What St. Joseph can teach us about discernment


We know almost nothing about St. Joseph. Scripture tells us relatively little, and pious tradition should be taken with a grain of salt.

But what we do know about his life can be a great help and consolation to one who is in the turmoil of discerning his vocation. Consider these points:

St. Joseph had to abandon his own plans for his life. Surely he had dreamt about what sort of life he’d live. Maybe he thought about leading a peaceful, quiet life as a respectable carpenter, a devout man of God with his beautiful and holy wife and many children. But God’s plans differed greatly from his.

St. Joseph receiving instructions from an angel about his vocation.

He had to trust completely in God. Mary informed him that she was pregnant, and he was obviously not the father. That put him in a tight spot. How would he handle it in a respectable manner, avoiding disrepute for Mary? Then an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him to take Mary as his wife, and even what to name the Baby. One must either be a little crazy or have great trust in God to listen to an angel from a dream!

He couldn’t just adapt his life slightly. After Jesus was born, St. Joseph was told to flee the country…by another angel in a dream. A few years later, when he returned to Israel (at the prompting of a third angel in a dream, no less), he discovered he couldn’t live in his hometown of Nazareth because Herod’s son was king there. Following the vocation God gave him required St. Joseph to radically alter his life.

The Holy Family flees to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath.

He didn’t have the qualifications. St. Joseph wasn’t immaculately conceived, as was the rest of his family. His imperfections must have made him seem alarmingly unsuited to his vocation. Despite this, God loved (and trusted!) St. Joseph enough that He gave this lofty vocation to him. And St. Joseph trusted that God would provide for what he lacked, and accepted the call regardless of his painful knowledge of his own shortcomings.

Anyone discerning his vocation encounters these same difficulties: having to trust God, difficult life changes, leaving our comfort zones and our plans behind, awareness of our own faults. But St. Joseph can be a patron to those who are discerning and struggle with these difficulties. Despite human weakness, his simple and ardent faith and love of God led him to embrace his vocation, and he became one of the most revered saints in the Church!

Pray to St. Joseph to help you open yourself to the possibility of God’s call, no matter how crazy or difficult it might seem.

Prayer to St. Joseph for Vocation Discernment

O Great St. Joseph, who were docile to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, obtain for me the grace to know the state of life to which God, in His Providence, is calling me. Do not allow me to be deceived with regard to so important a choice, upon which depends my happiness in this world, and possibly even my eternal salvation. Obtain for me knowledge of the Divine Will and faithfulness in accomplishing it, so that I may embrace the state of life to which God is calling meand which will lead me to a happy eternity. Amen.