St. Joseph is known as the Shadow of the Eternal Father, the Perpetual Adorer, the Patron of the Universal Church, the Patron of the Suffering and Dying, the True Foster Father of Jesus Christ, and Most Chaste Spouse of the Ever-Virgin Mary. He shows how a person must rely on the Father’s providence, trust the boldness of the Holy Spirit, and cherish the Incarnate Jesus, all while staying close to the Virgin Mary. St. Joseph is a model of faith and in a unique way he upholds the dignity of all vocations.
Joseph survives and thrives as a person of faith by abandoning his life and family completely to God. The Devil, Herod, and everyday difficulties, like not being able to find a place for his wife to give birth, threaten Joseph’s most precise gifts. A faithful person humbly resigns what they care about most to the Giver of All Gifts only to receive back what is best blessed and renewed. Joseph protects his family through surrendering them to God. How wonderful St. Joseph’s prayers must have been. The way he took his fears and insecurities to God to receive true strength must have been so beautiful.
There are many ways that we know that St. Joseph’s faith was profound. The Virgin Mary knows for sure that she has never been with a man, but Joseph does not. St. Joseph trusted in the words of an angel in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 1:20). Catholic theology of the Trinity had not been developed yet leaving Joseph not knowing with any sort of clarity who this “Holy Spirit” was that had impregnated his fiancée. St. Joseph demonstrates that his faith is not the kind that limits God by being attached to personal plans and expectations, but is one that allows God to act boldly. His faith is fulfilled by being lived out; he did take Mary as his bride, he did raise Jesus as his son, he did go wherever the Lord commanded him. Joseph fled to Egypt when Jesus’ life was being threatened and he returned home when he was told, doing everything in accordance with God’s will and timing.
The obedient Joseph, as the Perpetual Adorer of the Christ-child can also help us grow in intimacy with Christ. Have we ever realized that the baby Jesus was most likely birthed into the callused hands of his carpenter foster-father? St. Joseph knew Jesus in a radically unique and intimate way. Joseph was able to adore the Eucharist while it was still breathing.
We can relate to Joseph in the struggles that he faced and the fact that he was not spared from original sin. He was broken, flawed, sinful, fearful, and even being tempted. Joseph, as most chaste spouse, did not reduce Mary to an object of pleasure but he honored her as a whole person. We can imagine that Joseph embraced his call to chastity not begrudgingly but with great joy. Their intimacy honors the glory of creation by neither of them trying to dominate or manipulate the other for personal gain. How immaculate their interactions must have been! St. Joseph and Mary model for us a pure intimacy rooted in trust, commitment, and the will of God. With these considerations in mind we see St. Joseph as an inspiration for all people because he was called to marriage, parenthood, and celibacy.
Whether we are called to marriage, religious life, priesthood, or the single-life we should entrust ourselves to St. Joseph and know that he understands the burdens that we carry. As a good father he will teach us to trust God completely and to allow the Holy Spirit to move in dramatic and unexpected ways. With Joseph as a model of faith we will honor the dignity of all people, love Mary, and intimately adore the Incarnate Christ.
Daniel Hoover works at St. Mary’s Parish in the Diocese of Wilminigton, DE as a Lay Ecclesial Minister.