Go to Joseph: Six Reflections on St. Joseph
By Fr. Francis Peffley
Joseph the Just Man
John Paul II in his apostolic exhortation “The Guardian of the Redeemer” calls Joseph the just man. What does that mean? It means that he was a holy man. A righteous man. A man of honesty, integrity, and virtue. St. Joseph is the greatest and holiest saint after the Blessed Mother herself. In fact, some of the Doctors of the Church said that there was no grace ever given to any of the Saints (except Mary) that was not given to St. Joseph as well.
St. Thomas Aquinas says that God gives grace proportionate to our office and to our state in life. So if you are a husband and father, you will be given the grace to be a holy husband and father. When someone has been ordained a priest he will be given the grace to be a priest. Think how much grace St. Joseph received to be the foster father of the Son of God and the virginal spouse of the Immaculate Conception. So St. Joseph is that just man. He is the greatest of Saints because he was the closest one to Jesus and to the Blessed Mother.
As fathers and husbands you are called to holiness ‑ an obligation of every member of the Church. It is not just the priests and nuns, but everyone who is called to holiness. Every single person has this vocation ‑ the universal call to holiness. We should ask ourselves, “Am I developing the virtues that St. Joseph has? Am I developing the integrity and character of St. Joseph?”
Joseph the Obedient one.
Joseph was truly obedient to the will of God in his life. The Angel said, “Have no fear about taking Mary to be your wife.” As soon as Joseph knew God’s will for him, he obeyed. When the angel told Joseph that Herod was planning to destroy the child, Joseph immediately got up and began the flight to Egypt.
Some people ask if St. Joseph was old. This is due to the apocryphal writings of the early church, ancient writings which were not divinely inspired, or approved by the Church as Sacred Scripture. These ancient writings say that when Joseph married the Blessed Mother he was 89 years old, and that he died at the age of 111. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that St. Joseph was so old. We can be assured that Mary didn’t have to push St. Joseph in a wheel chair through the desert. Actually, I believe that Joseph was young and strong. Obviously older than the Blessed Mother; perhaps in his 20s or 30s. He was her guardian and protector. Scripture speaks about Mary’s betrothal to a man named Joseph. It does not say he was an old man, as Simeon or Zachary. So Joseph wasn’t as old as some would like to claim him to be. Even in the ancient catacomb of Priscilla, Joseph was drawn without a beard showing him to be a young man.
But Joseph was an obedient man. Whenever he was warned in a dream he always obeyed the will of God. He never questioned Divine Providence. Even though Mary was 8 3/4 months pregnant, Joseph had to believe it was God’s will for them to leave Nazareth and go down to Bethlehem. This was to fulfill the prophecy of Micah that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem. Joseph abandoned himself to the will of God. Ask yourself these questions: “Am I obedient to the will of God? Am I obedient to the Ten Commandments? Am I obedient to the teaching of Christ and the teachings of the Church on marriage and family life?” Go to St. Joseph to become obedient sons of the Church.
Joseph the Silent One.
There are no recorded words of St. Joseph in the entire Bible. There are words in the Old Testament for the great patriarch that we can apply to St. Joseph. But in the New Testament there are no recorded words for St. Joseph. He’s always there, though, as a silent presence. In fact, even his death is wrapped in silence. There is no account as to how Joseph was buried. He’s a man of silence. A strong man. A man with a deep interior life. Silence in our life helps us develop a life of prayer. Joseph was a man of prayer who listened to the word of God. He was not distracted by the many exterior things ‑ he was always a man of interior life. Why? Because God lived in his very house.
We picture St. Joseph as a silent worker, as a craftsman, who suffered in silence as well. He did not complain, and he did not grow angry at God and say, “Why are you doing this, why do we have to flee to Egypt?” He was a man who accepted these things in silence. We should ask ourselves, “Do I have enough silence in my life? Do I spend enough time in prayer with Jesus? Do I listen to Jesus when he speaks to me during the Sunday readings? Do I spend time in the Blessed Sacrament chapel listening to Jesus who is truly present? Do I use my speech for lying, gossiping or backbiting? Or, do I truly follow St. Joseph by being a man of integrity and silence?”
Joseph the Example.
