“Joseph, her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.” – Mt. 1, 19

A man’s heart has an immense capacity to love, manifested in his strength, courage, and service. This love reaches a fullness when a man loves a woman. Often men dream to be the hero for the woman they love. They want to do all the extraordinary things for her: catch the stars, climb the highest mountains, give her the moon; to save her from danger and dangerous people; to protect her because she is delicate and precious and beautiful. This great masculine capacity to love is often highlighted in these exterior ways and may be the reason why women often think of men as their prince, knight in shining armor, their superman.

But the incredible strength of men is not just meant to be exercised exteriorly. I believe the physical strength is but an image of the great capacities men are capable of wielding interiorly, especially through the practice of virtue. Because, truth be told, taking the moon is not really such a loving act in itself except that it exemplifies the fact that great works accompany a great love.

And these great works are what is demanded in a love that is true, that is, a love that exercises virtue. Depriving oneself of pleasure in the service of a higher good require great efforts. Numerous trainings, constant prayer, and a lot of courage are the basics in acquiring virtue, notably, temperance and chastity. Often, in the end, it can be the most heroic thing a man can do for a woman. To go against the gravity of lust is not so far from climbing the steepest mountains. To save and protect her is the very thing he does when he keeps good boundaries between them. He gives her the moon and all the riches of the world when he gives her a love that is pure and true.

St. Joseph, the protector of the chaste virgin, our Mother Mary, whose birth we celebrate today, shows this incredible strength in what to me is the wondrous display of his richness in virtue. He decides to let her go in silence because he desires to protect and save her. In the middle of what must have been a painful and shakening situation, Joseph has Mary’s best interest at the topmost of his priorities. He was “unwilling to expose her to shame.” She is the very reason why he decided in this way. He desired what is good for her more than what is good for himself. He wanted to love her more than he wanted her love.

This to me is the fruit of his chastity, a love that sacrifices freely and willingly for his beloved. Because as Fr. Stephen Gadberry says, “There are some things in life that you have to do because love requires it of you.” Many of these things that love requires are sacrifices. And chastity is what helps us to make these sacrifices, the great manifestations of love. It helps us to love well, most truly and most fully, the one we love. It is the superstrength that empowers us to be “unwilling to expose” our beloved to what will eventually harm him or her, even if that bad guy can be ourselves. And it can even be the greatest heroic display of love that we can do for another– as Joseph has done for Mary and as Jesus has done for us at the cross.

Image from “Life of Mary (IV): Betrothal to Joseph”