God’s Will for Your Life: An Exercise With St. Joseph

The Church celebrates the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1st. While we know he was a skilled worker, a provider for the Holy Family, and a capable craftsman, working his trade to make his way as an immigrant in Egypt until he was free to return to Nazareth in safety, I marvel at how very little we know of St. Joseph’s actual life—his work included. What inspires me about St. Joseph on this particular feast day is his ability to utilize his skills to fulfill his vocation as protector of Mary and Jesus. 

I have three small sons. Each day I read to them a variety of stories, but more often than not, the stories center on the theme of following your dreams. You can be whatever you want to be! Although I desire good, high-achieving, virtuous things for my sons, I find myself reflecting on how they might not become astronauts, given NASA’s acceptance rate of less than one percent of applicants, or presidents of the United States. (I hear that’s statistically unlikely, too.) Still, I believe and pray that their lives will have great impact and meaning, even in the seemingly quiet ordinary life. Sometimes God gives us unexpected paths to live out the core vocation of those grand dreams we held during our youth. 

Looking at St. Joseph, we see a perfect example of someone who felt a call and a longing in his life to be a husband and father, yet the path to his vocation did not unfold as one would expect. As a virtuous and just man, he chooses the even-more virtuous Mary to be his wife, and then finds her unexpectedly and miraculously pregnant! Then, he set out for a roundtrip to Bethlehem, but couldn’t return home in order to protect the infant Jesus from the Massacre of the Innocents. They moved forward on a different path than expected, instead heading to Egypt. Fatherhood alone is a great responsibility, but guarding and fostering the Son of God is another. I doubt this is the life journey Joseph had in mind when he decided to wed Mary. How did he do it?

St. Joseph, the Carpenter
by Georges de La Tour

It is exactly through the talents God gave St. Joseph that he was able to follow the path to fulfill his heart’s desire in perfect harmony with God’s Will. He must be strong, wielding heavy hammers, long planks of wood, and continuous sawing or smoothing back and forth, back and forth. In his craftsmanship, he must be patient. He didn’t have a power drill to screw together his tables; he had to turn and turn and turn his drill meticulously by hand. He must be quiet. As he delicately molds each piece of wood, he must be able to hear if his piece is hollow or splintering and cracking. Strength, patience, and silence were all necessary to help raise the Son of God. Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem with Mary due any day, likely walking while she sat upon his donkey, sacrificing food and sleep for her—a disciplined strength indeed. Joseph patiently waited as he lived in exile until he could return to his home. Finally, his silence contributed to the peace in his home—one of mankind’s greatest vices can be in and through speech, but not for St. Joseph.

Reflecting on St. Joseph, I noticed how God also graced me with certain talents for my work, but it took me much longer to realize that my heart’s desire found true fulfillment when aligned with God’s Will. I love to teach people about the Faith, I desire to evangelize to those who have little knowledge of Catholicism, and I delight in singing. When I was going through college admissions twenty years ago, I remember eagerly awaiting acceptance letters from various colleges where I could continue my music education, having just spent four years at a performing arts high school in Florida. I desperately wanted to get into a prestigious northeastern school, but my voice teacher was really pulling for a school in Texas to which I had already been accepted. I told her that the Texas school was way too expensive and that I couldn’t afford to go there. She looked at me questioningly and gently reminded me that the northeastern school was pricey as well. I haughtily stated that if God got me into that school then certainly He would find a way to pay for it. Her simple response was, “And God wouldn’t find you the money to go to Texas?” I shrugged it off, and we continued our lesson. Arriving home that night, I found in the mail my financial awards letter from the Texas school. God laughed with me when I saw that the school had given me a full ride. A few days later, I was outright rejected by the northeastern school. Could God have been more clear? 

Throughout my time at university and beyond, I started to see the fruits of the blessing of going to Texas. I, like most people, changed my major to a less demanding music degree. I applied to a local Catholic university for my master’s degree and spent eight amazing years in various forms of pastoral ministry, including teaching theology at a local Catholic high school—all because my talents brought me to this place. Now as a stay-at-home mother, I have the opportunity to use the skills I’ve fostered on a daily basis. I use my gift of teaching to help educate my children in their faith as well as in their classroom. More recently, I have used my desire to evangelize to create a children’s book to teach the littlest Christians about vocation and virtue. And, of course, I sing to my children every day! My toolbox is filled to the brim with tools, awaiting the next journey God has planned for my life. 

Joseph embodies this mystery of following God’s Will while utilizing the gifts He gives. Joseph was a great craftsman, and his craftsman’s characteristics and virtues led to his salvific fatherhood. When we too can open ourselves to His Will, it is not at the cost of our dreams, but the total fulfillment of our hearts’ desires. So, when enjoying the blessings of this beautiful feast day, think: what did I want to be when I grew up? What are the talents and skills God has given me for my work? Am I open and willing for God to use them as He chooses? Will I remind myself that He is certainly going to use them to make my life much more blessed? 

St. Joseph the Worker, pray for us!

Editor’s Note: The author’s new children’s book, Joseph’s Workshop, is available from Sophia Institute Press.

Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

Georges de La Tour. (1642). St. Joseph, the Carpenter [painting]. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

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Julia Wade is a homeschooling mom who believes in the fruits of reading to one's children every day. She holds a graduate degree in theological studies from the University of Dallas, where she also served as a campus minister, and an undergraduate degree in music from Southern Methodist University. After teaching theology at a local Catholic high school for five years, Julia retired to stay home with her children. To fulfill her vocation as a minister, she has created small local apostolates in her parish to serve stay-at-home mothers and mothers who have endured miscarriages. Julia lives in Texas with her husband and their five children.

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