Tag Archives: St. Joseph

St. Joseph, a Saint for Our Times

19 Mar

St. JosephSt. Joseph is one of the few saints to have more than one feast day. He also happens to be my patron saint, so when my wife and I were getting married, she asked which feast day I celebrated. Before I had the chance to answer, she mused out loud, “Definitely not St. Joseph the Worker.” She was right, though I’ve teased her ever since about this apparent commentary on my work habits!

The Church has traditionally honored St. Joseph during the month of March, so it seems appropriate this month to draw some insights from this great saint, especially today on his feast day.

At the outset of Luke’s Gospel, we read that part of John the Baptist’s role in preparing the people for the imminent coming of the Messiah was to turn the hearts of fathers to their children. In St. Joseph, we find a father whose heart is already exquisitely calibrated.

God was able to accomplish great things through this eminently faithful man of service. Priests, deacons, and laymen do well to pattern their lives after the beloved “Guardian of the Redeemer.”

While St. Joseph wasn’t a priest in the usual sense, this “just man” has much to say in response to today’s crisis of fatherhood–both the spiritual fatherhood of priests and the fatherhood exercised in the home.

St. Joseph was entrusted with the care of the Holy Family, the sanctuary of love where Jesus spent His hidden years. This family was, in embryonic form, the Body of Christ, containing both Christ and the mother of those who would come to believe in Him and keep His commandments (see Rev. 12:17). For this reason, St. Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, is considered the patron saint of the Universal Church.

Some men think St. Joseph got it all wrong. This is the age of Viagra, no-fault divorce, and the “sexual revolution.” The goal seemingly is sex without responsibility, whereas St. Joseph accepts the serious responsibility of marriage and family while foregoing the pleasure of marital intimacy.

Yet, St. Joseph got it exactly right. He tells modern man that it is possible and necessary–in fact, noble and manly–to live in accordance with the Church’s teachings on sexual morality. Certainly this does not mean that all men, particularly married men, are called to perpetual continence. But all men according to their state in life are called to chastity and at certain times in their lives (e.g., before marriage and possibly at times during marriage) are called to continence.

The marital act is a sacred expression of one’s total gift to one’s spouse and must not degenerate into a merely recreational, selfish act of self-gratification. St. Joseph gives himself totally to Mary. He embodies true love and marital fidelity to his beloved spouse even in the absence of physical intimacy.

A significant element of fatherhood is playing good defense–in other words, protecting the precious treasures that have been entrusted to us. Wolves in many forms pose serious threats to families and parishes. Our response as men of faith must not be fear or anxiety in the face of such threats, but rather vigilance and courage.

During this month devoted to the Guardian of the Redeemer, may all of us fathers draw renewed strength from this holy hero. St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church, pray for us!

This article appeared earlier this month in The Leaven, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

Pope Francis’ Intentions for March 2014

1 Mar

St. JosephFollowing are the Intentions of our Holy Father Pope Francis for the month of March, courtesy of the Apostleship of Prayer:

  • Respect for Women.   That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
  • Vocations.   That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate  their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.

In addition, since the 16th century Catholic piety has assigned entire months to special devotions. Because of the special feast day of Saint Joseph on March 19, this month is devoted to this great saint, the foster father of Christ. As Pope Leo XIII of happy memory wrote a little over a century ago, “It greatly behooves Christians, while honoring the Virgin Mother of God, constantly to invoke with deep piety and confidence her most chaste spouse, Saint Joseph. We have a well-grounded conviction that such is the special desire of the Blessed Virgin herself.”

One way to honor St. Joseph this month is to pray the Litany of St. Joseph, individually or as a family. And if you’re looking for good Lenten reading, you might consider Blessed John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on St. Joseph called Guardian of the Redeemer.

St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church and protector of the Holy Family, pray for us!

The Righteous Man

19 Mar

St. JosephToday we celebrate the solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. While it’s not a holy day of obligation in the United States, it is nonetheless one of the most popular feast days in the Church.

While we honor St. Joseph as the model of husbands and fathers, we acknowledge that he considered the possibility of divorce:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit . . . ‘” (Mt. 1:18-20).

I find that many people, perhaps thinking as 21st-century American Catholics, believe that Joseph wants out because he naturally assumes that Mary has been unfaithful. Is there another way to look at it, though? Consider the following commentary from the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible:

Two interpretations attempt to explain why Joseph decided to separate from Mary. They give opposite answers to the question: Who did Joseph think was the unworthy partner in the betrothal?

