Thanks for joining us for this special Year of Saint Joseph presentation from Relevant Radio: 19 on 19th. A 19-minute talk on St. Joseph on the 19th of the month – the day dedicated to St. Joseph.
Hello and welcome! I’m Patrick Madrid, host of The Patrick Madrid Show on Relevant Radio. And I’m going to share with you some biblical and traditional insights about the role of St. Joseph, the Most Chaste Spouse and Protector of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I’m going to take you on a mini-guided tour of some things we see about St. Joseph in the Holy Bible as well as what others have had to say about him – including some saints as well as a couple of popes.
Let’s begin by looking at some of the titles that are given to St. Joseph in the Litany of St. Joseph. This is a traditional litany that the Church has used for quite a long time. And among the titles of honor we see the following:
- Noble son of the House of David
- Light of patriarchs,
- Guardian of the Virgin,
- Foster father of the Son of God,
- Faithful guardian of Christ,
- Head of the Holy Family,
- Joseph, chaste and just,
- Joseph, prudent and brave,
- Joseph, obedient and loyal,
- Example to parents,
- Pillar of family life,
- Patron of the dying,
- Terror of evil spirits,
- Protector of the Church,
Now, those aren’t all of the titles that the Church honors St. Joseph with. But those are several of the key ones as they pertain to the question of how he lived in obedience to God’s plan for him as the protector of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Protector of the Christ Child.
A few thoughts come to mind as we look at some of these. We see he is called Guardian of the Virgin. Indeed, he was. And as we’ll see in a few moments from Scripture and from what Pope John Paul II has to say, that God entrusted St. Joseph with a singularly important role of physically safeguarding the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Christ Child from any harm that might come to them externally. But also, He gave St. Joseph the special task of safeguarding the Blessed Virgin Mary’s virginity.
As you know, the Catholic Church has always taught from the very beginning that the Blessed Virgin Mary is a perpetual virgin. So her virginity is also something that St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse, was instrumental in safeguarding.
He, as the head of the Holy Family, is a model for heads of families today. And we see in that role the duty of protection. Parents protect their children. Parents protect the home. Parents make sure that bad things don’t come into the household and bad people don’t come near their children. It’s a very fundamental part of what it means to defend, as a father in particular, but also as a mother. The parents together do this.
St. Joseph, being obedient and loyal as well as prudent and brave – these are two other titles the Church gives him – also shows us what it means to do the right thing at the right time. That’s what St. Thomas Aquinas refers to as the role of the virtue of prudence. Knowing what is the right thing to do at a given time. And bravery, or courage, is the willingness to undertake sometimes dangerous and difficult things to do the right thing at the right time.
The Church sees in St. Joseph a model par excellence of a man with those virtues, entrusted by the Lord with defending the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. And in so doing he was also obedient and loyal.
Now, biblically speaking, there’s not a tremendous amount of St. Joseph appearing in the pages of Scripture. But there are a few things I’d like to draw your attention to. So, for example, in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 1:18-25 we read:
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as 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.’ All of this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet. Behold, a virgin will conceive and bear a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’
When Joseph woke from his sleep he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him. He took his wife, but knew her not until she brought forth her firstborn son, and he called His name Jesus.”
Pausing there for a moment you might wonder about that language. “He knew her not until she brought forth her firstborn son.” This is actually one of those passages that is sometimes brought up by those who do not accept or believe in the Blessed Virgin Mary’s perpetual virginity. And they point to this very verse and say he had no relations with her (as some translations put it) until she brought forth her firstborn son. So that seems to them to suggest that there were typical marital relations after the fact. But that’s not what it means.
The word ‘until’ does not mean that anything necessarily changed after Mary brought forth Jesus. And you can demonstrate this. An interesting and rather colorful example is seen in 2 Samuel chapter 6 where King David, who was at the time married to Michal, the daughter of Saul, was overjoyed at the return of the Ark of the Lord – the Ark of the Covenant that had been previously lost in battle with the Philistines.
When King David saw the Ark that had been recaptured from the Philistines being brought back to the City of David, we’re told that he danced with great joy. So much so, it seems, that, as we’re told in 2 Samuel, his wife Michal, the daughter of Saul, grew angry with him. And there it says that she had no more children with King David until the day of her death.
The same Greek word appears there as appears here. So in the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament that same word for ‘until’ is present here. Obviously Michal, the daughter of Saul, did not have any children after her death. There are many other examples of how the word ‘until’ appears in Greek and does not mean that any change took place after the fact.
One quick example is sufficient, this is from 1 Corinithians 15:25. It says, “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” Now, obviously Christ is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and He will reign forever. So, by saying that the Lord will reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet certainly does not suggest or even begin to imply that He would cease to reign as King after He put all of His enemies under His feet.
