44 Days of St. Joseph – March 25 – Pure Guardian of the Virgin

A guard is a keeper of the in-between. A guard watches and maintains the line demarcating outside and inside, danger and safety, secular and sacred. He is also the man who, should the line of demarcation be threatened, makes himself the line of demarcation. He himself becomes the point that differentiates safety from danger—and this means that he will himself absorb the assault of whatever is dangerous. When the assault comes, a guardian envelops what is to be kept safe and takes on the pain of the assault. He becomes the shell that ensures the safety of what’s “within.” To protect literally means to cover.

One wonders what pains St. Joseph absorbed as the guardian of Mary. There was, no doubt, all the normal anxieties of a husband: How shall I feed my wife and family? How shall I raise them to love God? How shall I provide what my wife needs? How shall I avoid the temptations to live for myself? 

It must certainly be true that St. Joseph absorbed spiritual assaults as well. The demons of doubt, of acedia, perhaps of pride. For the guardian of the Mother of God, the temptations to spiritual and psychological anxieties must have been substantial indeed.

So it is all the more instructive that tradition calls St. Joseph the Chaste Guardian.

We see chastity as sexual purity, which of course it is. But chastity is also purity of vision, a “wholesightedness” that prevents us from tearing others into pieces conceptually such that they might be used for our own purposes—used as opposed to loved.

Chastity can be said to be related to the virtue of fortitude, the most perfect embodiment being not the “strength of attack,” but “the strength of endurance.” Attack is a firm opposition to the bad, but endurance is a firm grip on the good—which requires you to see the good.

The true guardian, therefore, is not the one with eyes fixed primarily on the danger without, but on the good within. Can we doubt that what gave St. Joseph his enduring strength as a guardian, what gave him the strength to “take the hits,” was his purity of vision that itself flowed from that upon which he gazed?

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