What does the Church teach us about St. Joseph? And: Why is he so important in the life of Christ and for God’s children in the Church?
Following the New Testament the Church teaches us that St. Joseph was “Spouse of Mary, ever Virgin” and “our Lord’s father.” In 1870 Pope Pius IX declared him the Universal Patron of the Church.
After summarizing this belief Blessed Cardinal Newman explains in a few words how St. Joseph lived his divine vocation of father to Jesus:
“HIS was the title of father of the Son of God, because he was the Spouse of Mary, ever Virgin. He was our Lord’s father, because Jesus ever yielded to him the obedience of a son. He was our Lord’s father, because to him were entrusted, and by him were faithfully fulfilled, the duties of a father, in protecting Him, giving Him a home, sustaining and rearing Him, and providing Him with a trade” (Meditations and Devotions).
Next Blessed John Henry Newman embraces the reasoning of the saints considering the holiness of St. Joseph. He was holy because his divine mission required this, and because of his intimate familiarity with Jesus:
“HE is Holy Joseph, because according to the opinion of a great number of doctors, he, as well as St. John Baptist, was sanctified even before he was born. He is Holy Joseph, because his office, of being spouse and protector of Mary, specially demanded sanctity. He is Holy Joseph, because no other Saint but he lived in such and so long intimacy and familiarity with the source of all holiness, Jesus, God incarnate, and Mary, the holiest of creatures” (Meditations and Devotions).
St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, and St. Augustine were some of the doctors that wrote eloquently on St. Joseph. The teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas on the perfection of St. Joseph’s marriage to the Virgin Mary, and that of St. Theresa of Avila concerning his role as teacher of the interior life are especially noteworthy. Most recently St. Josemaría Escrivá spread this teaching to the five continents, and developed the teaching of St. Joseph’s contemplative life and sanctification of work.
An article by Fr. Francisco Mateo-Seco offers an excellent summary of St. Josemaría’s teaching and devotion to the Holy Patriarch. He writes:
“The exercise of fatherhood towards Jesus is an essential part of a “mission” that filled Joseph’s entire life: “He had a divine mission: he lived with a dedicated soul; he dedicated himself entirely to the concerns of Jesus, sanctifying his ordinary life” (Notes from the preaching of Josemaría). Here lies one of the main attractions that the Holy Patriarch exerted over Saint Josemaría: his total dedication to Jesus in “sanctifying ordinary life,” that is, in the exercise of the duties proper to his office and as a good father of a Jewish family of his epoch.”
Following St. Theresa of Avila St. Josemaría called St. Joseph “our father and lord” because he was the father of Jesus and head of the household of Nazareth. Also following the saint from Avila he called him “teacher of the interior life” since he teaches us to contemplate God in everyday life and to turn our work into prayer.
“In human life, Joseph was Jesus’ teacher in their daily contact, full of refined affection, glad to deny himself to take better care of Jesus. Isn’t that reason enough for us to consider this just man, this holy patriarch, in whom the faith of the Old Covenant comes to full fruition, as a master of interior life? Interior life is nothing but continual and direct conversation with Christ, so as to become one with him. And Joseph can tell us many things about Jesus. Therefore, never neglect devotion to him—Ite ad Ioseph: “Go to Joseph”—as Christian tradition puts it in the words of the Old Testament (Gen 41:55)” (Christ is Passing By).
Let us ask St. Joseph, “our father and lord” and “teacher of the interior life” to teach us how to listen to God and to obey him more faithfully. And in this year of prayer for the Family, let us invoke his intercession with that of the Virgin Mary for our family and all families.