On the morning of Dec. 8, 2020, I awoke to learn that Pope Francis dedicated the year ahead to St. Joseph, the man whom God the Father chose as the guardian of his Incarnate Son, and the spouse of his Mother Mary.
This news delighted me because so often we overlook St. Joseph and the example he set for us: as a man of faith and integrity; as a model of fatherhood and family life; as a guardian of the household at Nazareth and the household of the Church. In fact, Pope Francis reminds us that 150 years ago, Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church. What can we learn from St. Joseph’s virtues?
First, St. Joseph was a man of faith and integrity. Sometimes we forget how difficult St. Joseph’s unique vocation really was. He was betrothed to Mary, but she was found already to be with child. Normally, that would have been the end of the engagement and a woman in that situation would be exposed to shame.
In the strength of his compassion, St. Joseph was unwilling for that to happen. But what should he do? In a dream, the Lord announced to Joseph that he should have no fear of taking Mary as his wife, for her Child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and was to be the long-awaited Messiah. When Joseph awoke, he did as the Lord had asked. His deep faith led him to obey the Lord and to fulfill his special vocation with honor.
Here was a servant upon whom God could rely to fulfill his purposes. Thus, St. Joseph teaches us to put faith at the center of our lives and to live our vocations with a godly integrity.
Second, St. Joseph was the husband of Mary and the guardian of Jesus. As we recall the story of Jesus’ birth, let us take note of the pivotal role St. Joseph played. Scripture does not record his words, but it does convey the strength of his tender love for Mary and his fatherly care for the Child of her womb. When the innkeeper told Joseph that he had no room, Joseph provided for his family as best
he could. Imagine how he had to improvise to prepare a crude stable for the birth of a child, indeed, the Child Jesus.
Imagine Joseph’s role in protecting his family, not only against the elements, but also against the machinations of Herod who sought to kill his Child. What must have gone through Joseph’s mind, when, at the Presentation in the Temple, Simeon foretold that Jesus would be “a sign of contradiction” and that Mary’s heart would be pierced with “a sword of sorrow”?
Returning to Nazareth, Joseph provided for his family by working as a carpenter and shared his daily work with Jesus. In all these things and much more, Joseph remained strong and true as Mary’s spouse and as Jesus’ guardian.
Thus, St. Joseph teaches us the central importance of the vocation of marriage and family, a vocation that demands hard work and sacrificial love.
Finally, just as St. Joseph watched over the household in Nazareth, so too he watches over the Church Universal. At a time when the Church is losing members and is beset by divisions and scandals, we need St. Joseph’s prayers more than ever.
St. Joseph’s example and intercession should encourage each of us to do our part in building up the household of the Church by a spirit of prayer, by a willing spirit of service, and by our witness to Christ.
St. Joseph, Husband of the Mother of God and Patron of the Universal Church, pray for us!
For more information about the Year of St. Joseph in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, click here.
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