Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
There are a great many remarkable “fathers” in the Scriptures, all who have played an important role in our Salvation. Recall Abraham, our Father in Faith, the Patriarch Joseph, the great liberator, Moses, David, Israel’s first King, Solomon the Wisest of all the Kings, as well as the many prophets who have nourished our awareness of God’s presence in our world and in our lives…to name just a few!
Today we remember and celebrate the father who is arguably the most important father to ever live, St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus. The Scriptures don’t tell us a lot about him but do present us with important gifts he had.
First of all, he was described as a “just” man. In the Scriptures a man was described as “just” because he embodied all the virtues held so dear by the faith community: integrity, competence, compassion, gentleness, honesty, patience, piety, and an openness to God’s invitations to take risks.
A notable part of his character was his responsiveness to his dreams. It was in his dream that he was encouraged to welcome Mary into his household even though she was already pregnant. It was because of his dream that he fled with Mary and her newborn son into Egypt to flee the wrath of Herod. It was in his dream that he was told to return to Israel.
We hear again of Joseph when he and Mary brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve years old to dedicate him to God. When they lost track of him for three days on the way home, we can only imagine his fear and foreboding. What great relief he must have felt when he and Mary found his lost son teaching in the Temple. He, then, returns home to Nazareth to raise Jesus and we don’t hear much more about him. He seems to have been a skilled carpenter, a quiet man who loved his wife and son with all his heart. What a great example for a father!
What a great model for all of us. No doubt he had a profound influence on the man Jesus became. Fathers are always a great influence on their children, for good or for ill. And so, St. Joseph is the patron of the Universal Church. His love of Christ, his devotion to Mary, and his unreserved faithfulness to God’s call are all powerful examples of the path to holiness. We remember St. Joseph today with gratitude and deep admiration.
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. is the director of retreats at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.