His birth place and lineage
St. Joseph first appears in the Bible in the opening chapter of St Matthew’s Gospel where his family tree is traced back to King David. Indeed the angel who first tells Joseph in a dream that Mary has conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit greets him as “son of David,” a royal title that is also used for Jesus. When a census (a count of the people for tax purposes) was ordered by the Romans all the people had to return to their ancestral cities to register their families. As St Joseph was descended from King David he had to travel to the City of David that is Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.
We know that St Joseph was a carpenter, a working man, because some of the crowd who doubted Jesus say rather rudely about him, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13:55). It is assumed that Joseph taught his craft to Jesus as he grew up in Nazareth, giving him the skills to earn a living. Imagine how important St Joseph was in guiding and teaching the growing boy and giving him direction, correction, and formation. Apart from his mother no one else has spent more time in direct contact with Jesus.
When God in his great wisdom gave his only son to be our saviour he chose the Virgin Mary to be his mother and St Joseph to be his foster father and protector. Out of all the people who ever lived God chose the best parents that he could for his son. This shows the kind of man that St Joseph was. From the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel we learn that he was a devout Jew, who took his son to be presented in the temple when he was eight days old. This passage also shows us that he was not a rich man as all he could offer as a sacrifice was a pair of doves or two small pigeons, richer people would have offered sheep or goats.
Our Lady’s words
If anyone could describe most accurately the character of St. Joseph, it would be his wife Mary. When Our Lady appeared to St. Bridget of Sweden she revealed to her that “St. Joseph was so reserved and careful in his speech that not one word ever issued from his mouth that was not good and holy, nor did he ever indulge in unnecessary or less than charitable conversation. He was most patient and diligent in bearing fatigue; he practiced extreme poverty; he was most meek in bearing injuries; he was strong and constant against my enemies; he was the faithful witness of the wonders of Heaven, being dead to the flesh and the world, living only for God and for Heavenly goods, which were the only things he desired. He was perfectly conformed to the Divine will and so resigned to the dispositions of Heaven that he ever repeated, ‘May the will of God ever be done in me.’ He rarely spoke with men, but continually with God, whose will he desired to perform. Wherefore, he now enjoys great glory in Heaven.”
His love for Jesus
Joseph loved Jesus as a father loves his son and showed his love by giving him the best protection that he could. His main concern was for the safety of the precious child who had been entrusted to him. When an angel warned him of danger he left his home and took the family to Egypt to protect them and then, when the angel said that it was safe to return he brought his family back to Israel and settled in the small backwater town of Nazareth out of danger from the king living in Jerusalem.
Later, when the young boy Jesus stayed in the Temple while the family returned home, we are told that Joseph and Mary searched with great anxiety for three days for him (Luke 2:48). Joseph always cared for and loved Jesus as God had requested.
The last time that we encounter St Joseph in the Scriptures is in the description of their losing Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem at the age of twelve. That’s it he is never mentioned again. The circumstances of Joseph’s death are not known, but it is likely that he died before Jesus’s ministry began, and it is implied that he was dead before the Crucifixion when Mary standing alone at the cross, is given to the Beloved disciple, this could not have happened if Joseph had still been alive to look after Mary. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.” (John 19:26-27).
His feast day
St. Joseph is celebrated by the Church on two feast days. The first is on March 19, the Feast of St Joseph and the second is on May 1 the Feast of St Joseph, the Worker.
Many people in their prayers ask St Joseph to pray for them for protection. St. Joseph is the patron saint of a number of cities and countries, among them the Americas, Canada, China, Croatia, Mexico, Korea, Austria, Belgium, Peru, the Philippines and Vietnam. He is also the patron saint of families, fathers, expectant mothers (pregnant women), travellers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers, and working people in general. In 1870 Pope Pius IX proclaimed St. Joseph the patron Saint and protector of the Catholic Church. It would be wonderful to know more about St. Joseph and the life that he led while Jesus was growing up but Scripture has left us with the most important description of him – he was “a righteous man.” (Matthew 1:18)
Written by Munnu Fenil