The feast of St. Joseph is a wonderful day to celebrate the transformation of a humble carpenter into one of the greatest saints the world has ever known.
Everything we know about St. Joseph comes from Scripture; it is from these words that we can begin to build a picture of the kind of man St. Joseph was.
The Gospel writers Matthew and Luke seem to have two differing accounts of Joseph’s genealogy. However, both agree that his descent was from the House of David. This was confirmed when the angel appeared to him and greets him as “son of David,” a title also used for Jesus.
We know from the Gospel of St. Matthew (13:55) that Joseph was a carpenter, or at least the original word used in the Gospels is ‘tekton’ which means “craftsman” or “artisan”; so he may have built houses and done other work as well; we have to assume he was quite clever with his hands.
It appears that Joseph was not a man of wealth. When Jesus was taken up to the temple to be circumcised, Joseph only presented the poor man’s offering of two turtle doves to be sacrificed and not the specified lamb. However, when Mary and he were looking for lodgings in Bethlehem he went to the hotels and hostels looking for a place to stay, and we have to assume he had the money to pay for them, so they were not destitute either.
We see in his handling of Mary when he discovers she is with child a kind, gentle and compassionate response to her situation. Even though he is very distressed he chooses not to shame her in public, but to put her away quietly so that no harm comes to her, knowing that a woman caught in adultery would most likely have to face being stoned to death.
After discovering what he assumes is Mary’s betrayal, we see St. Joseph responding to a dream. An angel appears to him and tells him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.
I find two things interesting about this. The first is, how many of us would respond to a dream? So often we shrug them off. Admittedly they may disturb us – but would we act on them? The second is Joseph’s complete lack of hesitation; straight away he goes and takes Mary as his wife. Now if St. Joseph noticed his wife was pregnant, you can be sure the rest of the village was gossiping about it. In the face of what you feel would be heavy criticism, Joseph acted courageously and brought her into his own home, thereby giving his future son legal recognition .
Even though the gospels reveal very little about this man that God chose to take care of his son, we can see from his actions that St. Joseph was a God-fearing man. He always acted on what he felt he was being asked to do. He protected his family in times of adversity, when Herod was out to kill his son. He moved them to an area of safety when he felt they were still in danger. He created a home and a livelihood to provide for them.
St. Joseph took his role as foster-father to the Christ child seriously. He taught Jesus his own trade; we know this from Mark 6:3 when the Pharisees speak of Jesus as the “carpenter”. Jesus is also well versed in his Scriptures, think of the time when his parents found him in the temple talking and listening to the elders and they were amazed at his knowledge. All these things begin to build up a picture to the type of man Joseph was.
Tradition teaches us that St. Joseph had died before Jesus’ public ministry had started. This is for two reasons: there is no mention of him at the wedding feast at Cana or in any other gospel story about Jesus’s public ministry, and when Jesus is dying on the cross he entrusts his Mother Mary into his apostle John’s care. This would not have happened if she had had a husband or other children to take care of her.
St. Joseph is a man for our times. If ever there was a need for a good role model for our sons, St. Joseph fill this spot. His example of courage, obedience, love and wisdom illustrates a few of his most admirable attributes. Let us encourage all of our young people to seek to follow his example.
Tags: St Joseph