The Suspicion Theory

This view holds that Joseph suspected Mary of adultery when he discovered  she was pregnant. The troubling news led him to seek a divorce in accordance with Deut. 24:1-4, although he wished to do this secretly to avoid subjecting Mary to the rigorous law of Deut. 22:23-24, which mandates capital punishment for adulterers. Joseph was a just man inasmuch as he resolved to act (divorce) in accordance with the Mosaic Law. This common interpretation suffers from a serious weakness: Joseph’s desire to follow the law for divorce (Deuteronomy 24) does not square with his willingness to sidestep the law prescribed for adulterers (Deuteronomy 22). A truly righteous man would keep God’s Law completely, not selectively.

The Reverence Theory

This view holds that Joseph, already informed of the divine miracle within Mary (Mt. 1:18), considered himself unworthy to be part of God’s work in this unusual situation (cf. Lk. 5:8; 7:6). His resolve to separate quietly from Mary is thus viewed as a reverent and discretionary measure to keep secret the mystery within her. Notably, the expression “to put her to shame” is weaker in Greek than in the translation: it means that Joseph did not wish to “exhibit” Mary in a public way. The angelic announcement in Mt. 1:20, then, directs Joseph to set aside pious fears that would lead him away from his vocation to be the legal father of the Davidic Messiah. This view more aptly aligns Joseph’s righteousness with his intentions (Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, The Gospel of Matthew, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, 18).

For further reflection on the role of St. Joseph in the mystery of our salvation, I recommend Bl. John Paul II’s 1989 apostolic exhortation Redemptoris Custos (“Guardian of the Redeemer”).

The Heart of a Father

19 Mar

The Catholic Church “heartily” celebrates the feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with the heart symbolizing the immense love of our Lord and His Blessed Mother for each one of us.

Yet, Catholic husbands and fathers might also consider meditating on the heart of St. Joseph, the third member of the Holy Family, whose great feast we celebrate today. His heart is an apt symbol of the love he contributed to the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation that was unfolding under his watch.

And now that same masculine vigilance and love, once focused on his beloved wife and the Christ Child, is bestowed on each one of us, as he is universally invoked as the patron of the Catholic Church.

At the outset of St. Luke’s Gospel, we learn that part of St. John the Baptist’s role in preparing the people for the imminent coming of the Messiah was to turn the hearts of fathers to their children so as to make ready for the Lord a people that was truly prepared for Him (cf. Mal. 3:23-24; Lk. 1:17). In St. Joseph, we find a father whose heart is already exquisitely calibrated.

His heart is always in the right place, and God was able to accomplish great things through this eminently just and faithful man.

St. Joseph’s fatherly heart jumps off the page throughout the biblical accounts of Christ’s childhood. Let’s take a brief look at just one such familiar episode: the Finding of Jesus in the Temple (Lk. 2:41-52), the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.

“Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up according to custom” (vv. 41-42).

These verses may seem unremarkable at first blush, though as St. Joseph is carting the Holy Family from place to place in the first century we can be certain these journeys were much more onerous than a leisurely afternoon drive in the air-conditioned minivan. But even in his fidelity to the Jewish practices of his time, St. Joseph gives us a most timely lesson on the value of men being observant Catholics. Too often we find at Sunday Mass mom and the kids, but where’s dad? St. Joseph challenges us men to allow our love for the Lord and zeal for our faith to set the tone for the entire family.

Real men go to church! Continue reading

Guardian of the Redeemer

1 Mar

St. Joseph is one of the few saints to have more than one feast day. He also happens to be my patron saint, so when Maureen and I were getting married, she asked which feast day I celebrated. Before I had the chance to answer, she mused out loud, “Definitely not St. Joseph the Worker.” She was right (I celebrate March 19th as my feast day), though I’ve teased her ever since about this apparent commentary on my work habits!

The Church has traditionally honored St. Joseph during the month of March, so it seems appropriate to begin the month by drawing some insights from this great saint.

While St. Joseph wasn’t a priest in the usual sense, this “just man” has much to say in response to today’s crisis of fatherhood–both the spiritual fatherhood of priests and the fatherhood exercised in the home, which the Catechism calls a “domestic Church,” a community of grace and prayer.

