St Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido Reni, c 1635
Who was this man named Joseph…who became the foster father of our Lord? Joseph of Nazareth, son of Jacob, descended from the line of David. He was a carpenter, Mary’s husband and Jesus’ foster father. That is about all we know…
Joseph, second only to the Blessed Virgin Mary in strength of faith, was given leadership of the Holy Family as a direct assignment from God. Imagine what strength of character it must have taken to fulfill his destiny? He had to provide all that was necessary for Jesus, the son of God, to grow in grace and wisdom. And he was “righteous” in the administration of his vocation (Matthew 1:18). But for many, the essence of this humble carpenter seems to elude us.
Read the Nativity story here…and here…
As I reflect on this father/husband/man and the Nativity story, I think of the virtues Joseph possessed in order to live the life he was called to lead…could I have undertaken such a Divine responsibility? Could you?
- Obedience…to God through a dream he is told by “an angel of the Lord” not only to take his betrothed Mary home–in other words, to conduct the concluding legal Jewish wedding rite and accept the child with which she is pregnant as holy, to name him Jesus, and to assume legal paternity
- Patience…with his betrothed, with Jesus, the life he accepted after marrying Mary
- Love…of God, Mary and Jesus, and all generations to come
- Righteousness…leading a life that is pleasing to God
- Prudence…wisdom, insight, and knowledge to exercise sound judgment
- Humility…to accept Mary and his calling by God
- Respect…of Mary and her circumstances
- Wisdom…to raise and guide such a special child
- Perseverance…persistent determination in face of many difficulties (see tolerance)
- Tolerance…during many hardships-the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be enrolled as required by the political authorities; the birth of Jesus in a stable; the flight to Egypt and return, the move to Galilee
- Hope…belief in a positive outcome of his dreams
- Faith…to believe without reason that his vocation was father of Jesus
Jean-Paul Sartre tried to describe Joseph at the crib in Bethlehem: “I would not paint Joseph. I would show no more than a shadow at the back of the stable, and two shining eyes. For I do not know what to say about Joseph, and Joseph does not know what to say about himself. He adores, and is happy to adore, and he feels himself slightly out of it. I believe he suffers without admitting it. He suffers because he sees how much this woman whom he loves resembles God; how she is already at the side of God. For God has burst like a bomb into the intimacy of this family. Joseph and Mary are separated forever by this explosion of light. And I imagine that all through his life Joseph will be learning to accept this.”
Madonna and Child with St. Jerome, St. Joseph and St. Anne by Lorenzo Lotto c. 1534
In the Roman Catholic and other traditions, Joseph is the patron saint of workers and has several feast days (see Saint Joseph’s Day). He was also declared to be the patron saint and protector of the universal Catholic Church (along with Saint Peter) by Pope Pius IX in 1870, and is the patron of several countries and regions. He is a rare example of a saint from the early days of the church whose devotional role has tended to increase in the centuries since the Middle Ages.
A 9-day Novena to St.Joseph is here…
I wish you joyous fruits of the Christmas season until I return…