Marking the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph being declared patron of the universal church, Pope…
St. Joseph: A model for discerning the will of God
The Year of St. Joseph soon will end. Catholics have heard about the Lord’s foster father all their lives. He has been revered for centuries.
Look at geography: San Jose, California; St. Joseph, Missouri; St. Joseph Counties in Indiana and Michigan; and the St. Joseph River in the Midwest all bear his name, as do St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and dozens of parishes, colleges, schools, and hospitals across the country and around the world.
The Sisters of St. Joseph and the Josephite Fathers, who long have served the Lord magnificently, honor him as their patron.
All well and good, but what is known about St. Joseph, other than his role as the Blessed Mother’s spouse and that he protected her son?
His name appears infrequently in the Gospels. Frankly, the name of Mary is not often found. Not to slight the Mother of God, or St. Joseph, the evangelists were determined to make known the facts about Jesus, not his relatives. What did the Lord say or do?
Nevertheless, the Gospels reveal much about St. Joseph, beginning with his humanity. Surprised that Mary was pregnant, he did not know what to do. Any husband in similar circumstances can appreciate the situation.
Joseph is one of us. He experienced the same emotions that any person feels. Here, another aspect of his personality gleams. Accepting the message from God that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit, Joseph protected her.
The birth of her unborn child was all-important, because the child was the Son of God and would be the Redeemer of the world. Joseph took Mary, far along in her pregnancy, to Bethlehem. He took no chances.
Warned that Herod threatened the infant Lord, Joseph moved at once to remove Jesus and Mary from harm in the flight into Egypt.
He was active in his religion. Not every Jew was able to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, just as many Catholics never get to Rome or Lourdes. Yet Joseph went, taking with him Mary and the young Jesus, who was lost for a while, discussing salvation in the Temple.
Joseph’s unquestioning trust in God and faith in the divine identity and mission of Jesus are examples for all who love the Lord.
From the earliest days of Christianity, believers have known, and esteemed, St. Joseph. The Gospels are not the only records from ancient times. Other documents, dating almost to apostolic times, supply details about St. Joseph.
When he was married to Mary, he was a widower, with children from an earlier marriage. The Gospels mention these children as the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus. Under Jewish custom, and the law, even if Mary was not their mother, these persons would have been recognized as the siblings of Jesus.
Nowhere do the Gospels refer to them as Mary’s children. Christ was her only child. She always was a virgin, a belief shared by Christians from the earliest days of the Church — indeed, held by the great Protestant reformers John Calvin and Martin Luther.
The oldest art depicts Joseph as an elderly man holding the Child Jesus.
The Gospels do not place St. Joseph at the marriage feast of Cana, or anywhere later at Mary’s side, so it is presumed that he died before the Lord’s public ministry began, probably with Jesus and Mary at his side, so the Church presents him as a special patron for the dying.
In the Gospels, St. Joseph is described as a “righteous” man. It does not simply mean that he was honest and God-fearing. The grace of God filled his soul because of Joseph’s unswerving faith.
St. Matthew’s Gospel traces his ancestry to David and the prophets. He was part of God’s plan to redeem the world, and he willingly accepted his role.
We all are part of God’s plan. Our challenge is to accept the role. St. Joseph is our perfect model.
Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s chaplain.