Finding Courage and Inspiration in St. Joseph

WANTED:
A humble servant who can be trusted to raise the divine being who will save humanity from original sin.
Duties include: loving and protecting him and his mother from great danger.
Special skills: must be a proficient carpenter.

Few people would readily apply for the job that St. Joseph faithfully accepted — adopted father of Jesus. But, if we look, we see people all around us every day who are taking on great risks for God’s will. 

“To be entrusted by God to raise up God’s son was no small task,” said Mike W., a Catholic Charities employee.

Nearly 26 years ago, Mike accepted God’s will into his life when he and his wife Diane started their family of six children, four of whom are adopted, both domestically and abroad. “No small task,” indeed.

When the couple got married, they didn’t set out to have a large adoptive family. They got pregnant right away with their daughter Maggie, but then couldn’t get pregnant again for four years. They had friends who had adopted children and they encouraged Mike and Diane to consider it. ⊲

“I was apprehensive at first,” Mike said. “Though there were examples of other families around us and we had even talked about the idea of adopting while we were dating, making the decision for our own family at that moment was a process.” 

“However, we realized God looks for a willing heart. We saw where God was at work and we wanted to join Him in what He cares about, bringing the orphan into a family.”

The couple opened their hearts to God’s will and interracial adoption when they adopted Ian. Two years after God blessed them with Ian, they welcomed Jaden, who is their biological son. The two boys are best buddies, both tall and enjoy sports together.

Diane befriended the pregnant mother of their fourth child at church when the mom decided she was not in a place in her life to parent her child. Diane was able to be at the birth of Olivia. Before her birth, the nurse asked the birth mom what she wanted to name the baby and her birth mom said it wasn’t really her place because she was Mike and Diane’s child. After some coaxing from Diane, the birth mother said she wanted to name the baby Olivia. Diane stood in disbelief as this was the very name she and Mike had chosen weeks before. It was a moment of confirmation for everyone that this was God’s will too. Mike said it reminds him of the powerful moment God told adoptive father Joseph that Mary would have a son and she should call him Jesus.

“There is a need for adoption and orphan care and we are thankful the circumstances in our lives led us in this direction. Some aren’t called to adoption, but we were called to it personally. God showered us with grace that we could feel, that this is what God called us to do and we are beyond grateful for the opportunity to be family for each of our kids.”

MIKE W.

“Giving the adoptive father that power to name the Son was meaningful,” Mike said.

At this point, Mike and Diane had four children under the age of eight — two biological and two adopted — but Mike said God wasn’t done with them yet. The couple decided they would adopt internationally two more times, so Nikki and Jaxian were adopted from the same orphanage in China. 

The kids are thriving, and a listener can hear the proud father smiling when he talks about his kids and their interests — whether it’s playing piano, soccer or football, or singing in concert, or mission work, or coffee barista work.

That’s not to say their lives aren’t complicated. At one point the kids attended five different schools and during COVID homeschooling, the family had five teenagers in the house at once. The challenges that come with a large adoptive family means there is a demand for a supportive network of friends and family. 

The family takes in all that life brings as part of the adventure and the parents don’t shy away from challenges. Four years ago, they purchased a piece of land in Arvada with a run-down home that could have been featured on a TV renovation show. 

The realtor tried repeatedly to talk the couple out of buying the home and Diane’s father, a construction framer by trade, walked in the home and turned right back around and walked out, Mike said. But the couple saw great potential and could envision turning it into a wonderful home for the family of eight.

Everyone in the family has played a role in the transformation from wielding the sledgehammers for demolition to moving rocks in the yard and planting a garden. That willingness to take risks to follow God’s will is a spirit that is shared among the family. Mike sees it reflected in Joseph’s faith and actions as he took on the risk of God’s will, brought Jesus into his household and taught him a skill as a carpenter — all just to please the Lord.

“We have a saying in our family, ‘see the need, meet the need,’” Mike said. “There is a need for adoption and orphan care and we are thankful the circumstances in our lives led us in this direction. Some aren’t called to adoption, but we were called to it personally. God showered us with grace that we could feel, that this is what God called us to do and we are beyond grateful for the opportunity to be family for each of our kids.” 

Courage in Action
Mike and his family try to live out the virtues of St. Joseph. When you listen to the Lord for your calling, please consider that the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal helps fund more than 40 ministries, like Catholic Charities, to help bring Christ to those in need. Put your courage into action with the appeal: archden.org/givenow

COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.


Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.