St. Joseph was entrusted with the care of the Holy Family, the sanctuary of love where Jesus spent His hidden years. This family was not only a domestic Church but also, in embryonic form, the Universal Church, the Family of God, containing both Christ the Head as well as the mother of the “Body”–all who would come to believe in Christ and keep His commandments (cf. Rev. 12:17). For this reason, St. Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, is called the patron of the Universal Church.

I suspect that many modern men think St. Joseph got it all wrong. After all, this is the age of Viagra, no-fault divorce, and the “sexual revolution.” The goal seemingly is sex without responsibility, and here St. Joseph accepts the serious responsibility of marriage and family while foregoing the pleasure of marital intimacy.

Yet, St. Joseph got it exactly right. He is a vitally important witness to modern man that it is possible and necessary–in fact, noble and manly–to live in accordance with the Church’s teachings on sexual morality. Certainly this does not mean that all men, particularly married men, are called to perpetual continence. But all men according to their state in life are called to chastity and at certain times in their lives (e.g., before marriage and possibly at times during marriage) are called to continence.

The marital act is a sacred expression of one’s total gift to one’s spouse and must not degenerate into a merely recreational, selfish act of self-gratification. St. Joseph gives himself totally to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He embodies true love and marital fidelity to his beloved spouse even in the absence of physical intimacy.

Priests act in the person of Christ. Our Blessed Lord is the bridegroom, the Church is His bride. In a very real sense, then, priests are wedded to the Church (cf. Eph. 5:32). Their chaste, faithful betrothal to the Family of God–and their fidelity to the teachings of the Church–renders their priesthood life-giving and fruitful.

The title I most frequently associate with St. Joseph is “Guardian of the Redeemer.” This is at least partially the result of Pope John Paul II’s 1989 apostolic exhortation that bears that name.

A significant element of fatherhood is playing good defense–in other words, protecting the precious treasures that have been entrusted to us. Wolves in many forms pose serious threats to families. Our response as men of faith must not be fear or anxiety in the face of such threats, but rather vigilance and courage. This holds true, too, for priests and bishops with respect to the treasures of our faith. As St. Paul exhorts St. Timothy, “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you” (1 Tim. 6:20).

During this month devoted to the Guardian of the Redeemer, may all of us fathers draw renewed strength from this holy hero. St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church, pray for us!

Labor Management

1 Sep

For many men today, one would think a “holy hour” means being able to watch the second half of a game without interruption, and that a “retreat” is 36 holes of golf interspersed with appropriate beverages. In countless parishes I’ve visited, the women far outnumber the men in the pews (and in the sanctuary). Meanwhile, try getting a seat at the local sports pub now that football season is starting up again.

There are countless things competing for men’s time and attention and, frankly, we don’t always do a good job of prioritizing, of putting first things first. And what could be more important than bending the knee before Our Heavenly Father, the source of all fatherhood (see Ephesians 3:14-15)?

In this regard, I suggest that we take a lesson from St. Joseph as we begin Labor Day weekend. St. Joseph’s entire life was ordered to God. This enabled him to reflect in his actions an interior life that perfected his manhood and thus enabled him to take the right approach to his work. Continue reading

St. Joseph’s Mother

26 Jul

Today the universal Church celebrates the feast of Saints Joachim and Ann, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In discussing this feast at breakfast this morning, one of my children asked me the name of St. Joseph’s mother. What do we know about her?

Unfortunately, Scripture provides minimal information about St. Joseph. He first appears in the Infancy Narratives (Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2) as the husband of Mary, and is mentioned in subsequent passing references such as John 6:42: “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?” By the time we come to Jesus’ public ministry, Joseph is out of the picture, and the Church generally believes that Joseph died prior to that time.

As for St. Joseph’s family background, the Gospel of Matthew says that Jacob was his father (Matthew 1:16). In the Gospel of Luke, however, Heli is listed as the father of Joseph (Luke 3:23). Through the centuries, Church Fathers and Scripture scholars have come up with different plausible theories to explain this apparent discrepancy in the Gospel accounts regarding Joseph’s father, but the fact remains that none of the accounts or other historical records identify St. Joseph’s mother for us.

Actually, there are relatively few individuals in the New Testament whose mother was identified for us. Often their lives are not recorded in Scripture or other early Christian sources until they get caught up in the mystery of Christ during their adult years.

Despite the paucity of historical information, St. Joseph is one of the most revered saints in the Church, and has the august title of being “patron of the universal Church.” One of the best magisterial sources for more information on St. Joseph is Pope John Paul II’s 1989 apostolic letter Guardian of the Redeemer (Redemptoris Custos).