The month of March is dedicated to St. Joseph, whose feast day is celebrated on March 13th. During this month, St. Joseph should be our companion in prayer. Foster father of the Savior, and husband of the Virgin Mary, he is a model of purity and patron of husbands, fathers, and workers. He is often invoked as the Patron of a holy death. Let us go to him as Patron of the Universal Church as we pray for the Conclave that will elect the new pope. Let us also pray for the happiness and wellbeing of Pope Emeritus Benedict, whose baptismal name is Joseph.
O most powerful patriach, Saint Joseph, patron of that universal Church which has always invoked thee in time of need; we turn to you as the College of Cardinals gathers to elect a pope. Intercede for the Church that it be granted a shepherd who will walk in the ways of the Lord and whose watchful care will build it into a sacrament of unity, love, and peace for the world.
Our knowledge of Saint Joseph comes from Scripture. He was a carpenter, a working man. He was the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the guardian or foster father of the Lord. He wasn't rich, for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified he offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb (Luke 2:24). Despite these humble means, Joseph came from a royal lineage. Luke and Matthew both mark his descent from King David. Indeed the angel who first tells Joseph about Jesus greets him with the royal title, "son of David.”
When he discovered Mary was pregnant after they had been betrothed, he knew the child was not his but was as yet unaware that she was carrying the Son of God. He knew women accused of adultery could be stoned to death. The compassionate Joseph resolved not to expose her to shame or cruelty. In fact, at the angel’s assurance in a dream, Joseph took Mary as his wife.
After the birth of Jesus, Joseph protected Mary and Jesus by fleeing to Egypt when he learned that Herod sought the death of the divine child. He returned to Nazareth after the danger passed. When Jesus stayed in the Temple we are told Joseph (along with Mary) searched for him with great anxiety for three days. Joseph treated Jesus as his own son. Since Joseph does not appear in Jesus' public life, it is generally believed that Joseph probably died before Jesus entered public ministry.
Joseph is the patron saint of the dying because, assuming he died before Jesus' public life, he died with Jesus and Mary close to him, the way we all would like to leave this earth.
Joseph is also patron saint of the Universal Church, families, fathers, expectant mothers, travelers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers, and working people in general.
Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19 (transferred this year to March 20)
We can imagine that Joseph did not fully understand the circumstances surrounding Christ's conception and birth, but he was able to love what he did not fully understand. It is in this love that his faith and sanctity are revealed. However, the Scriptures are mostly silent in regard to details about St. Joseph. After the story of Christ's birth, St. Joseph seems to disappear from the Gospels. Generations of writers have nonetheless treasured many pious legends about St. Joseph, and the Church assures us that he remains active in the life of the Church to this very day, but in terms of personal details, anecdotes, true life stories, there is silence. Perhaps the silence of St. Joseph is his most profound witness.
Saints are not celebrities, who leverage every detail about their lives so that they might be known and recognized. A saint is someone who, in the desire to be like Christ, is able and willing to disappear into the mission God gives them. For some saints, this mission brings them a great deal of attention. But for most saints, the life of grace involves a very low profile and a death to self that requires an immersion into ordinary circumstances. Saints accept these circumstances becasue they know that it is through the ordinary that God accomplishes the extraordinary!
On May 1, 2013, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments promulgated the decree
by the authority of the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis. The decree instructs that the name of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, should be inserted into Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV. Already on November 13, 1962, Pope John XXIII had inserted the name of St. Joseph into the first Eucharistic Prayer (the Roman Canon), and now that work has been carried foreward to the other three Eucharistic Prayers, initially by Pope Benedict XVI and now confirmed by Pope Francis.
