Standing with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, and also the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Angels, St Joseph tends to fade into the background somewhat. And this is of course understandable and to an extent quite right. However on this his day we do well to consider this man.
We do not have too much information about him beyond what the gospels tell us. His lineage is that of the House of David, but he is a humble artisan. He is betrothed to the Virgin Mary, who like him is of a poor Nazareth family. He is a carpenter; a man of wood and tools. We are told he was an upright man. For Joseph to be espoused to Our Lady, we can assume that her parents must have regarded him as a suitable husband for their remarkable and highly virtuous daughter.
As the drama of the Incarnation unfolds in the Gospels (especially Matthew and Luke) St Joseph receives his vocation by an angel in a dream. Here we receive a clue that St Joseph was a man of faith and discernment. He knew the truth of the dream, and he acted upon it decisively. How remarkable was the message the angel gave him! Yet Joseph obeyed his Lord through the Angel. This obedience led him to accept his betrothed in marriage as the Mother of God. As a husband and as guardian of the divine child he protected them from the forces of evil. In Bethlehem he thwarted Herod’s plan to eradicate challenges to the throne of David by once again trusting the message of the Angel in a dream. He led his family to Egypt for a time and then home to Nazareth where he could return to his trade. In the hidden life of Jesus’ childhood (hidden except for the incident in Jerusalem) we can only surmise that the fatherly and manly example of Joseph would positively influence the human nature of the Christ-child. We presume that Joseph died some time after Jesus had reached 12 years old (for he was with them on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem) and before Jesus’ own death, for Christ places His mother into the care of St John on the cross.
St Joseph was a man chosen by God and set apart. It was under his guardianship and fatherly care that Jesus was introduced into the world. Yes we honour and are indebted to the Virgin Mother because through her came the Christ, but after her we owe special gratitude for Saint Joseph. Christ does not now of course deny Joseph that intimacy, reverence and honour He had shown His foster-father on earth.
St Joseph is not patron, I believe, to any particular matter in human life (like other saints) except that he is patron of the whole Church. As he was chosen by God as guardian to the Holy Family so St Joseph continues to be guardian of all the brothers and sisters of Christ by adoption. Let us call on his intercession for protection from all evil and for guidance to walk the right path. May all earthly fathers find in him a worthy and chaste example to follow. May all men find in him an example to follow of honour and virtue.
Act of consecration to St Joseph
I consecrate myself to you, good Saint Joseph, as my spiritual father; I choose you to rule my soul and teach me the interior life, the life hidden away with Jesus, Mary, and yourself.
I consecrate myself to you as my guide and model in all my duties so that I may learn to fulfil them with meekness and humility: with meekness toward my brethren, my neighbour, and all with whom I come in contact; with humility toward myself and simplicity before God.
I choose you, good Saint, as my counsellor, my confidant, my protector in all my difficulties and trials. I do ask to be spared crosses and sufferings, but only from self-love which might vitiate their value by making me vain over them.
I choose you as protector for our family. Good Saint Joseph, be our family’s father as you were the father of the Holy Family at Nazareth……I do not ask for temporal goods or for exterior success, nor for the joy of seeing it great and powerful. I ask only that it serve with fidelity and devotedness its Divine King.
For myself, I shall honour and love and serve you with Mary, my mother; never shall I separate her name from yours in my love.
Gladly would I be like you, Saint Joseph, a poor carpenter, unknown and despised, food for the roots of the tree, the Master’s gardener who never leaves the garden, who knows nothing but his plants, who loves only his flowers and sees only their fruits, and dies in the corner of his hut in the arms of Jesus and Mary. We do not know the place of your burial, so we cannot honour your remains. You leave behind you only your mantle of poverty and humility.
O Jesus, give me Joseph for a father as you have given me Mary as a mother. Fill me with devotion, confidence, and filial love. Listen to my prayer, please. I know that you will. Already I feel more devout, more full of hope and confidence in good Saint Joseph, your foster father and my adopted father.
by Saint Peter Julian Eymard