“…And Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary; of her was born Jesus who is called Christ. 18 This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being an upright man and wanting to spare her disgrace, decided to divorce her informally. 20 He had made up his mind to do this when suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ 24 When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home…” – Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24
Today the church celebrates the Solemnity of Joseph, Spouse of Mary. What do we know about St. Joseph? The Gospel above is pretty much everything. We know that Joseph was espoused to Mary the daughter of Ann and Joachim. We know that Joseph was the son of Jacob and that he was most likely older in years, possibly widowed. We know that Mary was found to be with child and because of the laws of the time, Joseph could have turned her over to be taken and and stoned for infidelity. But scripture also tells us that Joseph was a just man and that he loved Mary. In fact he loved her so much, that he couldn’t bring himself to have her stoned so he decided to divorce her quietly. He was a man who probably was different than others of the time, he didn’t think the same way about certain laws and other regulations. Joseph also was known to have had angels appear to him in dreams, instructing him on what to do. Joseph, upon hearing the angel’s command took Mary into his home and cared for her. He fled with her and the child after his birth to Egypt, so that he would be spared from the sword. Later on in the Gospels we know that Joseph was a carpenter, due to someone saying of Jesus: “Isn’t this the son of the carpenter?”
Why do we know so little about St. Joseph? Didn’t he ever do anything or say anything else? One of his titles is Joseph, the Silent. We refer to him as silent is because scripture never records him as saying anything. Why would Joseph never say anything, what could the Lord be trying to work through him? Mary his wife is recorded as saying multiple things in the scriptures, one of the first being at the Wedding in Cana: “Do whatever he tells you.”
Perhaps Joseph is known as the silent, because of situations like the one afore mentioned. (Which, he was not around for, as it makes no mention of him.) Joseph in the beginning always accepted the will of God with a beautiful sense of humility, peace, and obedience. Joseph from the beginning did what ever God asked of him. He submitted his will to the Father, with utter faith, devotion, and love.
There is a common phrase associated with St. Joseph, often painted above Altars and shrines dedicated to this great saint. “Ite Ad Joseph” (Go to Joseph) Why should we go to Joseph? What purpose does this great saint have in our lives? We go to Joseph to ask him to intercede for us before the throne of his foster son, we ask him to help us to follow Christ more closely. We ask him to help us always receive our Lord worthily in communion and to keep him safe within our bodies. We go to Joseph asking for holy purity and holy chastity. Commonly depicted with holding a Lilly, it is the tradition of the church that Joseph was chaste, having no relations with Mary, thus keeping her perpetual virginity intact. We ask Joseph to help us to defend the faith. In 1870 Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph as the protector and patron of the universal church. At the moment of death we also ask St. Joseph to grant us the grace of a happy death, reconciled to God and in the peace of Christ. St. Joseph is known as the Terror of Demons, thus we fly to his protection in times of temptation, asking for his defense and intercession.
St. Joseph is such a great man. By his silent witness, he shows the role of the Father in the family. Joseph was as all fathers are called to be: “Father, family protector, provider, humble servant, silent witness, defender of the innocent, and much more. Let us pray to St. Joseph on this, his great feast, asking him for his help and intercession in our lives. Let us ask him to give us an example of how to live our vocations well and answer them with a firm yes.
St. Joseph, Terror of demons, Protector of the Church, Foster father of Jesus, Patron of a happy death, Guardian of Mary and Jesus, we beseech you to intercede for us before Almighty God and grant us the graces to know our vocation, serve God willingly, and be filled with holy purity, always seeking to discern the Spirit’s will in our lives. Amen.