ST. JOSEPH OF NAZARETH

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo of Seville, Spain - St. Joseph and the Holy Family in his Carpenter Shop with John the Baptist, Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest, Hungary, 1658.


And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.
So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea,
unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David:
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes,
and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Gospel of Luke 2:1-7


St. Joseph of the House of David was the foster-father of Jesus and the husband of Mary his mother. The most reliable information on St. Joseph is from the Infancy Narratives of the Gospels of Saints Matthew and Luke. St. Joseph along with Mary spent the most earthly hours with Jesus during his childhood. Joseph was betrothed to Mary, but before they came together, she was with child by the Holy Spirit. Being a "just man" and unwilling to put her to shame, he planned to send her away quietly. But he was warned in a dream by an angel of the Lord: "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:18-21).

While his family was originally from Bethlehem, St. Joseph settled in Nazareth where he was a carpenter by trade (Matthew 13:55). He took Mary his espoused wife from Nazareth to Bethlehem for a census where she delivered the baby Jesus. Following the birth of Jesus and the visit of the Magi, Joseph was again warned in a dream by an angel of the Lord to escape the wrath of Herod; he took the Holy Family on the Flight to Egypt. They stayed there until the death of Herod, when Joseph was again directed in a dream by an angel of the Lord to leave Egypt, avoid Judea, and return to Nazareth (Matthew 2:19-23).

The Gospel of Mark does not mention Joseph by name, but provides two important clues about Jesus. First, that Jesus is from Nazareth of Galilee (Mark 1:9), and that Jesus followed in Joseph's footsteps and became a carpenter: "Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary...?" (Mark 6:3).

When Jesus was twelve years old, his parents took him to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and, after missing him for three days, they found him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers. Mary was astonished and said to him, "Your father and I have been looking for you." Jesus answered, "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he said to them. He was obedient to them and returned to Nazareth. "And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man" (Luke 2:48-52).

Joseph is referenced in relation to Jesus in John 1:45, when Philip found Nathanael and told him: "We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the Law, and also the prophets, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." He is also referenced in John 6:42 in relation to Jesus: "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?"

How old was St. Joseph? It is believed that Joseph died before the Public Ministry of Jesus, for, unlike Mary, he became noticeably absent in Scripture, such as family occasions like the Wedding Feast of Cana, or during the Passion of Our Lord. Historic paintings, such as Tondodoni by Michelangelo and The Holy Family by Raphael, imply Joseph was a considerably older man. Apocryphal tradition suggests that Joseph was a widower, and his children by his former wife were the "brothers and sisters of Jesus." On the other hand, Joseph had to be young enough in order to practice carpentry and train Jesus in his trade, and energetic enough to take the Holy Family on the Flight to Egypt!

The Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, is our best example of a loving family. Saint Joseph is the Patron Saint of Marriage. Joseph listened to the angel and accepted his divine mission by taking Mary as his wife and becoming the foster-father of Jesus. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, in The World's First Love, noted in a Chapter entitled "The World's Happiest Marriage," that "no husband or wife ever loved each other as much as Joseph and Mary," for they had a pure union of heart. And they lived in the presence of love itself, Jesus Christ! And the Blessed Virgin Mary serves as our model of love and mercy, who intercedes with her Son Jesus for us, her children on earth.

St. Joseph has been recognized throughout the ages as a model of fatherhood and is the Patron Saint of Fathers. His feast-day is March 19 on the liturgical calendar. St. Joseph the Worker is also celebrated on May 1. He is the Patron Saint of the Universal Church, of many nations (Austria, Belgium, Canada, Peru, Vietnam) and cities (San José), and the Patron Saint of Carpenters and Home Sales.

St. Joseph is known as the Patron Saint for a Happy Death, since it is believed that he had the privilege of dying in the loving presence of Jesus and Mary. The following Prayer to St. Joseph for a Happy Death is from the Oblates of St. Joseph Seminary in Pittston, Pennsylvania:


O Glorious St. Joseph, I choose you today for my special patron in life and at the hour of my death. Preserve and increase in me the spirit of prayer and fervor in the service of God. Remove far from me every kind of sin; obtain for me that my death may not come upon me unawares, but that I may have time to confess my sins sacramentally and to bewail them with a most perfect understanding and a most sincere and perfect contrition, in order that I may breathe forth my soul into the hands of Jesus and Mary. Amen.



Bartolomé Esteban Murillo of Seville, Spain - St. Joseph and the Christ Child, Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida, 1670.



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