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“He was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of his greatest treasures, namely, his divine Son and Mary, Joseph’s wife. He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying: ‘Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord’” (St. Bernardine of Siena).

There is so little we know of St. Joseph. What we do know is that he was the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus. He was a blue-collar worker, a carpenter by trade. He was descended from the house of David. He was, as Scripture tells us, a "righteous" or "just" man.  Though St. Joseph was descended from royalty, it was not a title to rank or riches. Everything known about Joseph suggests he was poor, for example, the offering of only two turtle doves at the Temple. Joseph's family belonged to Bethlehem of Judea, but he had moved to Nazareth in Galilee to take up the occupation of a builder. There is no reason to suggest he was older than a normal age of 20-24 when he wed Mary, who would have been 15-20. Matthew mentions the annunciation to Joseph of Mary's conception, the visit of the Magi, the flight to Egypt and the return to Nazareth. Luke fills in the details of the birth of Christ, the Presentation and the temporary loss of Jesus in Jerusalem at the age of twelve. After that, Joseph disappears from the pages of the Gospel. Since he is not mentioned during the ministry of Jesus or at the Passion, it is assumed that he had already died by that point.

There is so much more we would like to know about him. What were Joseph's thoughts and feelings when he learned that Mary, the woman to whom he was engaged, was mysteriously "with child"? How did he feel when he and his wife were forced to take shelter in a simple stable when it came time for Jesus' birth? What was life like for Joseph, as well as his wife and son, after they fled to Egypt to avoid persecution at the hands of King Herod? As Jesus grew and Joseph passed along his carpentry skills, what kinds of father-son conversations did they have as they worked side by side?

Despite the abundance of questions and the lack of answers, devotion to St. Joseph runs deep. For centuries, the Church has honored him as the patron of fathers, of workers, of a happy death (because Jesus and Mary are thought to have been present when he died, likely before Jesus' public ministry), of many countries, including Russia, Mexico and Vietnam.

Special veneration of St. Joseph probably arose first in the East as early as the fifth or sixth century. In England his feast was observed by 1100 but it was not until 1479 that St. Joseph was introduced into the Roman Calendar. In 1962, Pope John XXIII added Joseph to the list of saints in the First Eucharistic Prayer. The feast of St. Joseph is celebrated on March 19.  He is the Patron Saint of the Catholic Church, Families, Homes, Fathers, Pastry Chefs, Workers and the Dying.

Source:  Everyday Catholic Newsletter, "Saints and Heroes among us", by Judy Ball, March 2002 Issue



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