St. Joseph, Head of the Holy Family

by Kathleen Glavich, SND on June 26, 2013

in Blogs

This week Pope Francis called for St. Joseph’s name to be inserted in the Eucharistic Prayers. It only took 2,000 years! Today people desperate to sell their houses, bury Joseph’s statue upside-down in the ground. (I hope they know that after the house sells they are supposed to set the statue in a place of honor in their new home.) Some people turn Joseph’s statue to face the wall when they want a favor. Joseph probably just smiles at the simple faith of these people. He probably also smiles at our portrayal of  him as an old man (an attempt by artists to protect Mary’s virginity). Yet, Joseph is known as the greatest saint after his wife, Mary. Joseph was chosen above all other men to be the legal father of the Son of God. He taught Jesus what it meant to be a man. Still, Joseph often stands in the shadows. He doesn’t even say one word in the Gospels. But a close reading of the nativity narratives reveals his heroic virtue. When Mary, Joseph’s betrothed, became pregnant, he was dumbfounded and heartsick. He planned to follow the Jewish law and divorce Mary quietly. After letting Joseph stew awhile, in a dream God told him to marry Mary because her child was of the Holy Spirit. Joseph struggled to do what was right and then listened to the Lord. Not every man would allow his espoused to leave town for three months to care for a relative. Joseph respected Mary’s wishes and supported her in her ministry. He must have missed her.

When Joseph complied with the decree to go to Bethlehem for a census, he took Mary, nine months pregnant, with him. He must have been terribly worried about her. I imagine he deeply regretted not having a better shelter for the birth of her holy child. Afterward, Joseph heeded a dream and fled to Egypt with his family. As a refugee in a foreign land, he had to find work when he did not even speak the language. Another dream revealed when it was safe to return. Over and over Joseph’s obedience let God’s plan unfold.

Again Joseph followed the law and took Jesus to the temple to consecrate him to the Lord. At that time Simeon prophesied that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction and that Mary would suffer. How these dire predictions must have disturbed and pained Joseph. When Jesus was twelve and was lost in Jerusalem for three days, imagine Joseph’s anguish. This legal father of Jesus fulfilled his vocation admirably. He was “abba” for the Son of God on earth.

Joseph’s responsibilities endure today. He is the patron of the universal Church (the mystical body of Jesus). He, who was a carpenter or construction worker, is also the patron of workers.  And we pray to Joseph for the grace of a happy death because presumably Jesus and Mary were present at his death.

What role do you give Joseph in your life? How has he helped you?

 

 

 

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