By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Saint Joseph: A role model for all times
Placeholder Image
Today, March 19, is the Feast of Saint Joseph.  We celebrate one of the quietest and humblest personalities of the entire history of salvation, not only because he was the adoptive father of Jesus and the faithful spouse of Mary, not just because as a carpenter he brought good things to life and became a patron for all those who work with their hands, and not simply because the new-born Messiah could never have survived without his uncanny way of listening, even in his dreams, and of hearing angels speak.  

Any one of these remarkable details, taken alone, would be sufficient to make Joseph of Nazareth forever one of the most beloved and venerated saints whose feast-days mark the passing weeks in our liturgical calendar.

But, as with anyone who wants to be holy, Joseph’s primary characteristic consisted in faithful obedience.  He was known from the beginning as “an upright man” (Matthew 1:19).  Time and time again he was either obliged by circumstances or led by the message of angels to pull up stakes and go to an unfamiliar place on a risky journey (Luke 2:1-4, Mt. 2:13-15, 19-23).

When the boy Jesus returned unannounced from the caravan to Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary searched for him everywhere.  Finding him at last in the temple, Joseph swallowed his pride and let Mary speak  (Luke 2:48).

In the end, this man of great strength and courage, this patriarch for future families, this heroic icon of dedicated fatherhood, simply disappears.  We don’t know at what point he died, as Christians have always assumed, but we know that when Jesus steps out at age 30, Joseph is not even mentioned.

Down through the centuries countless details of Joseph’s life have been provided by other gospels, by revealed biographies, by apparitions and by the witness of sages and saints.  Yet the Holy Spirit leaves us with precious few points of information in the Scriptures.  These are enough for us, since they reveal the most important features of this great saintly man: he obeyed his God, he followed the light he received, he honored his wife and served her faithfully, and he protected, mentored, and guided the son he was given.

It’s no accident that Jesus was known as “the carpenter’s son” (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3, Luke 4:22).  To be a good carpenter, which soon enough Joseph’s son would become, you have to be attentive to the way wood is created, to the natural direction of its grain, to its potentials and limitations, and to your vision for its final form and purpose.  You have to be obedient.

Fr. Dean McFalls, St. Mary’s Church, Stockton, CA.  for March 19, 2011.