Today is the feast of Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus and spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Surprisingly, perhaps, we don’t know all that much about him but, being so humble, he is probably just fine with that. What we do know is that Joseph was a quiet, hard-working man, a man who was faithful, honest and humble. He was chosen by God to lead and protect the Holy Family. That suggests that Joseph had the ideal qualities for that role, and for that reason is the patron saint of fathers.
When we first meet Joseph in scripture, he is betrothed to Mary, who has accepted God’s plan that she become the Mother of His Son. He was troubled by this news, possibly doubting her fidelity, but more likely, I think, trying to figure out where he fit in. An angel visited him in a dream and explained to him that this was all according to God and tells Joseph to name the child Jesus. This is effectively telling him that he is to act as the child’s father, as naming was a father’s honor and prerogative. Joseph does not hesitate; he obeys immediately and takes Mary home as his wife. From the outset, we see that Saint Joseph is humble and faithful. Saint Joseph protected Mary and Jesus during their stay in Bethlehem and exhibited courage and prudence in taking them to Egypt for their safety when Herod threatened. Again, Joseph was acting at the behest of an angel, reflecting his complete trust and faith in God. When directed, after Herod was dead, Joseph took his family and established a home in Nazareth.
Fathers can learn from Saint Joseph the importance of putting God first is “Job One.” Joseph thought he had plans and could see his future, but God had His own ideas – which Joseph faithfully accepted. In our own experience, we are often faced with unexpected changes in plans as life throws us a curveball or two over the years. Joseph’s example teaches us to place our faith and trust in God at all times and to be willing to adapt to challenges in that context. This is especially important to fathers, whose example of faithful obedience – for example, regular attendance at Mass – is an extraordinarily positive influence on children.
We have one more glimpse of Joseph, and that was in the “Finding in the Temple,” where the twelve-year old Jesus remained in the Temple in Jerusalem after Mary and Joseph had begun their return to Nazareth. Although the young Jesus felt ready to begin His ministry, He submitted to the authority of Mary and Joseph, showing He respected and obeyed both His parents. During these hidden years, Jesus learned from his step-father. He learned the carpenter’s trade at his side and no doubt the rituals and prayers of the Jewish faith.
Saint Joseph is the example par excellence of a faith-filled, hard-working, humble man and is the standard for all fathers, powerfully leading by example. The quiet strength of a man at the head of the Holy Family, yet nearly invisible to the world, is the perfect example for the countless husbands and fathers who put all their efforts into supporting their families often with little thanks or acknowledgment.
Today we honor Saint Joseph and ask him to pray for our husbands and fathers.
NOVENA PRAYER TO SAINT JOSEPH:
O glorious Saint Joseph, you were chosen by God
to be the foster father of Jesus,
to be the most pure spouse of the Virgin Mary,
and to be the head of the Holy Family.
You also have been chosen by Christ’s Vicar
to be the Patron and Protector of the Church.
For all of us at Saint Joseph,
you are the special guardian of our Catholic family -our church and school-
which bears your name and rejoices in your patronage.
During this novena in honor of you,
we pray to you with all the angels and saints,
and we pray with all those
who have gone before us into eternal life.
Intercede for us
that we may continue to be faithful to the Lord Jesus
through His Holy Catholic Church.
Be our father in faith, our protector and our guide.
Increase our generosity, deepen our faith,
and guide us in all that we do.
Obtain for us purity of heart
and a deep love for a life of prayer and service.
After your example,
let all our actions be directed to the greater glory of God, in union with the Divine Mercy of Jesus,
and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
O glorious Saint Joseph,
be with us in our joys and in our trials.
May your prayers help us to grow in holiness and truth.
As Catholics, help us to witness our faith with courage that we may rejoice with you in the crown of victory,
and be welcomed into eternal life at the hour of our death.