between Joseph and the whole Church of Christ. Joseph was the specially chosen man through whom and under whom Christ entered the world fittingly and in an appropriate way. So, if the whole Church is in the debt of the Virgin Mary, since, through her, it was able to receive the Christ, surely after her, it also owes Joseph special thanks and veneration.
St Joseph was given all the responsibilities of taking care of Jesus but none of the privileges. He was asked to do the work but was not assured of any reward. He appears six times in the gospels with Mary but not once does he open his mouth. He spent his life playing a supporting role and did not occupy the main stage even once. He was content to do what God had asked him. For that he is considered a great saint and an important example for us to emulate.
I am sure you remember the gospel reading that we heard on Ash Wednesday. Jesus told His followers that in doing good, the right hand should not know what the left is doing. We should pray, give alms and fast in secret so that the Father who sees everything done in secret will reward us. If we seek the praise of people and their recognition, we will have already received our reward. St Joseph epitomizes faithful adherence to this gospel injunction. He responded fully to the evangelical call to live for God’s recognition only.
From time to time, all of us feel that we are not sufficiently appreciated or recognized. Parents can justifiably feel that way. In those moments when we are tempted to feel sorry for ourselves, let us think of St Joseph. Most of us may never write a bestseller or direct an Oscar-winning movie. We may never win an Olympic gold medal or people all over the world may never sing our praises. But if we can make a difference in the lives of some, even one person, God will reward us in the end. In the final analysis, only that matters.
Let us pray to St Joseph that he may intercede for us at all times. May he obtain for us humble hearts that long for God’s recognition and His reward for the good that we do!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...