Saint Joseph: The Quiet Man of Faith
As we enter into the final days of Lent we begin to prepare ourselves to celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord. Easter is the greatest feast of the Church’s year. It is the “Solemnity of solemnities,” which celebrates the fulfillment of Jesus’ redemptive mission on earth and, in his resurrection, the fulfillment of God’s plan for salvation.
In the work of salvation, the almighty Lord has chosen to rely also on others. He asks the Church – you and me – to help take part in reconciling humanity to our heavenly Father. And, in a singular way, he looked to a young woman and man from Nazareth named Mary and Joseph to play essential roles. Without them, without the “yes” that each of them gave to God, the events of salvation that were to come would not have taken place.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin, which helps us to understand God’s plan for humanity. As the guardian of the Holy Family, which is an image of the whole Church in miniature, Joseph received from the Lord one of the highest vocations in the plan of redemption. It was he who responded in faith to God’s call and was entrusted with the care of Mary who would bear Jesus to the world. And as foster father, it was Joseph who would nurture Jesus, protect him when his life was endangered, and help him grow into a young man ready to fulfill his own mission. For this Saint Joseph is called the Universal Patron of the Church.
Following our Lord’s ascension into heaven, it was to the Church that he entrusted the mission of proclaiming the Good News of his Resurrection and inviting people to know the gift of God’s love and the promise of eternal life. It is the Church that reveals the life of the Risen Christ that helps people in their journey toward eternal life.
Thus, it is fitting that as patron and protector of the Church, we ask Joseph to pray for us and that we look to his example as inspiration for our own mission. In a special way at Mass on this day, we pray that the Church, by Saint Joseph’s intercession, “may constantly watch over the unfolding of the mysteries of human salvation, whose beginnings [God] entrusted to his faithful care.”
Joseph has a place in the lives and devotion of anyone who loves Jesus. As he is presented to us in scripture and tradition, he was a quiet man – the Gospels do not record a single word he said – who simply lived his life without any great fanfare as a faithful and loving husband, foster father and servant, doing what the Lord asked of him. However, there is a “special eloquence” in this humble silence observed Saint John Paul II (Redemptoris Custos, 17), and perhaps this is why he has been such a popular saint. He is a model for fathers in all families and for working men, but for every person a devotion to Joseph can lead to a deeper faith and to a greater closeness to Christ and to Mary.
Pope Francis, in his address to the clients of Catholic Charities last year, said of Saint Joseph, “Here I think of a person whom I love very much, someone who is, and has been, very important throughout my life. He has been a support and an inspiration. He is the one I go to whenever I am ‘in a fix.’”
What Saint Joseph knew and what is true for all of us is that “faith makes us open to the quiet presence of God at every moment of our lives, in every person and in every situation,” continued our Holy Father. This faith allowed him – and will allow us – to move forward even though the way may not be clear.
Like many people today, especially those on the margins, Joseph had to face some difficult situations. And it was faith, explained Pope Francis, that “gave Joseph the power to find light just at the moment when everything seemed dark. Faith sustained him amid the troubles of life. Thanks to faith, Joseph was able to press forward when everything seemed to be holding him back.”
The trust of this quiet holy man in the unfolding of God’s plan is a reminder that the Church’s mission will not fail even in the present darkness of the persecution of Christians, the challenges to religious freedom, and the increasing secularization of our culture. Like Saint Joseph, and with his paternal intercession, we continue to be faithful servants of God’s plan of salvation.