Something special is happening with St. Joseph. I have recently encountered numerous people developing a great devotion to him – especially young men. This trend seems to go much deeper than simply responding to Pope Francis’s declaration of this year as the year of St. Joseph.[i] That declaration, guided by the Holy Spirit, has apparently tapped into a profound need for our time.
Often devotions to saints arise in the Church in response to particular historical needs. For example, the Rationalism of 19th Century Europe was countered by the spreading of the Marian Miraculous Medal [ii] and the declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception [iii], as if to say that man’s shrinking his world to his mere scientific understanding is confounded by the marvels God has done in the Blessed Mother. Then, through our devotion to her, we as individuals and the Church can overcome such rational skepticism through an even greater faith.
Similarly, today’s society, due in large part to the consequences of the sexual revolution, has seen a real crisis in masculinity. Men are seen as toxic, brutish, and oppressive to women. In movies or television fathers are often depicted as boorish, absent, or simply unnecessary. Due to divorce or irresponsible parenting, many children have been raised in homes without a father. Our society urgently needs a Christian renewal of what it means to be a man, a husband, and a father.[iv]
Enter St. Joseph.
While we have relatively few passages in the Gospels depicting St. Joseph, we can nevertheless begin to grasp some of his virtues particularly important for men. Let us briefly consider a few.
St. Joseph was a good and honest man, which is why the Gospel of St. Matthew could refer to him as ‘just’ [cf. 1:19], which means ‘‘righteous’… [or] of sterling moral character.’[v]
St. Joseph would have been a hard worker since as a carpenter he had to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, not only in Nazareth but also in Egypt where it would have been harder to get work as an outsider.
St. Joseph was a man with a deep interior life. He would prayerfully discern before making a big decision, such as when considering how to proceed with his betrothal to Mary. His prayerful ‘delay’ and his habit of silence [we have no recorded word of his] gave space for God to direct his path. Nevertheless, once he clearly understood God’s will, he acted decisively.
St. Joseph was a chaste and caring husband. Chastity is the self-possession needed to give yourself freely in love. In most marriages that self-gift includes sexual union. For St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother, it was a uniquely marital but celibate love. Nevertheless, Joseph’s self-sacrificing service to Mary, was unconditional and total. St. Joseph took Mary to his home to provide, protect, and cherish her. He led her on the journey to Bethlehem while she was ‘with child,’ found modest but a discrete place for the birth of Jesus, and urgently brought both to Egypt when threatened by Herod.
St. Joseph was a dedicated and loving father to Jesus.[vi] As with Mary, he protected and provided for Jesus. As a father, he was present and involved in the life of Jesus while also deferring to Mary in some instances. For example, when St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother found the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple, Joseph had sought out Jesus with Mary and was by her side when she asked Jesus, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously" [Lk 2:48]. He let the concerned mother initiate the conversation.
St. Joseph was also a masculine role model for Jesus. As Fr. Calloway, MIC in his book, Consecration to St. Joseph aptly put it, ‘Jesus needed the fatherhood of St. Joseph as a model of masculinity for him to imitate… How did Jesus learn to sacrifice as a man? He witnessed the daily example of his father. Where did Jesus learn to work as a man? … in his fathers’ carpentry shop. How did Jesus… acquire the manners of a gentleman? Jesus learned all these things from his father, St. Joseph.’[vii]
To conclude, St. Joseph was a just man, a devoted husband, and a good father. Rooted in prayer, he calmly fulfilled his mission to protect the early Church in the persons of the Blessed Mother and Jesus. Now his example and patronage are once again speaking to the Church. May our renewed devotion to St. Joseph not encourage only men but all believers to fulfill our vocation through the exercise of human and supernatural virtues.
Fr. John Bullock, LC
Thy Kingdom Come!
[i] ‘Patris Corde’ – ‘With a Father’s Heart’ by Pope Francis - Apostolic Letter Patris Corde of the Holy Father Francis on the 150th Anniversary of the proclamation of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church (8 December 2020) | Francis (vatican.va) [ii] https://catholicism.org/miraculous-medal.html [iii] https://www.papalencyclicals.net/pius09/p9ineff.htm [iv] cf. Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC. Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father. Stockbridge, MA: Marian Press. 2019, p. 4. [v] Hahn, Scott; Mitch, Curtis. The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament . Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition., loc. 2520 [vi] Joseph was the father of Jesus not by nature but by vocation. For questions about whether we should call St. Joseph father of Jesus, see: https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/should-we-call-joseph-the-father-of-jesus & cf. Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC. Consecration to St. Joseph…, p. 101-106. [vii] Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC. Consecration to St. Joseph…, p. 104.