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St. Joseph, Groom of B. Mary, Patron of the Univeral Church

St. Joseph, Mariotto di Nardo St. Joseph, Mariotto di Nardo  (© Musei Vaticani)

The Just Man

In his Gospel, Matthew describes St Joseph as "just". Mary’s future husband, faced with the inexplicable pregnancy of his fiancé, does not consider his wounded pride or dignity. Instead, his first thought is to save her from popular animosity or, worse still, from the stoning to which she risks being condemned. He does not want to repudiate her publicly but intends divorcing her informally and in secret. It’s precisely at that moment of understandable anguish and suffering that the love of God comes, in the shape of an Angel, to encourage him. The Angel inspires Joseph to make the right choice, which is always to overcome fear. These are the words of the Angel: "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name Him Jesus".

The Obedient Man

 

An Angel accompanies St Joseph in the most difficult moments of his life, and his response to the words of the heavenly messenger is always that of trusting obedience. Joseph takes Mary as his bride and when, after the birth of Jesus, the Angel returns to warn him that Herod wants to kill the Child, he escapes with his family to Egypt, a foreign country, where he has to get a new job and start all over again. We know that he worked as a craftsman because, when the skeptical inhabitants of Nazareth query Jesus’ origins, they ask: "Is this not the carpenter's son?". When the Angel appears to him again to tell him that Herod has died and he should return to the land of Israel, Joseph takes his wife and son and seeks refuge in the town of Nazareth, in Galilee, simply because the Angel tells him to.

The Foster Father

Joseph certainly loved Jesus with all the tenderness that a father feels for his own son. Moreover, he protected and educated this mysterious and wise child who was entrusted to his care. Educating Jesus must have been an immensely challenging task: imagine telling the Son of God what is right and what is not. Protecting Him must have been equally difficult. After searching for Him anxiously for three days (while Jesus remained behind in the Temple discussing with the Doctors of the Law), Joseph had to hear a twelve-year old boy tell him: "Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?”. Perhaps Joseph felt like every other Father who, sooner or later, has to accept the fact that his child really does not belong to him – but to God alone, who holds that child’s destiny in His hands.

Protector of the Dying

 

Joseph does not appear in any of the four Gospels that recount the public life of Jesus, nor at His crucifixion on Calvary, nor at the Resurrection. It is fair to presume, therefore, that he died before Jesus began his preaching. According to tradition, Joseph died with Mary and Jesus by his side – which is why he is also invoked as the Protector of the Dying. It is the wish of every one of us to leave our earthly home in the company of Jesus and His Mother.