Saint Joseph, as the leader of the Holy Family and foster-father of Jesus, offers couples navigating the cross of infertility a beautiful model of spiritual fruitfulness. Saint Joseph was called to live a life of humble obedience, radical trust, immense purity of heart, and servant leadership within the Holy Family. As a married man, he was not called to be a biological father, but instead to the highest of callings, to be the spouse of the Blessed Mother and the foster father to the Son of God, and subsequently spiritual father to us, the living Church.

When St. Joseph learned of Mary’s miraculous conception of Jesus, he was filled with reverence before the mystery of this divine presence within his spouse and utterly humbled at the call to be the husband of so holy a wife and father to the Son of God. But rather than run from this high call, St. Joseph humbly accepted this mystery that he did not understand and in trustful obedience to God, entered the fullness of his vocation as husband and father. Just as Mary gave a whole-hearted “yes” at the Annunciation to the Angel Gabriel, Joseph too was called to his own fiat after the Angel told him, in a dream, to not be afraid to take Mary into his home. Joseph courageously said yes, just as Mary had, to the mysterious plan of God for their marriage and their family, releasing control and trusting in God’s providential care for them.

On the path of infertility, we may wrestle with God for months or even years, questioning why He has asked so much from us, or we may seek to run away from this cross. St. Joseph provides an example of bowing before the mystery of that which we do not understand—in our case, our cross of infertility. He encourages us to humbly place ourselves under God’s mighty hand, trusting that God has goodness, grace, and fruitfulness for us in this seemingly barren place, even when we can’t understand the path before us.

Through his humble obedience, quiet dedication to his family, and tender love of Jesus and Mary, God brought forth immense fruitfulness in the life of St. Joseph and in that of the Holy Family. After the Presentation in the Temple, when Simeon prophesied the suffering ahead for Jesus and Mary, imagine the suffering St. Joseph endured for decades, knowing that he would not be present to protect and support Jesus and Mary during Christ’s Passion and death. In his book, Consecration to St. Joseph, Fr. Don Calloway highlights how St. Joseph experienced a silent martyrdom after the prophecy of Simeon. This silent martyrdom was deeply fruitful, as St. Joseph as a loving husband worked to prepare Mary’s heart for the suffering of the Passion. His love and self-sacrifice became a source of consolation to Our Lady during the Passion. St. Joseph models for us how God can transform years of suffering into lasting spiritual fruitfulness in our lives and in the lives of our family.

At the time of the Holy Family, large families with many children were greatly desired and thought to indicate God’s favor and blessing, while barrenness was looked at as a great curse. The Holy Family stood as a contradiction to this cultural perspective; they were a family with one child, the Son of God, and two parents who were called to live their marriage deeply united in heart and mind but with immense purity of heart and bodily chastity. Saint Joseph embraced his small but holy family and was content to be given the gift of Jesus. He humbly accepted his call to be a spiritual father and focused on forming his Son in the ways of God’s law and Jewish tradition.

St. Joseph invites us to embrace the “smallness” of our own families, whether they consist of two spouses or include one child or fewer children than we initially hoped for. He encourages us to have gratitude for the gift we have been given in our spouse and in the child or children God might give. He invites us to bear spiritual fruit in our service to each other as did the Holy Family. Our marriages and smaller families may feel countercultural in a sea of large Catholic families, but we are invited to be witnesses to the vocation of marriage as our primary call, to a unique way of being pro-life, and to the superabundant gift that children are. Our very longing is a witness. Our infertility serves as a reminder that children are not something we are entitled to because we’re “good Catholics,” but rather are immense undeserved miracles from God.

St. Joseph was the head of the Holy Family, whole-heartedly entrusting Jesus and Mary to the protection and guidance of God the Father. Invite St. Joseph into your family life and into your infertility journey. As many saints and Popes have encouraged, Go to St. Joseph! Run to his tender fatherly care in your joys and in your sufferings. Allow St. Joseph to be a loving father to you, as he encourages you to embrace the mystery of God’s will in your life and intercedes for you to have the grace and courage to entrust your family and infertility journey to God’s loving care.

Lenore and her husband Bobby were married in 2017 and are parents to two lost to miscarriage. They live in a small town in Ohio with their Australian shepherd, Augie.