On Thursday, March 19th, we celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Saint Ambrose wrote that, next to Mary, Saint Joseph was the most eminent among the saints and destined by God to be the patron of all Christians. Blessed Pope Pius IX, at a very difficult time in the Church’s history, placed the universal Church under his patronage. In 1870, he declared Saint Joseph the patron of the Catholic Church.
Through the centuries, the Church has honored Saint Joseph. It is an honor that reflects the honor given to him by God: the honor of being the husband of Mary and the earthly father of Jesus, the honor of being the protector and guardian of the Holy Family. Saint Joseph cared for Jesus with great love and was united to Mary in the most intimate and chaste marriage.
I think that the greatness of Saint Joseph is discovered in his faith. We see his marvelous faith in the Gospel when he received the message of the angel in a dream, telling him to take Mary into his home. The angel revealed to him that it was through the Holy Spirit that the child had been conceived in Mary. The Gospel tells us that when Joseph awoke, “he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” Joseph’s obedience of faith was like Mary’s at the Annunciation. Without hesitation or objection, Joseph did as the angel commanded him.
We see Joseph’s obedience of faith later when the angel ordered him to take Mary and the child Jesus and to flee into Egypt. He willingly obeyed, trusting completely in God. Throughout his life, Saint Joseph carried out God’s will faithfully. He carried out his duties with perfect fidelity to God’s will. He is an appropriate patron for all of us and for the Church, not only because of his loving care of the Holy Family, but also because of his example of faith. Like Mary, he heard the word of God and responded to it in faith. He served the Lord faithfully and did whatever God asked of him. Pope Saint John Paul II wrote that “already at the beginning of redemption, after Mary, we find the model of obedience made incarnate in Saint Joseph, the man known for having faithfully carried out God’s commands.”
The Gospel uses the adjective “just” or “righteous” to describe Saint Joseph. This word means that Joseph was a man of moral virtue who was obedient to the law. Even more, it describes his attitude of complete openness to the will of God. He allowed himself to be guided by the Lord. He answered God’s call and fulfilled his mission responsibly and attentively. With great love and care, he watched over Jesus and Mary. He fulfilled his vocation as a faithful guardian of the Holy Family.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, celebrated the Mass beginning his ministry as Bishop of Rome on March 19, 2013, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph. At that Mass, he reflected on the mission God entrusted to Joseph: to be the protector of the Holy Father and the protector of the Church. He spoke about how Saint Joseph exercised this mission with humility and fidelity. Saint Joseph responded to God’s call readily and willingly. He teaches us to do the same. Pope Francis reflected on his and our call to be protectors, like Joseph, of Jesus, of creation, of every human person (especially the poor), and of ourselves.
Last year, on Saint Joseph’s Day, Pope Francis focused on Saint Joseph as a model for parents, especially fathers, and educators. Saint Joseph’s Day is appropriately Father’s Day in Italy. Pope Francis reflected on how Saint Joseph watched over Jesus’ human development, his growth, as Saint Luke tells us, “in wisdom, age, and grace” (2:52). The Holy Father encouraged fathers to be close to their children, as Saint Joseph was close to Jesus, to be their guardians and teachers in age, wisdom, and grace.
Together with Mary, Joseph raised Jesus. Joseph was a great example to Jesus. He taught Him the wisdom that is nourished by the Word of God. Pope Francis says: “We could ponder how Joseph formed the little Jesus to listen to the Sacred Scriptures, above all by accompanying him on Saturday to the synagogue in Nazareth.” This is the vocation of every father in the formation and education of his children: to help them to listen to God’s word, to bring them to Sunday Mass, to pray with and for them, to help them to grow in the grace of God.
Saint Joseph also taught Jesus in his work. Though we have little information in the Gospels about the hidden years of Jesus in Nazareth, we can imagine how Joseph instructed Jesus in his trade of carpentry. He was a real dad who spent time with his son, was close to him, a guardian of his growth in age, wisdom, and grace.
Saint Joseph is a great model for all fathers and for all the faithful. He always persevered in his faith in God. He was a just man and very responsible in living out his vocation. He was a protector and guardian. Saint Joseph continues with this mission from heaven. As he protected and guarded Jesus, he now protects and guards Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church. I encourage your devotion to Saint Joseph.
As we celebrate Saint Joseph’s Day on March 19th, let us learn from this great and humble saint. May he intercede for all fathers and for the whole Church! Saint Joseph, pray for us!
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