This post first appeared on Vincentian Mindwalk
I am only half kidding when I lobby for St. Joseph to be named Patron of the “Saints Next Door”
Pope Francis and the “saints next door”
Before I explain let me quickly point to an important insight of Pope Francis.
7. I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance, I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbors, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them “the middle class of holiness”.
Of course, we can and should celebrate the giants of our faith, those who have been beatified and canonized. But Pope Francis reminds us very explicitly that we need to celebrate the heroes of our lives or those he calls “the saints next door.”
He also says,
“The important thing is that each believer discerns his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts.”
Since the Middle Ages, the practice of adopting patron saints spread beyond patron saints for churches. Almost in anticipation of Pope Francis’ insight about the saints next door, they looked for inspiration in their ordinary interests of life – health, family, trade, sickness, death, and even one’s city or country.
Saints were chosen as symbols of hope in the midst of day-to-day life. Patron saints remind us of the bigger goal of what we think of as our ordinary lives. In many ways, they are God speaking to us through these role models.
St. Joseph as the Patron Saint for the Saints Next Door
We all know that Saint Joseph became the patron saint of carpenters. What I am proposing is that he be recognized as the patron saint of the saints next door. Why?
He stands as the model for each of us as we accept our unique role in God’s plan. He said fiat when he did not understand what or why he was called to be the protector of Mary and her role in salvation history. He was as puzzled and anxious as Mary when they found Jesus in the temple. No doubt he also had to keep so many things in his heart. He made no noise or waves in his life. As he took care of his family, he simply put one foot in front of the other trusting in God.
Pope Francis reminds us that we can grow in holiness by quietly living our daily lives well.
“Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain” (14).
I honestly doubt whether he will be named patron of the saints next door. But there is nothing to prevent us from recognizing in Joseph, “the quiet one”, the model for far more than just carpenters.
- Have you ever thought you can … and should… be a saint next door?
- What can St. Joseph teach you?