St. Joseph: A powerfully silent intercessor and father
March 14, 2017
“He set himself to protect with a mighty love and a daily solicitude his spouse and the Divine Infant; regularly by his work he earned what was necessary for the one and the other for nourishment and clothing; he guarded from death the Child threatened by a monarch’s jealousy, found for Him a refuge; in miseries of the journey and in the bitterness of exile he was ever a companion, the assistance, and the upholder of the Virgin and of Jesus.”
In 1889, Pope Leo XIII writes an encyclical to the Church on devotion to St. Joseph. His strong words bring to life much of what is unknown about a monumental figure in the life of Jesus Christ.
First, let us look at what we do know of this great saint. Even though St. Joseph does not have any recorded words in sacred Scripture, there is much we can read to learn about who he was. In the Gospels, St. Joseph is only mentioned in Matthew, Luke and once in John. He was a carpenter (Mt. 13:55) who did not have much money (Lk. 2:24). More importantly, he was a compassionate and caring man (Mt. 1:18-19). He obediently followed the angel’s instructions to flee to a strange country, and only came back when it was safe to return (Mt. 2:13-15).
Going as far back as the ninth century, an early title used to honor him nutritor Domini, which means the “Guardian of the Lord,” confirms what we read in sacred Scripture. In the silence of what is unknown, we can learn more than what can be merely labeled as nothing.
In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI said, “St. Joseph’s silence does not express an inner emptiness but, on the contrary, the fullness of the faith he bears in his heart... It is not an exaggeration to think that it was precisely from his ‘father’ Joseph that Jesus learned — at the human level — that steadfast interiority...”
He was an integral part of the beginning of Jesus’ life, but it is a point of curiosity that St. Joseph is not mentioned after finding Jesus in the Temple while the Blessed Virgin Mary is mentioned being present several times in the Gospels after this event. Early tradition and some historians believe St. Joseph was an older man who died before Jesus began His public ministry. This would explain why he was not mentioned late in Jesus’ life.
When looking at what is known in sacred Scripture and early tradition, much is still unknown about St. Joseph, but one thing is undeniable — he loved Jesus Christ. If he was an older man, he gave his later years in life serving the Messiah and the Queen of Heaven and Earth.
I do not think there is any better way to live your life! This is precisely why the Catholic Church dedicates March 19 as a feast day for St. Joseph. He was who Jesus learned how to be carpenter, a faithful Jew, and the life lessons that formed Him to be a man.
To observe this significant feast day, here are a few ways to honor Jesus’ foster father:
• Pray for your own father by lifting him up, and ending with the Our Father. If you are a father, take your son out to “feast” over a great meal.
• Say this novena prayer, which is over 1,900 years old, on March 11 for nine consecutive days for a specific intention:
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. O St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain from me your Divine Son all the spiritual blessing 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.
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 to 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 us. Amen.
St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, pray for us! †
Dunn Estacio is an associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.