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Catholics love saints. We believe in the so-called communion of saints which means not only the unity of believers struggling to be saints. We also believe in the link we have with those saints who have gone ahead of us. Thus we have the veneration, not adoration, of saints. We respect them and learn from them as well as ask them to be our friends in our daily struggles.

Maybe you have your favorite saint. Mine is St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and the foster-father of Jesus. I keep a variety of pictures or images of St. Joseph and there is one common feature in all his depictions. He seems to be a man full of peace, full of tranquility. Whether he is shown keeping watch at the side of Mary and the Baby Jesus in the manger, or working for a living in his carpentry shop, or lovingly carrying the Baby Jesus in his arms, or at his deathbed surrounded by Jesus and Mary, Joseph always exudes assurance, confidence and serenity.

But that is the danger of the so-called plaster-saints. They only try to show us how peaceful these saints must be now that they are in heaven. They do not show us the struggles that made them saints. They do not tell us about the sufferings and trials they underwent for love of God.

Thankfully we have the gospel telling us about Joseph’s life and his unique response to God. Joseph, engaged to Mary learned that she was carrying a child – clearly not his child because they were not married yet and such relations were forbidden in their culture before marriage.

In the beautiful film, Nativity, Joseph was portrayed in his full human qualities. When he saw that Mary was pregnant, Joseph was seething with anger. He was disappointed at Mary, thinking that Mary had another lover. He was also filled with shame, for what will the neighbors think? That he was a weakling, a fool falling in love with a flirtatious woman? Watching that film, I came to appreciate how much Joseph suffered when he couldn’t reconcile his plans with the events that God allowed to happen to him and his bride-to-be.

But as Joseph slept, he saw a vision in his dream. And the vision told him not to fear because God was asking him to be part of his great plan in the coming of his plan. Yes he was not the father of the child because God was the father of Jesus. But Joseph will be asked to be father-on-earth to the Son of God.

Joseph did not question God or doubt God’s wisdom. When it became clear that God wanted something else to unfold in his life, he opened his heart to accommodate God’s will. He did not insist on his own will.

How many times we try to impose our will on other people, and even on God. How many times we insist that we must have things our way. But when we do so, doesn’t it mean confusion, hardships and difficulties, because we are going against the design of God? Let us pray to St. Joseph that our hearts may clearly discern what is God’s plan and that we may generously cooperate in it.