This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.
We tend to forget Joseph. Obviously Mary is a larger player in Jesus’s story, and she should be honored as the sinless Mother of God. But we forget the role Joseph played. Even against the backdrop of all the other Saints, Joseph tends to disappear.
Joseph was not without sin. Unlike Mary, he struggled just as each of us did. He made mistakes. He made poor decisions. He acted on temptations. Perhaps this makes his story even more extraordinary. Despite sin, Joseph chose God. He took on a position he did not understand, and performed honorably. When he learned of Mary’s pregnancy, though they were engaged, he decided to divorce her quietly because he was, “unwilling to expose her to shame.” It’s significant to remember that at this time, stoning was the penalty for adultery. Joseph was probably very angry and very hurt, imaging that Mary had cheated on him, and yet his concern was for her. He still tried to protect her.
Then, an angel appeared to him in a dream. Joseph took the word of the angel, and he married a woman who was pregnant with a child that was not his own. He took her into his home, and he protected them both. He protected Mary’s purity, despite the rights he had as her husband, allowing her to remain the “Virgin Mother of God.” He raised a child that wasn’t his. He loved him. He taught him to be a carpenter. He helped form Jesus into a man. I can only imagine the special place Joseph holds in Jesus’s heart.
When we need a Saint to pray to, we should remember Joseph. Sometimes, even Mary feels too distant. Too sinless. Too perfect. Joseph was like us, and we can find in him a role model.
According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, “Some Saints are privileged to extend to us their patronage with particular efficacy in certain needs, but not in others; but our holy patron St. Joseph has the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, in every undertaking.”
What do you think about St. Joseph? When is your favorite time to pray to this Saint?