Saint Joseph, Foster Father of Jesus
Husband of Mary, Foster Father of Jesus,
Feast Day: March 19,
Patron of: the Universal Church, Belgium, Canada, China and Peru, of
workers (May 1st), fathers, the poor and craftsmen, and of a happy death.
Symbol: Infant Jesus, monstrance, chalice,cross, lamb, Bible, ladder, tools, dove,
lily, rod, plane,carpenter's square
Saint Joseph was chosen by God to be Jesus's father on earth. God knew that Jesus would need a foster father to raise him and teach him. The Bible tells us that he was a 'just man.' That means he was a good man, honest, fair, and God-loving.
When it was discovered that Mary was with child, Saint Joseph wondered what to do. St. Joseph and Mary were betrothed (formally and legally promised to each other) but not yet living together (married).
An angel appeared to him in a dream and told him not to worry, that the child was the Messiah, conceived by the Holy Spirit. Joseph was to be her husband and protect the child as He grew. Joseph decided to trust the angel and God. He married Mary and took her into his home.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the angel appeared to Joseph again, warning him that the Child was in danger. Joseph obeyed the angel's message again, and took his family to Egypt to escape from Herod's soldiers. After many years, the Holy Family finally returned to their home village of Nazareth.
Not much else is known about Saint Joseph, the 30 years between the Nativity and the beginning of Jesus' travelling and teaching are called 'the hidden years.' The only other event the Bible tells us about the Child Jesus' life and about Saint Joseph is the Finding in the Temple, when Jesus was missing for three days and finally Joseph and Mary found Him in the Temple teaching the scribes and elders.
Imagine how worried they must have been! God had told them to look after the Child, and they lost him in a crowd. Saint Joseph must have felt that he hadn't done a very good job. When they found Him, they scolded Him a little and returned home to Nazareth. After this, Jesus returned home with Mary and Joseph and 'was subject to them.' That means he was obedient and respectful of their parental authority.
Saint Joseph was probably older than Mary, and probably died before Jesus began his ministry. As a saint in Heaven he still acts as a husband and father to his family and the Church, and will intercede for us on many occasions. He is invoked for aid in selling homes, for help to the poor, support and protection of fathers and families and is the patron of many countries. In 1870 Pope Pius IX declared him patron of the Universal Church.
Editor's Note: The difference between betrothal and marriage is not well understood in modern times. A betrothal was similar to an modern engagement, in that it was a period of preparation for married life, but unlike an engagement, betrothals were considered legally binding and therefore not easily broken. Also, betrothals took place in a formal ceremony, not in an informal private moment as do engagements today. Only after a marriage ceremony would the couple begin living together as man and wife, and be considered married.
With regards to the Annunciation and Incarnation, this is an important distinction. To ensure that there is no doubt that Mary's child was conceived of the Holy Spirit, it was necessary that the Incarnation take place during the betrothal period, when Mary was formally promised to Joseph, but before the marriage, when they were living together as man and wife. Today, the betrothal and marriage are both done in one ceremony and the couple begin living together immediately. For Mary and Joseph then, they were "married" in a modern sense at the time of the Annunciation, but the marriage had two stages, and only in the second stage would they know each other as man and wife. Mary then was not an "unwed mother" as we understand that expression today.
Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster father of our Blessed Lord was a descendant of King David. This fulfilled the scripture prophecy that the Messiah would come from 'the house of David.' Of all the men in the world throughout history, a simple village carpenter named Joseph was the one chosen to help raise the Child Jesus to adulthood. In his faithful, loving care was entrusted the childhood and youth of the Redeemer of the world.
Not much more is actually known about the life of Saint Joseph. But we are sure that he must have been a good and honourable man to be so favoured by God. After the Mother of God herself, no one has ever been so blessed with virtues as Saint Joseph. In purity of heart, in chastity of life, in humility, patience, fortitude, gentleness and manliness of character, he shows us the perfect model of the true Christian.
Because Saint Joseph was the representative of our Heavenly Father on earth, because he acted as Christ's father in His life on earth, he is the divinely appointed head of the Holy Family. The Holy Family; of Saint Joseph, The Blessed Mother and the Son of God is the beginning and the model for the great Family of God, His Church here on earth. In this way, Saint Joseph is father to all of us.
A model for fathers, Saint Joseph is invoked as a protector of the family. A carpenter by trade, he has been declared the patron saint of all working people, of craftsmen and of the poor. He is the model of a perfect Christian life and the patron of a happy death. His patronage also extends over the Mystical Body of Christ, over the Christian family, the Christian school, and all individuals who in their need appeal to his charity and powerful intercession, especially at the hour of death.
Saint Joseph is such a well known and well loved saint, that there is an abundance of material available about him. Societies and books spread his devotion, huge churches honour his name. We recommend 'Joseph the Silent' by Micheal Gasnier, O.P, (P.J Kennedy and Sons, New York 1961) and the apostolic exhortation 'Redemptoris Custos, Saint Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church' by John Paul II, 1989.
Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, Canada is a famous landmark and attraction for pilgrims from all over the world. The story of it's construction and the life of Blessed Andre Bessette, the simple and humble brother who had it built, is an inspiration. Many miraculous cures had occurred at this shrine. It can be 'visited' at Saint Joseph's Oratory.
Saint Joseph is popular and venerated in many countries around the world. His feast day is celebrated with parades, processions, feasts in the town square, and enactments of the Holy Family's searching for an inn in Bethlehem. In some places, his feast day is observed as a holy day of obligation. Customs and traditions to celebrate his feast can be found in 'Catholic Traditions in Cooking' by Ann Ball (Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN, 1993)
Prayer to Saint Joseph
Almighty God, You entrusted to the faithful care of Joseph the beginnings of the mysteries of man's salvation. Through his intercession may Your Church always be faithful in her service so that Your designs will be fulfilled. Amen.
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