Thursday, March 19, 2015

St. Joseph and Clergy Families

All day long I've been thinking about Joseph. Funny enough, he's come up in conversation several times. First, with my spiritual director this morning. She wanted to read part of the Litany of St. Joseph to begin our time together. Later, I spoke about him to a parishioner who was facing a difficult situation. Then, at TonTap, I asked a question about Joseph and the nature of God's call in our lives. Finally, at a banquet for local ministers and their spouses, I mentioned that St. Joseph reminds me of my family.

All day long I've been thinking about Joseph, and every time I've thought of my wife and my children. You see, God didn't bother to ask Joseph before he announced the "good news" of Jesus' birth to Joseph's betrothed. Mary, on the other had, was approached by the Angel Gabriel, who told her what God's plan was. Mary agreed: "Let it me unto me according to thy word." She said yes. But someone forgot to ask Joseph.

After the deed was done, the angel found Joseph and told him in a dream what was going to happen. Joseph had already learned that his fiancée was pregnant, and he intended to divorce her quietly--honorably. But the angel let Joseph know after the fact what God's plan was: "Um, Joseph, about that pregnancy thing..." And we remember Joseph for his faithfulness, his obedience, his courage, and his prudence.

Often I think of Mary and the call God placed upon her. We celebrate the fact that she said yes, and, through her agreement, she became the Mother of God. She is an active participant. Her brave participation in the incarnation is remembered throughout all generations. But Joseph is remembered primarily for what he didn't do--for not divorcing her, for not looking for another wife, for not giving up on the woman whose womb was filled with the child of another.

But there's more to Joseph than that. He had a call, too. God could not have done with Mary what he accomplished if Joseph had not said yes, too. Had Joseph been anyone else--had he abandoned his wife in her moment of need--Mary could not have been Jesus' mother. Even though we don't think of Joseph's call, he had a call, too. His call was a holy call--a commission from God that accompanied his spouse's ministry.

How many ministers like me have spouses who make their ministry possible yet aren't thought of as having a call? Being a clergy spouse is a calling. Even if you didn't go before the Commission on Ministry or go to seminary or hear God say, "You're supposed to be a clergy spouse," being married to a clergyperson is a calling. No matter how busy one becomes with church work--no matter if she or he never even darkens the door--there is a sacrifice made for the sake of the ministry of the ordained. And that sacrifice is made by the children as well. Just ask my kids what we do on a "long weekend" when they are out of school on a Monday. Long weekend? Not for us. That, my friends, is a sacrifice.

Today, as we remember Joseph, I remember all of those who are responding to God's call even if God didn't stop to ask them whether they were willing to sign on. Sometimes ministry is foisted upon people--especially the family members of clergy people. Today, as we remember Joseph, let's remember those who live with ministers and give of themselves in their own way. It's their calling, too.

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