Pious and liturgical devotion to St. Joseph is first recorded with certainty in the seventh century, though reference to him is made in Sacred Scripture and multiple patristic texts earlier than that. A full liturgical Office was established for him on March 19 in the 13th century, and in 1870 he was proclaimed Patron of the Universal Church. Many church writers and several Popes have written of St. Joseph, including the apostolic exhortation by Pope John Paul II entitled R
(August 15, 1989).
draws some of its language from this exhortation, expressing in concise words the role of St. Joseph in the economy of salvation, stating, for example, that St. Joseph "stands as an exemplary model of the kindness and humility that the Christian faith raises to a great destiny, and demonstrates the ordinary and simple virtues necessary for men to be good and genuine followers of Christ. Through these virtues, this Just man, caring most lovingly for the Mother of God and happily dedicating himself to the upbringing of Jesus Christ, was placed as guardian over God the Father's most precious treasures."
Meditations on St. Joseph
Edited from Msgr. Charles Pope's Blog,
"St. Joseph: Model Husband and Father
," on Community in Mission.
A Man Who Obeys God and Clings to His Wife
Joseph was betrothed to Mary. This is more than being engaged. It means they were actually married. It was the practice at that time for a couple to marry rather young. Once betrothed they usually lived an additional year in their parents’ household as they became more acquainted and prepared for life together. Now at a certain point it was discovered that Mary was pregnant, though not by Joseph. The Law provided that if a man discovered that his betrothed was not a virgin, he should divorce her and not “sully” his home. Joseph was prepared to follow the Law’s requirements. However, he did not wish to expose Mary to the full force of the law which prescribed that she be stoned. He thus remained quiet as to his reason for the divorce and Mary would escape such a fate. Failure to divorce Mary would expose Joseph to cultural ramifications. His standing in the community would be harmed. In the divine plan, the Lord of course, intervened. Joseph is told in a dream not to fear and that Mary has committed no sin. Matthew records: When Joseph awoke, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. (Matt 1:24)
Joseph is told to cling to his wife. He “obeys God rather than men.” It takes a strong man to do this especially considering the culture in which Joseph lived. Joseph models strong manhood and has something to say to the men of our day. In the current wedding vows a man agrees to cling to his wife, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or health. Our culture often pressures men to bail out in times of struggle. Joseph shows the way by obeying God over the pressures of prevailing culture.
Joseph—A man who protects his family
Joseph models for men a protective instinct. Our children, like Jesus was, are exposed to many dangers. Our American scene does not feature many physical dangers, but moral dangers surely abound. Fathers, what are your children watching on TV? What are their Internet habits? Who are their friends? What do your children think about important moral issues? Are you preparing them to face the moral challenges and temptations of life? Are you teaching them the faith along with your wife? Are you a passive father, not very involved in the raising of your children? A man protects his children from harm, physical, moral, and spiritual. Saint Joseph models this for every father!
A man whose vocation is more important than his career
The Gospel of Matthew relates that St. Joseph is warned by an angel in a dream:
Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him
(2:13). Joseph may well have had much to lose in this flight. He had a business. Fleeing to a distant land might mean the loss of his business. But Joesph was a father and husband before he was a businessman. His child was threatened and fir first obligation was to Jesus and Mary. Vocation outweighed career. Joseph displas a different priority. Joseph points the way for parents: vocation has priority over career. For fathers especially, Joespeh shows that a man is a husband and father before he is a businessman.
A Man of Work
The Gospels speak of St. Joseph as a "carpenter." The Greek work however, is
(tekton, OS) which can mean more than a worker in wood. It can also refer to a builder or any craftsman. It seems unlikely that Joseph and Jesus would have worked exclusively in wood since wood was rare in the Holy Land and used more sparingly than in our culture. Stone was surely plentiful and so it may be that Joseph also worked with stone as well as wood. Through this work Joseph supported his family. A man is called to work diligently and to responsibly and reliably provide for his family. Joseph models this essential aspect of manhood. Paul felt it necessary to rebuke some of the men of his day for their idleness:
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.... For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ that with quietness they earn the bread they eat.
(2 Thess 310-12)
Joseph is referred to as the Guardian and Patron of the Universal Church. He has these titles for he was these for the Church in the earliest stage, when the "Church" was just Jesus, Mary, and himself. Men especially do well to imitate St. Joseph and invoke his patronage in all their endeavors as husbands, fathers, and providers.