St. Joseph: A Man After God’s Own Heart
March 19th is the day dedicated to celebrating the feast of St. Joseph, spouse of Mary and foster-father of Jesus. St. Joseph is one of the best-known saints even though everything we know about him essentially comes from short passages in the early chapters of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke.
He is celebrated and remembered around the world in various ways. Popular in Italy is the St. Joseph’s Table – a table decorated with flowers and bread in honor of St. Joseph. In Poland, Portugal, Italy, and Spain Father’s Day is celebrated in conjunction with St. Joseph’s feast day.
The faithful pray to him for many intentions as he is the patron saint of unborn children, expectant mothers, fathers, workers, travelers, immigrants, carpenters, the Universal Church, and a happy death.
The Church honors him with many titles. Traditionally, his statue is placed across from a statue of Mary on side altars in parishes. He is remembered in the Divine Praises during Benediction at the end of Eucharistic Adoration. San Jose and St. Joseph are two of the most common names for parish churches. He has appeared alongside Mary in several of her apparitions.
St. Joseph is clearly very important, so what wisdom can this silent foster father of the Son of God teach us?
He is a man of no words in the Sacred Scripture, but he is a man of action. Those actions resound throughout the centuries with brilliant truth to inspire us to imitate him.
If you are the man chosen to raise God made man and to love and serve the Mother of God and Queen of the Universe, you must be a man worth imitating.
Joseph was a man of true virtue and true devotion to God. He was like his forefather, King David, a man after God’s own heart. As David was entrusted with the care of the Ark of the Covenant, so Joseph was entrusted with the care of the New Ark of the Covenant and the True Presence of God – Jesus. King David was not allowed to build a house for the Ark, but it was a task left to his son, Solomon. Joseph, however, was asked to fearlessly take Mary and her child conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit into his own home. This Son of David made way for the Messiah humbly and joyfully in his home and in his heart.
How can we imitate this stouthearted man of God?
The Litany of St. Joseph provides many amazing titles to meditate upon, but there are several that are particularly outstanding for our day and age. St. Joseph is a great model for men and women alike, but especially for men now as many fear we are experiencing a crisis in authentic masculinity.
We would do well to remember that Jesus learned how to be a man from watching and imitating Joseph. Mary followed the lead of her husband. Men and women ought to do what Jesus and Mary did in all things. So let us now ponder some of Joseph’s roles and qualities.
Head of the Holy Family
Though Jesus is the Word Incarnate, though he is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, he allowed himself to be subject to Joseph’s care and protection. He loved and trusted Joseph to be the best earthly father to him possible.
Joseph, for his part, loved Jesus wholeheartedly. The angel revealed to him that he would name the child Jesus “for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). The wise men come after Jesus is born to pay him homage, and Herod attempts to kill the little child.
Could Joseph be blind to the fact that his child was considered a rival king? Was the word messiah on his mind and heart?
Regardless of how much Joseph knew or understood about Jesus’s person and role in Salvation History, he certainly knew and understood that he was called by God to love and protect him devotedly.
In addition to loving and caring for Jesus, Joseph loved and cared for Mary. She was already his betrothed when the Annunciation took place. She was already chosen by him.
How much more did he love her as time went on and he saw her become a mother? How much more did he love her as he witnessed her goodness and virtue?
Venerable Fulton Sheen said, “No husband and wife ever loved one another so much as Joseph and Mary.”
As a man and woman of greatest virtue, they were completely free to love one another in the truest sense. Joseph teaches us to love Jesus and Mary, and Jesus and Mary teach us to love Joseph.
Especially in a time when the dissolution of the family has become a commonplace wound, we need to cling to the Holy Family.
May they serve as role models, guides, and intercessors during the tribulations we experience in our own families. May they serve as encouragement for building up the civilization of love by building stronger and healthier families.
Joseph Most Obedient
Joseph is obedient to the will of God. He conforms himself to God’s will rather than resisting it, even when it is difficult and frightening.
He is juxtaposed against so many of his forefathers who stubbornly rejected the Lord and refused to listen to his word. Joseph obeys immediately after hearing from the angel three different times in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
He responds with alacrity and no mention is made of resistance or distrust of God’s goodness. He depends on and trusts the will of the Lord.
It is Mary’s obedience that is drawn out at the beginning of St. Luke’s Gospel, and it is Joseph’s that shines through at the beginning of St. Matthew’s Gospel.
They are together a couple wholly conformed to the will of God. They desire to please the Lord and they desire to accomplish his will for their lives above all else.
This is a virtue often forgotten today. Many are encouraged to do things their own way, on their own terms, without a care given to the consequences for others.
Even many Christians do not believe that they must conform themselves to the teachings of Christ and his Church. They do not believe that how they live their lives makes a serious impact on the salvation of their souls.
However, the Old Testament teaches us time and time again that it is obedience to his word that God desires. He desires it for his own glory and for our own good. It never turned out well for the Israelites when they chose to worship idols, to loosen sexual morals, or to imitate other cultures instead of following the laws given to them by God.
May we take a lesson in obedience from Joseph and Mary so that the Lord’s will may be done in us.
Terror of Demons
This may seem a strange title at first. How is a poor carpenter supposed to terrify demons?
His life of virtue.
The demons chose pride and rebellion, Joseph chose humility and obedience. The demons try to tempt man to sexual immortality, Joseph chose chastity. The demons try to tempt man to foolishness, and Joseph chose prudence. The demons try to tempt man to injustice and cruelty, and Joseph chose justice.
He was the chosen protector of the Immaculate Virgin and the Son of God, so he had to be a fierce and diligent guardian. He was chosen to teach Jesus how to be a man, and so he must have been the greatest of merely human men.
He was chosen to lead the Holy Family in prayer – one person of the Holy Family was the Second Person of the Trinity and the other was the Spouse of the Holy Spirit – so he had to be a man of deep prayer and constant trust in the Lord’s goodness.
The demons are terrified of his goodness, and thus Joseph is the man to call on in moments of temptation and confusion.
May we allow the witness of this great saint to penetrate us this year on his feast day with new vigor. May we allow St. Joseph to become ever more a father and friend on whom we can rely and whom we can imitate.