Thanks to my work here at the blog and over at CatholicMom.com, I receive many requests to read and review new books. Many of these titles are written by well-known, respected authors, and most titles look quite intriguing actually. Yet because of my current phase and season of life, I haven’t been able to dive into most of them.
When I received my copy of 40 Days, 40 Ways: A New Look at Lent by Dr. Marcellino D’ Ambrosio, I felt a strong pull to make it my Lenten spiritual reading this year. Chances were it would be yet another book that I fervently began reading on Ash Wednesday only to put down by the first Sunday in Lent. This past summer, however, Joel and I were treated to a summer diaconate retreat at Conception Abbey led by Dr. Marcellino. In a nutshell, he was awesome, and Joel and I both really connected with his style. So I was hopeful that maybe, just maybe, 40 Days, 40 Ways would resonate with me in a way past Lenten companions haven’t.
Good news, it has been a great Lenten read! But this post really isn’t a review of his book. I’m only sharing because when I read what Marcellino shared on Day 19, I knew I had found my “Saint of the Month” for March: St. Joseph.
From the book (paraphrased a bit):
Joseph’s claim to fame is also his faith. He (like Mary) was told the unbelievable and dared to believe. His response of faith entailed taking action — he changed his plans, received Mary into his home, and accepted responsibility for this special child. All Joseph had to go by was what he received from an angel, in a dream.
Do you think he may have been tempted at some point to second-guess this experience? Especially when things did not go smoothly — after all, when a plan is from God, are not doors supposed to open? Yet when Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, the door of the inn was slammed in their faces. If this were God’s child, wouldn’t God provide a room? And if this were really God’s son, wouldn’t God have turned back Herod’s hit men?
(Does this second-guessing seem familiar to you? Because it does to me!)
Then the angel shows up again in another dream: “Flee to Egypt with Mary and the baby.” Wait, what?! Wasn’t the 70-mile walk to Bethlehem with a pregnant woman enough? If this was God’s doing, shouldn’t there be an easier way?
Yet Joseph believed and acted. And when the Angel came a third time and told Joseph to make the long trek back to Nazareth, he acted again.
One of my favorite verses in all of Scripture comes from Hebrews 12:1, “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” I’ve written about that verse a lot here, especially when writing about my father’s death. And I tend to equate that verse with running — as in actually running, ahem, a half-marathon, or simply saying yes to God and then go-getting things done in His name.
But on the day I read this section in 40 Days, 40 Ways, I was so, so tired. I was worn out from running around and getting things done for The Well. It hit me then that running the race with perseverance doesn’t always involve running. Sometimes, running the race simply means moving forward.
Joseph certainly did a lot of walking. From Nazareth to Bethlehem to Egypt and back again. St. Paul also said we walk by faith, not by sight. St. Joseph is a model of faith because he keeps walking, even in the dark. So here’s to saying yes to God, to walking and moving forward even if (when?) doors are slammed in your face. May St. Joseph inspire and intercede for us.
Let us also pray to develop our relationship with St. Joseph. Let’s ask him daily to join us in praying for all the important fathers in our lives, including the Holy Father, our bishops and all bishops, priests and deacons of our parishes, and all priests and deacons.
By the way, I took this picture at last year’s St. Joseph Altar Celebration at the Italian-American Cultural Center of Iowa. A stop there for lunch again this year is certainly in the cards for us today! Happy feasting!