Not The Average Joe

Today, March 19th, is the Super Solemnity of Saint Joseph, the Most Chaste Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (phew, long title!), aka: a well-deserved break from Lent! That’s right boys and girls, today is a solemnity, which means it’s a little oasis from your Lenten penances. It’s also my patronal feast day, so I thought I’d write a post for this occasion and share some art from Daniel Mitsui:

[Feel free to click the artwork to see more about it at the artist’s site.]

The artwork above depicts St. Joseph’s second dream from the Archangel Gabriel, telling him to take Mary and Baby Jesus into exile… into Egypt to escape the murderous Herod (Matthew 2: 13-23). St. Joseph had three such dreams in all, and I’d invite you to check your copy of the Gospel of Matthew to see what I mean.

Which then brings me to why St. Joseph is not your average Joe. Instead, St. Joseph was an intense man of love, made even more intense because his beloved was the stunning and gorgeous Virgin Mary. In fact, as Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said:

“When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.”

In other words, the woman inspires the man on how to love her and others. In many ways, the woman’s beauty shows her man a glimpse of how ravishing her Creator is. The woman’s wisdom, intuition, faith, dignity, reverence and steadfastness hints at the level of wisdom, intuition, faith, dignity and steadfastness that the man needs to have in order to impress her. She sets the standards, and if he loves her, then he will rise.

And Mary’s standards were sky high. She was good enough for God to want her to be His mother, and her goodness inspired Joseph’s goodness. So here we see a chain: God inspired Mary, and Mary inspired Joseph. And if this logic led to the holiest of families, then we can conclude:

Ladies, get close to Jesus! Be inspired by God, be filled with the Holy Spirit, inspire the gentlemen in your lives to rise to higher standards. Don’t settle for wimps or pimps, don’t settle for idiots or cowards. Don’t settle for an average Joe. Be truly beloved.

Gentlemen, get out there and meet women who have high standards! Ask the Lord to give you the strength to rise to those heights… to the heights of being lifted on a cross and willing to die for your bride. Don’t live a wimpy or pimpy lifestyle, don’t be an idiot or a coward. Don’t be an average Joe. Be a true lover.

Now, since Mary was unaffected by Original Sin [by the Lord’s gift of immaculate conception], and since sin causes all ugliness, then we can say that Mary was truly and totally beautiful, through and through. In our fallen world, we’re always tempted to lust after the beautiful, to take it and possess it. This is a selfish thing to do, because beauty is meant to inspire us to be beautiful, and to praise the Creator of that beauty!

So for St. Joseph, I imagine devils constantly tried to tempt him to lust after his super beautiful bride, tried to make him use Mary, abuse her beauty and take advantage of her. But it never happened. He was her most chaste spouse, and for that he is known as the Terror of Demons. Joseph terrified and terrorizes demons because he never fell for their greatest temptations to lust, and so he was above their power. And whoever is above their power is close to Christ.

That brings me to my last point: what do I do with beautiful women? Do I fall for temptation and lust? Well, I used to. For a long time, and for most of my life, that’s all I did. But five years ago I started seeing beautiful women differently. Now, a woman’s beauty prompts me to pray for her. The beauty of women who demons wanted me to lust after now actually inspires me to pray — beauty turned my weakness into strength: beauty saved the beast. In fact, the more captivating a woman is, the more I thank and praise God for her beauty! I ask God to protect her from lust, especially from mine, and I beg God to crown her a saint in Heaven! I ask Mary to keep her safe and beautiful, I ask any saint I can think of to watch over her, and on and on and on I pray and praise.

And in this small way I try to imitate St. Joseph. I want to be a terror of demons, a most chaste spouse.

Because I don’t ever want to be an average Joe.

BONUS: There’s been a bit of debate about whether St. Joseph was a young man or old and grandpa-like. Well, here’s the theory I stand by (best expressed by Fulton Sheen on page 96 of his “The World’s First Love“):

But when one searches for the reasons why Christian art should have pictured Joseph as aged, we discover that it was in order to better safeguard the virginity of Mary. Somehow, the assumption had crept in that senility was a better protector of virginity than adolescence. Art thus unconsciously made Joseph a spouse chaste and pure by age rather than virtue…To make Joseph appear pure only because his flesh had aged is like glorifying a mountain stream that has dried. The Church will not a ordain a man to the priesthood who has not his vital powers. She wants men who have something to tame, rather than those who are tame because they have no energy to be wild. It should be no different with God…Joseph was probably a young man, strong, virile, athletic, handsome, chaste, and disciplined; the kind of man one sees sometimes shepherding sheep, or piloting a plane, or working at a carpenter’s bench. Instead of being a man incapable of love, he must have been on fire with love….Instead, then, of being dried fruit to be served on the table of the king, he was rather a blossom filled with promise and power. He was not in the evening of life, but in its morning, bubbling over with energy, strength, and controlled passion.

