As we celebrate St. Joseph’s feast day this month, it is a great time to look at the life of this wonderful saint. There are so many examples to look at from his life and what is said about him in the Bible. Disclaimer: St. Joseph is the patron of my home parish, so I may be a little biased. 🙂
The Bible doesn’t say much about Joseph’s backstory except that he does descend from the line of Abraham, as seen in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel. So we do know that Joseph was legitimately the father of Christ on earth, but why is that relevant? Was Joseph even needed since Mary conceived of the Holy Spirit? Of course he was. God had him part of the plan since the beginning.
Let’s take a step back, though, and look at things from Joseph’s perspective. At the beginning of the gospel of Matthew, it says he was betrothed to Mary, which essentially means that they were more than engaged, but not quite married by today’s terms. Joseph was a devout Jew and a carpenter, just trying to make a living, when out of the blue, Mary is pregnant. It’s important to note he and Mary were not living together yet. There could have been a million thoughts running through Joseph’s head, but nobly, he decided to take the high road. His plan was to divorce her without telling anybody, so as to protect her from the fatal punishment of adultery. But in his dream that night, an angel appeared telling him to take Mary in because her son is the Messiah and conceived through the Holy Spirit. Now, Joseph could have easily just passed it off as a weird dream, said “adios” to Mary, and moved on. But he didn’t, thanks to his faith in God. This is the first and most important takeaway I think we can get from St. Joseph. He completely entrusted himself to the Father, so he could fulfill his own role as a father.
St. Joseph was also a perfect foster father of Christ because he was a protector. I like to picture Joseph as a super buff guy with grisly facial hair and callused hands from his carpentry work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he tenderly loved Mary and Jesus, but this man was what stood between any mugger/thief/rapist and his family. It’s cool to envision pregnant Mary on horseback on the journey to Bethlehem and Joseph always by her side, warding off any danger. Akin to being the Holy Family’s protector, St. Joseph is our spiritual protector as well. If we call upon his help in defending against a particular sin we struggle with, or just any evil, he will come to our aid. In fact, one of the Church titles of St. Joseph is “Terror of Demons.” Yes. Demons are literally terrified of this man. He guards us with the same passion he guarded Mary and her precious child.
An interesting trait of Joseph was his humility. He’s hardly mentioned in Scripture after Jesus was born, so we can infer he didn’t have a very boisterous personality. Quite frankly, Joseph was just an ordinary guy. But he was holy in his own way. St. Joseph quietly and faithfully worked hard to provide for his family, never taking any credit. I would imagine while he taught Jesus carpentry skills, he also taught him hard work simply by example. He was totally accepting of playing the background role and putting God’s plan before his. This is an inspiring example we can all emulate in our daily lives. Sometimes you just have to get a truckload of homework done, or be kind to the people who get on your nerves, and do it all for the glory of the Lord. This is living with the humility of St. Joseph.
It doesn’t take a genius to take a look around and see that the world is lacking real men. This takes a toll on the family life, especially. Our culture is in desperate need of good fathers and good men who serve God and others, who are loyal to their word, and who put others before themselves. St. Joseph did all of these and I believe the more we pray to him and follow his example, the more we will see him interceding on behalf of all of us.
St. Joseph, by your prayers and guidance, please help us to do the work that our Heavenly Father has asked of us and so come to the rewards of His kingdom. Amen.
“Freedom” by Everett Fritz