Spouse of the Blessed Virgin, Virginal Father of Jesus
and Patron of the Universal Church
Saint Joseph was by birth of the royal family of David, but was living in humble obscurity as a carpenter, until God raised him to the highest office ever accorded a mortal man, by choosing him to be the spouse of the Virgin Mother, the virginal father and guardian of the Incarnate Word. Joseph, says Holy Scripture, was a just man. He was innocent and pure, as became the husband of Mary; he was gentle and tender, as one worthy to be named the father of Jesus; he was prudent and a lover of silence, as became the master of the holy house; above all, he was faithful and obedient to divine calls.
His conversation was with Angels rather than with men. When he learned that Mary bore within Her womb the Lord of heaven, he feared to take Her as his wife; but an Angel bade him put his fear aside, and all doubts vanished. When Herod sought the life of the divine Infant, an Angel told Joseph in a dream to fly with the Child and His Mother into Egypt. Joseph at once arose and obeyed. This sudden and unexpected flight must have exposed both him and his little Family to many inconveniences and sufferings; the journey with a newborn infant and a tender virgin was long, and the greater part of the way led through deserts and among strangers. Yet Saint Joseph alleges no excuses, nor inquires at what time they were to return.
Saint Chrysostom observes that God treats in this way all His servants, sending them frequent trials to clear their hearts from the rust of self-love, but intermixing with afflictions, seasons of consolation. It is the opinion of the Fathers that when the Holy Family entered Egypt, at the presence of the Child Jesus all the oracles of that superstitious country were struck dumb, and the statues of their gods trembled, and in many places fell to the ground. The Fathers also attribute to this holy visit the spiritual benediction poured on that country, which made it for many ages fruitful in Saints.
After the death of King Herod, of which Saint Joseph was informed in another vision, God ordered him to return with the Child and His Mother into the land of Israel, which our Saint readily accomplished. But when he arrived in Judea, hearing that Archelaus had succeeded Herod in that part of the land, and apprehensive that the son might be infected with his father’s vices, he feared to settle there, as he would otherwise probably have done, for the education of the Child. Therefore, directed by God through still another angelic visit, he retired into the dominions of Herod Antipas in Galilee, and to his former habitation in Nazareth.
Saint Joseph, a strict observer of the Mosaic law, journeyed each year at the time of the Passover to Jerusalem. Our Saviour, in the twelfth year of His age, accompanied His parents. Having participated in the usual ceremonies of the feast, the parents were returning with many of their neighbors and acquaintances towards Galilee, and never doubted that Jesus was with some of the company. They traveled on for a whole day’s journey before they discovered that He was not with them. But when night came on and they could find no trace of Him among their kindred and acquaintances, they, in the deepest affliction, returned with the utmost haste to Jerusalem. We are left to imagine their tears and their efforts to find Him. After an anxious search of three days they discovered Him in the Temple, discoursing with the learned doctors of the law, and asking them such questions as aroused the admiration of all who heard Him. His Mother told Him with what grief and earnestness they had sought Him and asked, Son, why have You dealt with us in this way? Behold, Your Father and I have searched for You in great affliction of mind. The young Saviour answered, How is it that You sought Me? Did You not know that I must be about My Father’s business? In this way Jesus encourages all young persons who are called to serve God to persevere in that high vocation, whatever the cost. But we are told that although He had remained in the Temple unknown to His parents, in all other things He was obedient to them, returning with them to Nazareth, and living there in all dutiful subjection to them.
As no further mention is made of Saint Joseph, he must have died before the marriage feast of Cana and the beginning of our divine Saviour’s ministry. We cannot doubt that he had the happiness of the presence of Jesus and Mary at his death, praying beside him, assisting and comforting him in his last moments; therefore he is invoked for the great grace of a happy death and the spiritual presence of Jesus in that hour.
Reflection. The words of the Pharaoh to those who applied to him for aid, Go to Joseph are fitting for the second great Joseph of sacred history. Saint Teresa of Avila said she never had recourse to him in vain. Saint Joseph, vicar of the Eternal Father upon earth, protector of Jesus in His home at Nazareth, and affectionate lover of all children for the sake of the Holy Child, should be the chosen guardian and model of every true Christian family.
Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 3; The Holy Bible: Old and New Testaments
Saint Joseph, Patron of the Holy Church