Understanding Our Church

A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith

St. Joseph, a faithful Jew, listened keenly to God and his angels

Published: March 20, 2021

By Betsy Wiederkehr Huss
Blessed Sacrament Church, Jonesboro

You have heard the phrase, “A man of few words.” This year is dedicated to such a person. In fact, no words of his are recorded in Scripture, yet his actions are crucial to salvation history. Though a first-century man, the Church did not officially encourage devotion to him until the 16th century. Now, two feast days in his honor are designated on the Church calendar: March 19 and May 1.

Pope Pius IX declared him patron of the Universal Church in 1870. Pope Pius XII established him as patron of workers on May 1, 1955, as a counter-celebration to communism’s May Day. Pope John Paul II deemed him “Guardian of the Redeemer” on Aug. 15, 1989, to emphasize his important role in the plan of redemption.

Joseph, a poor manual laborer, became a man of action willingly for God and his family. He took Mary as his wife. When King Herod threatened baby Jesus’ life out of jealousy and fear, Joseph protected them by fleeing to Egypt as the angel said and staying there as a refugee family until it was safe to return.

On the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of his being the patron of the Universal Church, Pope Francis delivered his apostolic letter, "Patris Corde" (“With A Father’s Heart”). At that time, Pope Francis proclaimed from Dec. 8, 2020, to Dec. 8, 2021, as the Year of St. Joseph.

This apostolic letter starts, “With A Father’s Heart: that is how Joseph loved Jesus, whom all four Gospels refer to as ‘the son of Joseph.’” Each of the seven sections of "Patris Corde" is descriptive of a fatherly attribute of Joseph: “A beloved father, a tender loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father, a creatively courageous father, a working father and a father in the shadows.”

Joseph, a faithful Jew, listened keenly to God and the angels who appeared in four of his dreams to solve the life dilemmas he and his family faced. In Matthew’s Gospel, we learn he wanted to spare Mary shame since she was found pregnant as his betrothed by not having her stoned to death as would have been allowed by law.

Instead, he was going to divorce her quietly. Then, an angel told him that it was through the Holy Spirit she had conceived the child he was to name Jesus, “because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Joseph, a poor manual laborer, became a man of action willingly for God and his family. He took Mary as his wife. When King Herod threatened baby Jesus’ life out of jealousy and fear, Joseph protected them by fleeing to Egypt as the angel said and staying there as a refugee family until it was safe to return.

In a third dream, Joseph was again told, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go” (Matthew 2:20), this time to Israel. Being afraid of what Archelaus, Herod’s son, might do to them in Judea, Joseph heeded the warning in a fourth dream. They traveled to Galilee and made their home in Nazareth.

So, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) Yes: Jesus, our Savior, the carpenter’s son (Matthew 13:55) because his earthly father, Joseph, the "Guardian of the Redeemer," was obedient, courageous, faithful, hardworking and loving. He raised Jesus to have the same qualities. One reason we honor Joseph’s sacrificial, loving role in God’s redemptive plan for all humanity is his fatherly heart. St. Joseph, pray for us.