Imagine the kind of man Joseph was. God the Father picked Joseph out of the whole human race to be the man to raise his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. When you get a baby sitter you don’t just pick anyone, even if it is for only a few hours. Imagine entrusting your only son to the care of another person. That is why adoption agencies have to be careful in selecting to whom they entrust other people’s children. That is why God chose the very best. He chose St. Joseph to be a great example.
St. Joseph was an example to Jesus in his words and in his actions. He has been called the World’s Greatest Father. Joseph was truly a father to Jesus in every way except for physical generation. He was the father who taught Jesus how to speak, how to read, and how to make doors and plows. Note the example that St. Joseph gave the Christ child and remember the saying, “Your example shouts so loudly I cannot hear what you say.” Isn’t that the way children look at their parents? What was the example that St. Joseph gave to the Christ child? He was the perfect example, the world’s greatest father, the educator of Jesus.
Joseph homeschooled Jesus and taught him the virtues. This was the Son of God who always had the beatific vision, but (as the catechism says) he had to grow in the experiential, and had to develop as a boy develops. Jesus looked up to St. Joseph, even imitating his mannerisms. Let us ask ourselves, “What examples are we giving? What example do you give to your wife? To your children? Do you teach your children the faith? Do you study your own Catholic Faith by reading at least 10 ‑ 20 minutes every day? Do you make good use of your travel time to deepen your faith, so you can be a good example to your wife and children? Do you go on retreats? Are you living out your vocation as leader of your family?”
Joseph the Patron.
St. Joseph is our benefactor who prays for us. Joseph is the patron Saint of fathers, husbands, and workers. We should always pray that we will have the same kind of death that St. Joseph had, dying in the arms of Jesus and Mary. He is the patron Saint of a happy death, which means dying in the arms of Jesus and Mary and Holy Mother Church. Go to St. Joseph for the grace of a happy death.
He is also the patron Saint of the universal Church. Everything that St. Joseph did for Jesus he now does for the Church. Why? Because the Catholic Church is the mystical body of Christ himself. The Blessed Mother is the mother of the Church and St. Joseph is the foster father and guardian of the Church.
St. Joseph lately has become the patron Saint of selling houses. I have to wonder about Aunt Selma selling her house by burying a statue of St. Joseph facing east. I have to wonder if that is what God really wants us to do. If you want to sell your house, place a statue of St. Joseph on your mantle and do a nine-day novena to him. You don’t have to suffocate the guy! Keep him there and ask his intercession. He will help you sell your house or keep your job in every way. Remember that Joseph is the protector and the guardian of the whole Church, as well as ourselves as individuals. Ask yourself the question, “Do I pray to St. Joseph every day? Do I pray to him for a happy death?” Pray to him for your whole family that you will have a happy death. And ask St. Joseph to help you protect your family from all the immorality on TV or in the media.
St. Joseph the Helper of the Blessed Mother.
St. Joseph was the virginal spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In God’s plan of salvation he was a loving husband, kind, considerate, affectionate, and self-sacrificing. St. Joseph had an awesome responsibility with the Blessed Virgin. They worked as a team. St. Joseph had the responsibility for spiritual leadership since he was the head of the family. God’s message from the angel was revealed to him even though the Blessed Mother was much holier through her Immaculate Conception. Obviously, Jesus as the Son of God and creator was far greater, but St. Joseph was chosen because he was the head of that family, just as every one of you is the spiritual head of your family.
Joseph and Mary worked as a team. Remember TEAM spells “Together Everyone Achieves More.” Develop teamwork with your wife. I love the story that Zig Zigler tells of courtship after marriage using the example of Belgian horses. These huge Belgian horses could only pull 8,000 pounds individually. But when they are harnessed together, two horses working together can pull 32,000 pounds of weight. Isn’t that amazing? It almost defies every law of mathematics. So when you are joined with your spouse in an effort to move your family towards God, you will accomplish much more than if you were to do it individually. Ask yourself this question, “Am I a helper to my spouse?” Your vocation is really to get your spouse and your children to Heaven. This is your ultimate vocation in life.
Let us reflect on St. Joseph: that Just man, that loving leader, that Obedient man; let us reflect on his Silence, his Example, and his Patronage of our own lives and of the Church, and let us to try to imitate St. Joseph the Helper of Mary. God bless you.
Fr. Francis Peffley currently serves as parochial vicar at Saint John the Apostle in Leesburg, Virginia.
Click here for Pope Leo XIII Prayer to St. Joseph