I went to the church office a few days ahead of our wedding day to drop off our marriage license. The receptionist’s eyes widened as she took me by the shoulders and asked, “Have you seen the church yet?”
We got married 3 years ago on the Solemnity of St. Joseph. We didn’t want a super long engagement, and a March wedding gave us ample time to plan and prepare for marriage. St. Joseph was Nick’s confirmation saint, and we loved the idea of getting married on the feast of the patron of husbands and fathers.
Problem was Lent is going strong in March and the church typically doesn’t allow weddings during that time. Nick and I did our research though, and since March 19 is a solemnity, it’s always a day to feast and celebrate, even though it falls during Lent. So when we went to our parish priest to request the date, we got it. Yay for loopholes!
At our parish, all of the statues in the church are covered beginning the week prior to Palm Sunday to represent the emptiness and sorrow of Good Friday. Most churches do the same at some point leading up to Holy Week. That year, March 19 fell the day before Palm Sunday, meaning our wedding would be celebrated in a very sparse church, with minimal flowers and all the beautiful statues covered in purple cloth.
Having likely dealt with her share of bridezillas, the receptionist was preparing me for what she thought would be a shock. Luckily for her, we we had been parishioners for a few years and were aware of the tradition. Even though I’ll be honest, I totally asked if it would be possible for the solemnity to take the covers down. Figured it couldn’t hurt.
There were other things that we had to adjust to meet liturgical standards. We didn’t get to pick our readings because we had to use the readings for the solemnity (but it was about earth’s best husband and father, so it totally worked). There were some songs that I initially wanted, but found out they weren’t liturgical so we couldn’t use them.
None of that really mattered.
Nick and I valued this sacrament highly, and loved and respected the traditions of the Church from whom we sought it above our own inclinations. We were beginning a vocation that would require a lot of obedience to God that would be far more inconvenient than any of this, and obedience to these seemingly trivial requirements of the liturgical season were a great way to kick things off.
When I think about the man whose feast we celebrate today, I keep thinking of that same word: obedience. Reflecting on the life of St. Joseph can illuminate some radically beautiful aspects of his personality that we can all incorporate into our spiritual lives.
Put yourself in his shoes for a moment. Scripture calls him a righteous man, which means when he became engaged to Mary, we can assume that he understood what marriage meant and was preparing to be a good husband. Now he gets the news that Mary is pregnant, and the baby is definitely not his. He must have been crushed. The woman he was waiting for seemingly couldn’t wait for him. Out of great love for her, he assumed that she must have loved someone else, and so he decided to leave her quietly, saving her from scandal and giving her the opportunity to be with the baby’s father. In a dream, an angel tells him who the Child is, and to proceed with marrying Mary: “For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child is conceived in her.” Luke tells us that Joseph awoke and immediately obeyed, taking Mary into his home as his wife.
That is radical obedience! No questions, no doubts, just faith and submission at a word from an angel in a dream. Here was a man who lived what St. Paul wrote long before pen was ever put to paper: “husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church.” He handed his life over to give Mary and her Son a home and security in obedience to the will of God. Being a creature, he probably still had some confusion about the situation, making his submission that much more incredible. In return, Joseph was loved by the Christ child and His mother as father and spouse for the rest of his life. Obedience may seem a burden at first, but time proves it is the key to liberty.
When I think back on the last 3 years, there were many times where God required my obedience infinitely more difficult than accepting a few veils over statues. I rarely submitted with the same quiet humility as Joseph. Ok, never. But I can’t deny that what God has allowed to unfold in my life through my marriage and now parenthood is far more beautiful, fulfilling, challenging and exciting than anything I could ever have hoped for if I decided always to go my own way. Submitting to something higher than myself has taught me wisdom.
I’m so thankful that this man’s feast day is the day we get to remember our wedding. It’s the perfect way to remind me what the happiest day of my life was really about, committing to love and honor someone above myself, and that seeking God’s will in our lives and being obedient to that will is a guarantee of the greatest joy and adventure.