Holy Joe by Monsignor Ferrarese

He’s quiet and unassuming. He’s dependable and gets the job done. He always seeks to do things the right way. He’s kind and protective. He never likes the spotlight, but prefers that others get the attention. His admirers include royalty and the most powerful forces on earth. He even has pastries named after him!

Guess who?

I am sure many of you guessed right! I am speaking about St. Joseph who protected the King of the Universe and the Queen of Heaven. When God was looking for someone He could depend on, God chose Joseph.

For many centuries, St. Joseph has been overlooked. In paintings he is often pictured like a doddering old man. That is because, unfortunately, the long-standing tradition of the Church is that Joseph and Mary never had spousal relations, Mary remaining a virgin even after the birth of Jesus. Thus, artists assumed this was a second marriage for Joseph and that he was a very old man at the time of the wedding. But this flies in the face of Jewish tradition where a marriage between two people so separated in age was not allowed.

It’s most likely that St. Joseph was probably in his early twenties or maybe in his upper teens. Mary was probably around 14, which is when girls got married in that society (life expectancy not being what it is today).

I think that St. Joseph believed Mary, and understood what the angel revealed to him in the dream regarding her. Because Mary belonged in a special way to the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, Joseph, being a very devout and just man, would have chosen to be chaste and celibate in the marriage with Mary, out of his reverence for God.

There is no need, then, to picture St. Joseph as an octogenarian marrying a 14-year-old girl!

The misunderstandings about St. Joseph continue even when it comes to how he made his living. We picture the carpentry shop and Joseph at work as a craftsman and artisan. That might have been true; but, because Nazareth was so small, scholars doubt that he could make a living that way. But a few miles away there was a Roman city named Sephoris, with many expensive villas for wealthy Greek and Roman families. Joseph and his Son Jesus probably hiked there together (maybe with lunch bundles prepared by Mary!) and worked in the villas, thereby making a good living. The Greek word that is translated as carpenter is really a word that could include someone who did stonework and general construction. St. Joseph and his Son were probably, then, very strong young men who supported Mary and probably a lot of cousins and other family members. Mother Angelica, the Poor Clare nun that founded the EWTN network, said it perfectly when she tried to convince her viewers that Joseph was a young man when Jesus was born. She laconically stated, “An old man doesn’t walk to Egypt!”

I think this paints a beautiful picture of this holy man who God Himself trusted to be a faithful and religious Dad to His son Jesus. I could see Joseph standing right next to Jesus at his Bar Mitzvah, probably beaming with parental pride.

The very fact that Jesus was admitted into the Synagogue was a gift of Joseph’s. Without Joseph taking Mary to be his wife and giving Jesus a patriarchal name, Jesus would have been barred from both the synagogue and the Temple as illegitimate. He was known as ‘Jesus, Son of Joseph’, and that made all the difference in the world back then.

Joseph was the ‘right guy’ for God to call for this long and very important mission: to teach Jesus what fatherhood was about. He must have been so good at it that Jesus called God what He called Joseph: Abba, which is translated ‘Dad’ or ‘Papa’; informal, but with great endearment and love.

By the time of the public ministry of Jesus, however, nothing is said about Joseph. Tradition said that he died of natural causes in the presence of Mary, his wife, and Jesus, his Son. This is why St. Joseph is patron of those seeking a ‘happy, peaceful death’. Could there be any death more beautiful than breathing one’s last in the presence of Jesus and Mary!

Thus, as the great St. Teresa of Avila said, “Whatever is your need, go to Joseph!”

St. Joseph, help us to lead an innocent life, and keep it ever safe under your patronage. O humble foster father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and true spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us!

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