National Catholic Register


St. Joseph: Humble Worker, Faithful Father and Husband

BY Jim Cosgrove

March 30-April 5, 2003 Issue | Posted 3/30/03 at 1:00 PM


Today we celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Mary's spouse (Matthew 1:24; Luke 1:27). The liturgy describes him as the “father” of Jesus (Luke 2:27, 33, 41, 43, 48), who was ready to carry out God's plan, even when it defied human understanding. Through this “son of David” (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:27), the Scriptures were fulfilled and the Eternal Word became man by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. St. Joseph is described in the Gospel as a “righteous man” (Matthew 1:19), and he is a model for all believers of a life lived in faith.

Joseph the Just Man

The word “righteous” refers to his moral integrity, his sincere attachment to following the law and his attitude of total openness to the will of his heavenly Father. Even in difficult and, at times, dramatic moments, this humble carpenter from Nazareth never assumed he had the right to question God's plan. He waited for a call from above and silently respected this mystery, allowing the Lord to guide him. Once the task was entrusted to him, he carried it out with docile responsibility. He listened carefully to the angel when he was asked to take the Virgin of Nazareth as his wife (see Matthew 1:18–25), at the time of their flight to Egypt (see Matthew 2:13–15) and at the time of their return to Israel (see Matthew 2:19–23). In a few short but significant lines, the Gospel writers describe him as Jesus’ attentive guardian and as a considerate and faithful husband, who exercises his family authority with a constant attitude of service. Sacred Scripture does not tell us anything more about him, but in this silence is the key to the very style of his mission: a life that was lived out in the grayness of everyday life but with unwavering faith in Providence.

Joseph the Worker

Every day St. Joseph had to provide for the needs of his family through hard manual labor. For this reason, the Church rightly singles him out as the patron saint of workers. Therefore, today's solemnity is also an appropriate occasion to reflect on the importance of work in man's life, in the family and in the community.

Man is the subject and protagonist of work and, in the light of this truth, we can clearly perceive the fundamental link that exists between a person, work and society. Human activity, the Second Vatican Council reminds us, proceeds from man and is ordered to man. According to God's will and design, it must serve the real good of mankind and “enable men as individuals and as members of society to pursue and fulfill their total vocation” (see Gaudium et Spes, 35).

A Spirituality of Work

In order to fulfill this task, a “tested spirituality of human work” must be cultivated that is solidly rooted in the “Gospel of work,” and believers are called to proclaim and bear witness to the Christian meaning of work in their different occupational activities (see Laborem Exercens, 26).

May St. Joseph, who is such a great yet humble saint, be an example in whom Christian workers find their inspiration, calling upon him in every circumstance. To this provident guardian of the Holy Family of Nazareth, I would like to entrust to day those young people who are pre paring for their future profession, those who are unemployed and those who are suffering as a result of underemployment, families, and the entire working world with its characteristic expectations, challenges, problems and prospects.

May St. Joseph, the universal patron of the Church, watch over the entire ecclesial community and, being the man of peace that he was, obtain for all mankind — especially for the peoples who are threatened at this time by war — the precious gift of harmony and peace.