Pope Francis has declared 2021 to be a year especially devoted to St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church.
To me, St. Joseph is the most underestimated of all the saints. In the New Testament, he is given the very difficult role of being the protector of Our Blessed Lady as well as the human father and guide of the young Jesus. You have to admit that this is quite a daunting task! And he does this without uttering a single recorded word in the entire Bible!
St Teresa of Avila had such a strong devotion to St. Joseph that she named her first reformed convent in Avila after him. She wrote that he is such an effective communicator with God that she wonders why everyone does not go to Joseph with their needs. Hence, the Latin phrase often quoted about him: “Ite ad Joseph” that is: “Go to Joseph”.
Along with the Blessed Mother, Joseph has the inside track when you consider that they enjoyed the obedience of Jesus the Son of God! Maybe even now in heaven!
God must have had great confidence in him. To place the two most precious individuals in the entire future of the world in Joseph’s care must have shown a steadfast belief in the effectiveness of Joseph’s righteous protection of the things of God. Remember he was a common laborer! We tend to picture him in his Carpentry shop taking orders from the neighbors. Maybe that is one of the things he did, but Nazareth was very small and very poor. He had to support his family, which included many other individuals: cousins, nephews and nieces, parents and in-laws. Thus, the historians tell us he probably was closer to a construction worker, and he went to work a number of miles away (with his son, the Son of God!) to a city named Sepphoris which is where the wealthy Romans and Greeks lived in large villas. They had lots of needs; for their houses they required workers with many skills: woodworking, painting, plastering, bricklaying, etc. Joseph must have known many of these crafts. I could see him teaching Jesus these skills to help support the family. This sprawling extended family was what we would consider a blue-collar, working class family. In our own country the working class has a fierce work ethic, sometimes holding down two or more jobs. I would bet Joseph would also have been a hard worker. Based on this description, I could see why God selected this robust, hard-working man to guard the future of the world!
We also have to consider, in evaluating the importance of the influence of St. Joseph, how essential was the modeling that Joseph provided for Jesus. If we look carefully at the personality of the Lord that comes to us from the Gospels, we see a man of gentle strength. Unlike men in every generation that have had poor modeling, for whom masculinity means violence and machismo, Jesus grew up becoming more and more a formidable man whose strength and power was never violent but who used that forceful strength to protect the vulnerable and to continue to forge ahead with His vision of the Kingdom of God. Joseph taught him that it is a form of weakness when one bullies the frightened and that gentleness is the highest form of strength.
It is very interesting to note that Scripture scholars point out that one of the exact words that Jesus used in his life was the word ‘abba’ which in Aramaic, the form of Hebrew that Jesus spoke, is translated as ‘daddy’. He taught his followers to use the word ‘abba’ when speaking of almighty God! This endearing and highly intimate, personal name for God was the same word that Jesus used to refer to his daddy: Joseph. How close must have been the connection between Jesus’ experience of God the ‘Abba’ and Joseph his human ‘abba’!
Clearly, Joseph’s importance and influence must have been immense to Jesus and through our Savior to the Church over the 2,000 years of her history.
Not bad for a man who was the quietest saint in the history of our faith!