The Readings for the Solemnity of St Joseph
Following the advice of a wise Benedictine Prior to “preach the propers”, I’ll write about one today: even the non-scriptural propers such as the collects and prefaces are the condensed teachings of the Church and, so, inspired by God.
Joseph is entirely silent in the Scriptures. This is important: his words are implied in a few places, but never recorded. Jesus’ Father speaks a few times in the New Testament, but Joseph never once.
When Mary was too weak after giving birth to do much of anything, it was Joseph who held the Baby, looking into his face, kissed his forehead, and looked heavenword saying “What now?” And yet, when the Child Jesus first learned to speak it was Joseph that was called Abba. When Jesus came running home crying Abba, it was Joseph that helped. When Jesus was 13 and was Bar Mitzvahed, it was Joseph who stood by him. When Jesus learned to work with his hands it was Joseph who taught him. When Jesus learned all the things a Jewish man learns – into which mysteries a woman is not initiated – he, God in the Flesh, who taught these mysteries to men in the first place, learned them from Joseph. And when Joseph died it was Jesus who comforted his mother, and his half brother, James, at the loss of the only father that family had other than God.
So when we say a Child learns about God the Father from her Father, Joseph is the model.
And yet Joseph – who is named the Pillar of Families and Protector of Holy Church – is entirely silent. That silence is one not of speechlessness, but of contemplation. He is daily in the presence of God, and is a true model for an ascetic, contemplative man living in the world.
My birth father left when I was 1. I never knew him. Mom’s second husband was an ass who physically abused kids. Mom left him when he threw a candy dish at my head. Mom’s third husband, whom I call Dad, learned about being a father as we all do – by suddenly having kids. He’s done a good job. In my early years the father I knew was my grandfather who was, himself, a bit of a scoundrel and a rogue, although not abusive in any way.
So once, when leaving a confessional, as the priest called me back (You’re not in trouble… don’t worry…) it was with some trepidation that I followed his advice: just, go to Joseph he said. Fathers have not been a very good experience in my life.
What is true of Jesus is true of you if you are a member of his Body. Joseph is your Foster Father as well, as Mary is our Mother. Joseph is the head of the house, the breadwinner, the protector; all the things our Fathers were intended to be albeit with varying degrees of success. St Joseph is that for us as Members of Christ’s Body, the Church.
When I struggle with Vocation, Joseph is my model, for he was not of a priestly tribe or family. He was a laborer and yet he lived a priestly life in the service of the Church as it was then: the holy household of Nazareth. If ordained ministry is not for me, let me at least have this life of working for and providing for the Church, of daily seeing Jesus, of hearing the wise counsel of Mary, of living and dying in that service.
Increasingly I find in Joseph great comfort, blessing, and strength. My Daily Offering to the Holy Family, in part, says:
Chaste Heart of Joseph, I beg thy prayers. Like thee may I be chaste and stable. May my work be done with all due speed and diligence; ever be ordered only to the provision, safety, and advance of God’s Kingdom, the Church. Bless my skills and talents that, like thee, I may ever use them to God’s glory and not my own. By thy prayers, may my work be crowned with the virtues of fortitude, prudence, and temperance. Let me be neither greedy nor sloth; let not the noonday demon find me ready to make a mockery of God’s labor or my own. Fix me in chastity in action, word, and thought.
Pray for me, St Joseph, together with thy Most Immaculate Spouse, that I may work out my salvation in fear and trembling; that having thee as my father and Mary as my mother, I may truly have Jesus as my brother and may be a devoted servant of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
As an ascetic, contemplative living in the world, and yet daily in the presence of God, Joseph is our model, our leader, even. The first fruit of this way of life in the world.