Saint Joseph’s Essential Presence in the Life of the Church

St. Joseph the Carpenter, by Georges de La Tour, 1640s.

Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Saint Joseph.  What strikes us when we look at the pages of scripture and see the figure of Joseph is that he was a just and righteous man who loved God, loved Mary and loved Jesus with a generous heart.

As with Mary, God chose Joseph for an essential role in salvation history.  And, as with Mary at the Annunciation, the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation hinged on Joseph’s response.  Being a man of great faith, rather than listen to the voices of doubt and human pride, Joseph decided to place his trust in Mary and his faith in God.  This “reveals to us the greatness of St. Joseph’s heart and soul,” says Pope Francis.  “Joseph was a man who always listened to the voice of God, he was deeply sensitive to his secret will, he was a man attentive to the messages that came to him from the depths of his heart and from on high.”

With an unfailing presence and complete fidelity, Joseph placed himself entirely at the service of Mary and Jesus, taking them into his home and into his heart, protecting them, caring for them and providing for them, as Pope Francis noted at his Mass of Installation, which we celebrated one year ago today.  As the head of the Holy Family, when Mary and the young Jesus encountered the hardships of everyday life, it was Joseph who stood at their side, providing them help and encouragement.

Joseph’s love and his service to the mission entrusted to him stands as an exemplary model for us all, but particularly for men and fathers.  In a special way, this vocation will be explored in the archdiocesan men’s conference, “Man on a Mission 2014,” which will be held on Saturday, March 22nd, at Bishop McNamara High School.  The conference speaker will be well-known author and professor Dr. Edward Sri, who will speak about the New Evangelization and offer practical insights from Christ’s Passion.

Given Joseph’s importance to the Church and her mission, in 1870 he was proclaimed Patron of the Universal Church.  Since then, devotion to him has only grown among the faithful.  This includes Blessed Pope John XXIII, whose given middle name in English was Joseph (Giuseppe, in his native Italian).  In naming Saint Joseph patron of the Second Vatican Council, the Pope explained that “since we need a heavenly protector on high during this period of preparation and of development to ask for that divine power that will enable it to live up to its promise and be an epoch-making event in the history of the Church in our times, there is no saint in heaven who can better be trusted with the task than St. Joseph, the stately head of the Family of Nazareth and protector of the Holy Church” (Apostolic Letter Le voci).

Pope John also later directed that Joseph’s name be inserted into the first Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass.  And then, last year, a decree was issued under the authority of Pope Francis adding the name of blessed Joseph to the other Eucharistic Prayers, II, III and IV, after the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.

No other person in history, aside from Mary, was closer to Jesus or knew him better than Joseph.  As we go forward in the New Evangelization, fruit of the Council, joyfully sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, let us join our prayers to those of Pope John XXIII, soon to be called Saint John.  “O St. Joseph! Here, here is where you belong as Protector of the Universal Church!” he implored.  “Always be our protector. May thy inner spirit of peace, of silence, of good work, and of prayer for the cause of Holy Church always be an inspiration to us and bring us joy in union with thy blessed spouse, our most sweet and gentle and Immaculate Mother, and in the strong yet tender love of Jesus, the glorious and immortal King of all ages and peoples. Amen.”