And for more about St. Joseph’s age, his possible assumption, and other amazing things, check Dr. Taylor Marshall’s article here.

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Always the Best and Nothing Less

[Daniel Mitsui’s “Wedding at Cana” in the Traditional Japanese style.]

The Wedding at Cana has been special to me ever since my silent retreat experience with Mary in 2011. Only, I didn’t realize how special it was to me until the past year. More and more it appeared in my life. More and more… but here are a few treats from the wedding feast, just in time as America feasts this Thanksgiving week:

—–1) After telling her Son there is no wine left, Mary turns to the servants of the wedding feast and tells them, “Do whatever He tells you.” These are Mary’s last words in the Gospels. No more of her words are recorded, and so these have a weight to them. But, while I prayed the Rosary and contemplated on this mystery, I heard Our Lady say to me: “Do whatever He tells you… when He tells you.”

I immediately realized that just as important as the “what He tells you” is the “when He tells you”!

So often we think we know what we need to do, so we rush, we hurry and end up doing not as well as we could have. I can think of many examples where if I had only slowed down, prepared, planned and waited to the Holy Spirit to send me, I would have succeeded. Learning to follow Divine Timing has been difficult, but I have seen things happen that are nothing short of miraculous. Coincidence just can’t explain away enough these experiences (one of which I may share in more depth later).

CremeBrulee—–2) For the longest time I wondered how strange it was for Jesus to make/serve the best wine after wedding guests were already too drunk to know the difference and appreciate anything. Like, why would anyone give a thousand dollars to an intoxicated person? Or why give a crème brûlée to someone who has a miserable cold and can’t even taste anything? Or why serve the finest sashimi to guests who don’t know their shoes from their sushi?

Well, I asked Jesus this point blank, in front of a group of friends (His beloveds), while He was in the Blessed Sacrament. And I stared Him down. And He sent the Holy Spirit gushing into me. Once I asked, the answer just swelled up from out of nowhere, effortlessly:

Jesus saves the best for us, makes the best for us… always the best and never less… because He is God and because He loves us. Even when we are too drunk to see the greatness of the gifts He has given us, too wasted to understand and use the talents He gave us, too stupid to care for the loved ones He brought us to, too sinful to love Him, even despite all our inadequacy… He still gives us all of Himself and everything good for us.

And if we don’t see the goodness, the greatness, the loveliness and treasure… it’s because we need to get sober. Otherwise, we will miss out on all that Heavenly glory (as Bruce Lee used to say):

“Mary, I have no wine. Please ask your Son to turn my blood into love. Mary, tell Him, ask Him.”

-Evan Pham, as inspired by St. Francis de Sales

Good News about Alma!

Dear Readers!

A few months back, at the debut of the new Samurai Saint Michael the Archangel prayer cards, Daniel Mitsui (the artist) had a little daughter born premature at one pound and seven ounces.

But just last week, “Alma was discharged from the hospital on Friday 17 January, and is home now. “

That’s right! Our prayers have been answered, and thanks be to God. If you can’t tell, I’m smiling inside and out! Please read the good news from the artist himself, and please keep up with your prayers for Alma and her beloveds, and for other parents and children everywhere.

P.s. Mr. Mitsui has a great behind-the-scenes look at the work and labor that went into his Battle in Heaven piece.

Mr. Daniel Mitsui's depiction of Revelation 12 in the Traditional Japanese style.

Mr. Daniel Mitsui’s depiction of Revelation 12 in the Traditional Japanese style.

Samurai Saint Michael

My friends! Allow me to introduce to you four of the mighty archangels in full samurai armored glory:

Mr. Daniel Mitsui's depiction of Revelation 12 in the Traditional Japanese style.

Mr. Daniel Mitsui’s depiction of Revelation 12 in the Traditional Japanese style.

If that piques your interest, then please visit the artist’s page and support him with encouragement, prayers, and then some if you are able! I admire Mr. Mitsui’s diligence to detail, his faithfulness to the Church, and his contribution of beauty into the world. So please, give his site some of your time and enjoy his galleries and his blog!

And don’t forget why Mr. Mitsui even inked this wonderful work of art! Pray to Saint Michael, ask him to guard us from evil, to free us to choose Jesus always.

StMichaelFullPrayer

Repeat after each and every Mass.