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St Joseph and the Virtue of Obedience

During these waning days of Lent, we should look to St. Joseph for inspiration to renew our Lenten promises. His traditional feast day, March 19, always falls during Lent, which is fitting for the saint who listened to God and was always obedient to His will. 

Scripture doesn't tell us much about the historical St. Joseph; nevertheless, St. Joseph holds a very important place in the life of the Church. He is not only the patron saint of fathers, families, and workers (among other things), but also the protector of the Universal Church. He has two feast days; on May 1st, we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. His March 19th feast day emphasizes his role as husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus; in essence, it celebrates his role as head of the Holy Family.

St. Joseph was descended from the line of King David and was likely born in Bethlehem. Despite his royal lineage, Joseph was a humble carpenter, and not very well off. Tradition teaches that Joseph was an older man when he became betrothed to Mary. He probably was married before and had children from that marriage (this is one explanation for Jesus' brothers mentioned throughout scripture). His marriage to Mary was most likely going to be a celibate one, to protect her virginity; how surprised he must have then been to find she was pregnant!

Scripture doesn't have St. Joseph speak at all. Instead, his appearances in the Bible highlight his virtues of listening and obedience. His first response to hearing of Mary's condition was to divorce her. Yet he is soon visited by an angel, telling him to continue with the marriage and take care of her Son, who is to be the Son of God. Joseph listens and obeys. He once more listens and obeys when an angel tells him to protect Mary and the newborn Jesus by fleeing to Egypt to avoid the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. 

Joseph's obedience to God was mirrored by his foster Son's obedience to him, which certainly proves that he deserves our devotion - if it was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for us! Scripture shows us that the adolescent Jesus, though beginning to understand His relationship to God the Father, still submitted to the earthly authority of His parents (Lk 2:51). And despite being the only one in the Holy Family to sin (which must have been a tough position to be in!), Joseph was still afforded the dignity of being the leader of the household. Jesus was known in His childhood as "Joseph's son" (Lk 4:22), affirming his authority over both Jesus and his household. Throughout his earthly life, Joseph took responsibility for and protected both Mary and Jesus. It is no wonder, then, that Joseph is the patron saint of fathers, families, and married people. His role as protector of the Universal Church also stems from his familial authority; just as he was protector of the young Jesus, he now is the protector of all who are united to his Son through the Church. 

The Bible does not mention Joseph's death, but we assume it was before Jesus' public ministry, since he does not appear in any of those passages. The faithful have long prayed to St. Joseph for the grace of a happy death, since his own must've been just that, with Jesus and Mary by his side. 

As Lent starts to draw to a close, let us emulate St. Joseph by quieting our hearts, minds, and voices. Instead of asserting what we want, let us listen to what God wants. When He makes His will clear, let us once again emulate the foster father of Jesus by practicing obedience.


Feast of St. Joseph Prayer

ANT. Behold the faithful and wise servant, whom the Lord made ruler over His household.

V/. The Lord loved him and adorned him.
R/. He clothed him with a robe of glory.

Let us pray.
HELP US, we beseech Thee, O lord, through the merits of the blessed Joseph, spouse of Thy most holy Mother, that, what we cannot of ourselves obtain, Thou mayest grant us at his petition. Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

V/. Pray for us, blessed St. Joseph.
R/. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

More traditional prayers to St. Joseph can be found here.


By Anna Neal

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