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Saturday, March 20, 2010

St. Joseph: The Greatest of All Earthly Fathers

What a tender sight to see: Our Lord, a little boy, leaning his head on his daddy’s chest. Do you remember your little ones doing the same thing, with a sigh and a finger or two in the mouth? Our Dear Christ humbled himself to do this, too, to depend, trust, and love a sinner (who is like us). Here is God incarnate snuggling with his daddy.

Joseph of Nazareth was a sinner like us, conceived with original sin. He was not always a saint, but he was a good man. Early in scripture we see he is also merciful. Under Jewish law, he had every right to have our sweet Mary stoned, a bloody, humiliating, and very public death. But Joseph planned to divorce Mary quietly, to release her from their betrothal without this public display of justice that was rightfully his. Dear Joseph: a man of gentleness and compassion.

Imagine the challenges this simple and good carpenter faced raising his family—all of Herod’s troops after him, his wife, and tiny babe. Have you ever looked on a map to see just how far he and Mary and the Infant Jesus traveled to Egypt, crossing the Sinai Desert? Could you do it?

I’m remembering a trip we made to Vermont (in the comforts of a car, of course) when our youngest was just eighteen months old. At first, he slept soundly. Then, as we got onto the highway in the middle of nowhere, he awoke and cried a blustery, “Apple juice! Apple juice!” We had no apple juice, and nothing else would do. For three hours, the wee one wailed in our ears. We thought he would tire out and fall back to sleep; who wouldn’t after expending so much energy? But he didn’t give up. Oh, our heads ached! His father and I were completed frazzled and exhausted.

No soldiers were after us. The car provided the proper environmental controls. We were speeding along, obviously much faster than a donkey. Ah, yes, the comforts of modern life... and we barely made it!

In my opinion, Joseph was indeed as complete a follower of his Father in Heaven as Mary, Mother of God. When it was revealed to him in a dream that the child Mary carried in her womb was conceived by the Holy Spirit, he didn’t doubt. He married Mary. When it was revealed to him that he must take his family to Egypt, he quickly prepared and set off. He didn’t ask how, which way, for how long, or how would I support my family in a strange land; he just did it. God guided him to solve those problems--and they were big problems.

We are called to do this as well. When we visit the tabernacle, or attend Adoration, or receive Holy Communion, we must realize that the Lord is calling us to do His will. Leave the worries with Christ, and he will give us emotional strength, all the while planning a physical solution, too. We just need to follow. St. Joseph, through his actions, prayerful devotion, and love for his family, is a perfect example of this.

But you might say, “Hey, I’m not a saint. I don’t have dreams during which God sends a message to me.” No, and you’re not the foster father of Jesus, a tiny infant who needed to be protected from the wrath of Herod the Great. If you are ever put in this position, perhaps you will have those dreams, too.

But remember, Joseph wasn’t a saint, either. It was his journey with God that made him the wonderful saint we know today. He wasn’t born this way. And he was not divine in any way. Just like us, he had his own personality, too, that I’m sure he had to wrestle with. I often wonder: Was he soft spoken? Strong willed? Did he have a great sense of humor? Or more serious? An introvert? Extrovert? Did everyone know and love him? Or was he more quiet, working more or less “behind the scenes” of Nazareth’s daily rhythms?

Whatever traits he possessed, he used them for the completion of the Will of his Holy Father in Heaven. He gave all to protect Mary and her unborn child. Can you imagine what some of his friends and elders might have thought or said? “What? You married her? Are you kidding? That kind of girl should be stoned. Joseph, you missed your chance to do the right thing! You blew it.” Of course, this is from my imagination. You won’t find this in scripture, but we can make a pretty good guess at what sort of struggles Joseph faced.

Our Catholic devotion to dear St. Joseph is clearly right. He is a great inspiration to all families, and it’s my hope that fathers in our time will turn to this great man, this man of Yes, for guidance.

Spend time each day to thank St. Joseph for his protection of Our Lord and Blessed Mother. Ask him to pray for you and to take your prayers, hopes, and desires to his dear child, Jesus Christ. Over the years, Joseph learned how to become a great provider and protector. He can provide for you, too, through his great example. Mother Angelic said, “We are all called to be great saints. Don’t miss the opportunity.” St. Joseph is your great advocate. He’d be delighted to hear from you and help you.

Prayer to St. Joseph

Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh, St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ , Our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers. Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls—Pray for me.

A note about this prayer: This St. Joseph prayer was found in 50 A.D.. In 1505, the Pope sent it to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle.  It was given to me by a distant relative, name Marion. My great-grandfather was her uncle. Her Uncle Joe. He handed this prayer card to everyone he met. His was a loving man and very devoted to St. Joseph. This prayer was a great comfort to me during some difficult times, and I do believe it was this prayer that gave my husband the strength he very much needed at the time.

1 comment:

  1. From: Troy ( - I am currently reading a book about St. Joseph (Saint Joseph and the Third Millennium). I am not very far, but it points out that Joseph was considered "just" by not exposing her to the law. How could he be "just" if he is planning on divorcing her quietly, which would be against God's Law. It would make sense if he knew that Mary was with Child conceived by the Holy Spirit. He does not feel worthy to be the earthly father of Jesus. Then, he receives his vocation from an angel of God. The book also explains that the angel's words could be translated differently depending on the translator's interpretation. It could be something like "indeed the Child is of the Holy Spirit", instead of "for the Child is of the Holy Spirit". It explains that finding out that the Child was conceived from the Holy Spirit would be a reason to fear right after Joseph was told "do not fear". The book touches all of these things in much finer detail that I can show in this comment. God Bless.


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