St Joseph: teacher of family life


Tuesday, March 19, we, as Church, celebrated the feast of St Joseph. Holy Mother Church qualifies this feast as being a solemnity. The reason being that the celebration of this feast is one of the greatest importance.

But why is St Joseph so important in the life of the Church? Why does his feast fall within the same category of the other solemnities such as that of Mary Mother of God, Ascension, Assumption, All Saints, Immaculate Conception, Christmas, Easter, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Corpus Christi, Pentecost, St Peter and St Paul, the birth of St John the Baptist, and so on?

The Preface for the Solemnity of St Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, says explicitly that “God placed him at the head of his family, as a faithful and prudent servant, so that with fatherly care he might watch over his only begotten Son”. Hence, the liturgy is affirming that Joseph is the one responsible for his family composed of Mary, his wife, and Jesus, Mary’s Son and his by Mosaic Law. Seen from this perspective how wise was mother Church in designating St Joseph the Patron saint of the family!

In his apostolic letter on the person and mission of St Joseph in the life of Christ and of the Church, Redemptoris Custos, St John Paul II speaks of the support and education given by St Joseph to Jesus, the Son of God made man. “The growth of Jesus ‘in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man’ (Lk 2:52) took place within the Holy Family under the eyes of Joseph, who had the important task of ‘raising’ Jesus, that is, feeding, clothing and educating him in the Law and in a trade, in keeping with the duties of a father. In the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Church venerates the memory of Mary the ever Virgin Mother of God and the memory of St Joseph, because ‘he fed him whom the faithful must eat as the bread of eternal life.’ For his part, Jesus ‘was obedient to them’ (Lk 2:51), respectfully returning the affection of his ‘parents.’ In this way he wished to sanctify the obligations of the family and of work, which he performed at the side of Joseph” (no. 16).

Even mystical writings portray St Joseph as a man in whom God’s grace flourished and abounded. Such is the vision one gets when one reads the visions Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich received, and now are recorded in the volume The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The following excerpts certainly manifest St Joseph’s moral calibre.

“Joseph, whom I saw in this vision at about the age of eight, was very different in character from his brothers. He was very gifted and was a very good scholar, but he was simple, quiet, devout, and not at all ambitious. .. I often saw him under the colonnade in the outer court kneeling down with his face to the wall, praying with outstretched arms, … Joseph was very devout, good, and simple-minded, everybody loved him. I saw him helping his master very humbly in all sorts of ways–picking up shavings, collecting wood, and carrying it back on his shoulders”.

The obvious question that emanates from such a powerful character description of Joseph is the subsquent: If Joseph, from his early years, was very gifted, very good scholar, simple, quiet, devout, prayerful, humble, good, generous and industrious how would one expect that he would be for Jesus and his spouse Mary? No wonder than that Pope Francis, during his general audience address of March 19, 2014, would present St Joseph as the model of the educator and the father.

“Joseph’s mission is certainly unique and unrepeatable, because Jesus is absolutely unique. And yet, in his guardianship of Jesus, forming him to grow in age, wisdom and grace, he is a model for every educator, especially every father. St Joseph is the model of the educator and the dad, the father.”

Moreover, the powerful example of holiness and total dedication of St Joseph inspires full trust in his impeccable fatherly protection. Motivated by such a model Pope Francis said: “I, therefore, entrust to his protection, all parents, priests — who are fathers — and those who have an educational role in the Church and in society… I ask for you [daddies] the grace to be always very close to your children, letting them grow but being close to them, close to them! They are in need of you, of your presence, of your closeness, of your love. Be for them like Saint Joseph: guardians of their growth in age, wisdom and grace. Guardians of their path; educators, and walk with them. And with this closeness you will be true educators. Thank you for all you do for your children, thank you”.

Finally, and within the biblical context of God’s plan for the family, as that of being composed of one man and one woman, and their offspring as the result of their conjugal love, St Joseph serves as a great motivator for every husband to live his masculinity healthy and holy. St Joseph reminds the male husband of the importance of accompanying his wife and fathering his children, of providing for the family he was entrusted to care for, and, of being a man fully obedient to God’s will in his personal and familial life. St Joseph helps every man to be a family man by listening, discerning and acting on God’s voice with his utmost reverence.

No wonder than that by acknowledging all these qualities the Church keeps presenting St Joseph as the teacher of family life.