by Clemens Pater
St. Joseph, whose Solemn Feast Day is March 19, was a man chosen by God to share in the mystery of the Incarnation. God called him to be the Husband of Mary, Guardian of the Redeemer, and Head of the Holy Family. He is a model of masculinity; of chastity and purity; of holiness and the interior life; of hard and honest work; of justice.
In the Old Testament we hear the account of a different Joseph, and his brothers in Egypt. At the time of the famine, Pharaoh sends the starving people to Joseph, his appointed representative. He tells them, “Ite ad Ioseph,” “Go to Joseph” to receive their grain. The Church uses these same words in reference to St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church.
St. Joseph had great dignity. He is God’s representative. He receives from God the Father the divine commission to guard the Son of God, His Son, and to watch over and provide for Mary and Jesus. He has dignity as an image of God the Father. As the Head of the Holy Family, he is the father of the “Trinity on Earth,” which resembles and is in some way analogous to the Most Blessed Trinity.
St. Joseph is holy. He is obedient to the will and plan of God. He is called the “just man,” not only because he seeks to do what is right toward Mary. Joseph is that faithful and prudent steward whom God “set over His household to give grain at the proper time.” (Lk 12:42) Joseph may be called “just,” because he had the infused grace which was his eternal justification before God.
St. Joseph is pure. He accepts and protects the perpetual virginity of Mary, loving her with deep human love, and also with a true spiritual love. St Augustine writes, “The marriage of Mary and Joseph was a sacred contract wherein they gave themselves to each other. They reciprocally gave their virginity to each other – and in the triumph of purity – they gave each other a mutual right: to safeguard the other’s virtue.” They were the protectors of each other’s virginity. This was their fidelity and the contract that bound them.
St. Joseph is humble: accepting his weighty duties to care for the Holy Family. Can we imagine? Jesus is God, Mary is sinless, and yet, Joseph is appointed the “lord of the family.” He must make decisions and direct Mary and even Jesus. Mary calls him her husband; Jesus calls him His father. Every husband and father humbly accepts this “lordship” over the family, not because he is perfect, but because God chooses him for this unique manly role and responsibility in society.
To St. Joseph belongs the privilege of naming the redeemer: Jesus. St John Chrysostom says that many prophets, speaking under the influence of the Holy Spirit, give names to the Messiah: Emmanuel, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace. But, he says, it is Joseph who – under the influence of the Holy Spirit - reveals the “adorable name”[Jesus] to the world and gives it to the Infant God. (cf. Mt 1:25).
St. Joseph prays. He is the model of the interior life. He listened to all the directions of the Angel – of the Holy Spirit. He is told the greatest mysteries of the Incarnation, the Perpetual Virginity, and he receives and follows the instructions for the protection of the Child and His Mother from those who sought to kill Jesus. We can imagine that Joseph kept a silence and prudence about Jesus, about Mary. He held a great secret, but did not go about recklessly revealing this to others. Joseph, it seems, like Mary, holds all these mysteries and ponders and cherishes them in his heart. (Lk 2:33,51)
St. Joseph also had heard the prophecy of Simeon (Lk 2:33) and shared the pain of the prediction of Jesus’ Passion and Mary’s sorrows. Joseph shares Mary’s sorrow when the 12 year old is lost in Jerusalem, and he hears the words, “I must be about my Father’s business.” This must have caused him distress, confusion.(Lk 2: 50) Nonetheless he continues to guide the little family, “… and Jesus was subject to them.” (Lk 2:51-52)
St. Joseph is patron of a happy and holy death. St Peter Julian Eymard says of Joseph, “He gave his entire life to the service of Jesus and died in his arms.” There can be no doubt that Our Lord took him to heaven. The Church confirms this in her liturgy and pronouncements. We pray through his intercession, for those dispositions that will help us to die a holy death.
In the midst of a confused and an often militantly contrary culture, we invoke St. Joseph’s intercession – together with that of Mary – to bless and preserve the integrity of marriage, and God’s design for the family. May he likewise pray for all individual families, and especially husbands and fathers, that they may live their call from God faithfully.
On December 8, 1870, in a decree entitled Quemadmodem Deus, Blessed Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph “Patron of the Universal Church.” Let us go to Joseph, Ite ad Ioseph,” that the Church herself may safeguard the meaning, integrity, and authentic mission of marriage and the family.
Litany of St Joseph
St. Joseph, PRAY FOR US
Renowned offspring of David, Pray for us
Light of Patriarchs, Pray for us
Spouse of the Mother of God,
Chaste guardian of the Virgin,
Foster father of the Son of God,
Diligent protector of Christ,
Head of the Holy Family,
Joseph most just,
Joseph most chaste,
Joseph most prudent,
Joseph most strong,
Joseph most obedient,
Joseph most faithful,
Mirror of patience,
Lover of poverty,
Model of artisans,
Glory of home life,
Guardian of virgins,
Pillar of families,
Solace of the wretched,
Hope of the sick,
Patron of the dying,
Terror of demons,
Protector of Holy Church, Pray for us!
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, Spare us O Lord,
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord,
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us!
He made him the lord of his household,
and prince over all his possessions.
Let us pray
O God, in Your ineffable providence You were pleased to choose Blessed Joseph to be the spouse of Your most holy Mother; grant, we beg You, that we may be worthy to have him for our intercessor in Heaven whom on earth we venerate as our Protector: You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
Saint Joseph, pray for us!