For those of you who are unaware, St. Joseph is the patron saint of WWCS. I selected him as our patron because he is also the patron saint of the Universal Church. Today is Holy Thursday. There will no doubt be many posts today on the Last Supper, Holy Eucharist, Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and other related topics. There will also undoubtedly be many posts on Lent, as the Lenten season wraps up, and the Easter season comes upon us. A post on St. Joseph seems out of place today. Yet, I believe such a post is important, because we need to remember the very important role St. Joseph played in the life of Christ; and the important role he plays in the life of the Catholic Church.
Although there are apocryphal books which tell us how it was that Joseph was selected to receive the honor of, not only being the spouse of the Virgin Mary, but also of being the foster father of Jesus, we do not know for sure how this came about. All we know for sure is that Joseph did become the spouse of Mary. Though Jesus had no human father, Joseph possessed the rights of a father over Jesus. As spouse of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph had the rights of a husband over Her. In a marriage, one gives ownership of one’s reproductive capabilities over to one’s spouse. This includes any fruit of these capabilities, even if they were produced by another prior to the union. As the man of the house, St. Joseph would have had the right to rule over any children who lived in the home with him as a father. Thus, St. Joseph is important because he was both the spouse of the Virgin Mary, and the foster father of the Son of God made man.
St. Joseph is also important because of his obedience. When he found out that Mary was pregnant with child, and he knew he was not responsible for this, St. Joseph wanted to “put away” or divorce the Virgin Mary. This is only a natural reaction. First, we must assume that Mary had made a vow of perpetual virginity. This is the only real way to explain Her words to St. Gabriel the Archangel in Luke 1:34. In addition, it is clear the Virgin and St. Joseph had neither consummated, nor had any intention of ever consummating, their marriage. So, Mary being pregnant would be both a shock and a scandal to Joseph.
Furthermore, Joseph intended to divorce Mary quietly. Why quietly? Well, the penalty for fornication or adultery was the same: stoning. Though St. Joseph might have been upset that Mary was pregnant-and not by him-he evidently had no desire to see Her killed for Her alleged misconduct. This is a quality in St. Joseph that, I think, is often lost or forgotten.
As Mary’s husband, Joseph alone would have had the right to sleep with Her. It would have been well within his right to have Mary put on trial, and have Her stoned, for either fornication or adultery. The fact that he did not do this shows the holiness and gentle nature of the man. Mary’s vow of perpetual virginity was no doubt known to at least St. Joseph. No doubt, too, She had already obtained a reputation for holiness. Why, then, would She have committed either fornication, or adultery? St. Joseph certainly pondered this question himself. Maybe he considered that the deed was forced upon Her? In any case, all knew Joseph was that Mary was pregnant, and he was not responsible. He opted not to assert his right to have Her punished, and he simply determined to divorce Her quietly.
No sooner had St. Joseph made this decision, then an angel appeared to him. The angel informed St. Joseph that Mary had been faithful. Her pregnancy involved no sinful deed. No, it was a miraculous conception! St. Joseph was informed that it was God who placed the seed in the Virgin Mary’s womb. Her virginity was still intact. Joseph was made aware that the child would be the long awaited Messiah. But wait! There was more!
As the husband of Mary, Joseph would be responsible for the child. We do not know precisely how much Joseph knew or understood about Jesus. He knew Jesus was the Messiah, but did he really grasp what this meant? Did St. Joseph know Jesus was God incarnate? We simply do not know. What is certain, however, is that Joseph was aware that Mary’s Son was miraculously conceived, and that He was the Messiah. What a responsibility! A lesser man would have panicked, doubted, and, ultimately, probably rejected such a great responsibility. Not St. Joseph, though! He knew it was his job, as the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to raise Her Son. If he didn’t take care of Mary and Her Son, then who would have? This was the purpose for which St. Joseph had been created. It was a purpose unique to him. God creates us all for our own unique purposes. If we fail to fulfill these purposes, they will be left undone. St. Joseph surely knew that here was the purpose for which he had been created. He was to protect and love, not only the Mother of the Messiah, but the very Messiah Himself! What a man Joseph was to accept such a responsibility!
It was a good thing, too, because very soon Mary and Jesus would need that protection. Matthew 2:13-8 tells us that, not long after Jesus was born, King Herod wanted to kill Him. This was out of jealousy and fear. Hero’s was told that the Messiah, the King of the Jews, had been born in Bethlehem. Hero’s was notorious for his paranoia, cruelty, and savagery. So it isn’t surprising to find out that he ordered the killing of every child two years old and younger in Bethlehem. What Hero’s hadn’t counted on is the assistance of God on behalf of Jesus, and the obedience of St. Joseph. At the warning of the angel, St. Joseph took Mary and Jesus to into hiding in Nazareth. They only returned to their own land after the angel gave them the all safe.
We are not certain when St. Joseph died, or how he died. It is tradition that Joseph died not long before Jesus began His public ministry. Even if this is wrong, we know that St. Joseph led a very holy life. We also can surmise that he gave a great example of manhood to Jesus. Joseph undoubtedly taught Jesus the carpentry trade, and showed Him what hard work was all about. Joseph also showed Jesus what it was to always obey the will of God, no matter what. Surely Joseph told Jesus the story of how His Mother miraculously conceived Jesus, and how an angel prevented Joseph from divorcing Her. The only thing we really need to know about St. Joseph, however, is that he always obeyed the will of God.
As with all the saints, Joseph is now an intercessor for us in Heaven. He holds a place in Heaven higher than any other saint save the Mother of God Herself. In fact, Mary is called the Mediatrix of all graces. Every grace we receive comes from God, through Mary. What many people don’t know, however, is that all graces also come from St. Joseph. St. Joseph had one of the most difficult jobs of anyone not named Jesus or Mary. His obedience to God’s will in every situation certainly merited a high position in Heaven. I mean, how many people can claim to have lived, raised, protected, and loved Jesus as his own child? Only St. Joseph can say this!
Just as St. Joseph was the foster father of the Son of God, and His protector, so Joseph must also be the foster father of the Church (as it were), and Her protector. Would not this warrant placing all graces in the hands of St. Joseph? I believe it would! I hope that all members of WWCS will have a very great devotion to St. Joseph, and call upon him everyday to supply us with the graces we need. This why I selected the Litany of St. Joseph and the Prayer to St. Joseph for the Triumph of the Church as two of the required daily prayers for WWCS members. Cherish and recite these prayers with love for the foster father of Jesus, and receive many great graces!
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
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