Jim Martin’s final post during November is about St. Joseph—and also some contemporary saints Fr. Martin met in Nairobi, Kenya. View a video about St. Joseph, featuring Jim Martin, below, or here (excerpted from the DVD Who Cares About the Saints?).
We think of St. Joseph as Jesus’ “foster” father, the man who took Mary to be his wife, the one who was with her when Jesus was born. Beyond that, we don’t think much about his life, and this is Fr. Martin’s point; there is a “hidden” life to faith, and most of us are living that quiet, little-known sort of life.
It’s difficult to believe this in the day of constant celebrity coverage and of the ongoing “fifteen minutes of fame” that ordinary folk experience through varieties of reality television. These days, even news coverage is more about entertainment and sensational headlines than about reporting—in any balanced way—what is happening in the world to people like you and me.
Most of us will never be well-known. And most of us will not accomplish great things, such as making new discoveries in medicine or astronomy, creating solutions in the world economy, or rising up as important teachers or prophets of the faith. We will live hidden lives, marked by routine and sometimes by drudgery. We will battle the same personal problems again and again. We’ll keep cleaning the house, going to work, trying to talk with our children, taking care of our elderly parents, and striving to stay healthy ourselves. Certainly our lives will be marked by a few highlights, but even our most important life events will go unnoticed by just about everybody else in the world.
Which is just as God intended. In the holy economy of faith, fame doesn’t mean much. What the angels get excited about is our love for one another and for our neighbors. Each act of mercy, gentles, peacefulness, patience, kindness, wisdom, and goodness is known from one end of heaven to the other. Our heavenly Father/Mother is delighted to see us faithfully go to work—whether that’s out in the marketplace or right at home—in order to provide a stable place for our loved ones. In ordinary rooms and spaces all over the world, God’s work is happening, meal by meal and conversation by conversation.
How do you feel about having a hidden life in the world? Do you long to be known, recognized, perhaps famous? If you don’t, then you have escaped one of the most pervasive sins of our age. If you do, then see these misplaced desires for what they are, and practice gratitude for your life.
Exercise for the Week
Go on a news fast. For at least a day—better, two or three days—don’t access the news through television, print, radio, or Internet. Also, stay away from magazines—they thrive on stories about, and pictures of, the famous. Concentrate on the “news” in your home and in the lives of your neighbors. Celebrate your particular life, including its daily routines. Practice gratitude.