In Luke 3:23 we read, “Now Jesus Himself was about 30 years old when He began His ministry. He was the son, or so it was thought, of Joseph the son of Heli.” That’s an interesting little detail there that we should dwell upon for a moment. And that helps us to understand St. Joseph’s quiet role of being the defender of the Blessed Virgin Mary, insofar as he knew that he was not the biological father of Jesus, she knew that he was not the biological father of Jesus. But not everybody knew that. In fact, probably, very few people knew that.
That was one way that St. Joseph guarded Our Lady’s reputation. He did not expose this miraculous event that had been proclaimed by the angel Gabriel in the Annunciation to the world. He didn’t tell other people about that. That was something he safeguarded and protected. And this little verse here, Luke 3:23, points this out to us. “Now Jesus Himself was about 30 years old when He began His ministry. He was the son, or so it was thought, of Joseph the son of Heli.”
St. Bernardine of Siena, in the year 1444, said referring to St. Joseph, “He was chosen by the Eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of His greatest treasures. Namely, His Divine Son and Mary, Joseph’s wife. He carried out his vocation with complete fidelity, until at last God called him, saying, ‘Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.'”
Sometime later, in 1582, St. Teresa of Avila wrote, “I took St. Joseph as my advocate and protector and recommended myself very earnestly to him. He came to my help in the most visible manner. This loving father of my soul, this beloved protector, hastened to pull me out of the state in which my body was languishing. Just as he snatched me away from greater dangers of another nature which were jeopardizing my honor and my eternal salvation. For my happiness to be complete he has always answered my prayers beyond what I asked and hoped for. I do not remember, even now, that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant. I am astonished at the great favors that God has bestowed upon me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which he has freed me, of both body and soul.”
Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph to be the Patron of the Catholic Church. That was in 1870. And a few years later, in 1889, Pope Leo XIII wrote, “Joseph was the guardian, the administrator, and the legitimate and natural defender of the divine household of which he was the head. It was thus natural and very worthy of St. Joseph that as he supported in another era all the needs of the family of Nazareth which he wrapped in his holy protection, he now covers with his heavenly patronage and defends the Church of Jesus Christ.”
Now, at greater length, Pope St. John Paul II, wrote an Apostolic Exhortation called Guardian of the Redeemer, or in Latin, Redemptoris Custos. And this is all about St. Joseph and his job, given to him by God, of defending and protecting Our Lady and Jesus.
Pope John Paul begins by quoting Matthews Gospel chapter 1 verse 24, which says, “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife.”
“Inspired by the Gospel,” Pope St. John Paul II says, “the Fathers of the Church from the earliest centuries stressed that just as St. Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, that is, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model.”
Pausing here, we see that Pope St. John Paul II makes a unique comparison between how St. Joseph guarded the Blessed Virgin Mary and how he guards the Church. This is clearly revealed in Scripture, which shows that the Blessed Virgin Mary was the first Christian. In other words, she received the Gospel from the angel Gabriel, she received it, she believed it, she accepted it. And then what does she do? She rises and we’re told she goes in haste to tell other people. She actually literally brings Jesus to St. Elizabeth and to St. John the Baptist.
She is present at virtually every major moment in the life of Christ. His conception, His time in utero for the nine months before His birth, His nativity, His childhood, His young adulthood, all the way into His public ministry, which concluded with the Via Dolorosa. Our Lady was there. And she was there standing at the foot of the Cross. She was also a witness to His Resurrection in the Upper Room, the Bible tells us.
The religious order, the Oblates of St. Joseph, they note in their official description of what we know about St. Joseph’s role in God’s plan of salvation that some notions of him that persist – even among some Catholics to this day – are not rooted in solid biblical evidence, but rather in fanciful imaginings from long ago.
They say, “Such an image came not from Scripture, but from some early Christian writings known as the Apocrypha. The Church never considered these writings to be historical, nor to be a part of the inspired Scriptures, but since the writings supplied the missing graphic details for which the imagination yearns, they did have their influence on preaching, art, and liturgy.”
They say, “Foremost among these apocrypha is The Protoevangelium of James. Originally written around the second half of the second century, the aim of the book was to glorify Mary, which required showing that the Gospel phrases regarding Jesus’ ‘brothers’ did not cast doubt upon her virginity. The work was therefore attributed to James, ‘the brother of the Lord,’ and offered the explanation that Joseph was already an old widower with children, when in the presence of the high priest a dove flew from his staff and hovered over his head, as a sign of his being chosen, not as husband, but as guardian for young Mary. Here too was introduced the interpretation that on hearing of Mary’s pregnancy, St. Joseph suspected that she had been unfaithful.”
Now, the Josephite fathers point out, “None of these assertions of the Protoevangelium was grounded in Scripture, and most of the portrayal is contrary to that of the Church’s official teaching as summed up most recently in the Apostolic Exhortation Guardian of the Redeemer by Pope John Paul II. The fact that this story was so influential particularly during the first fifteen centuries, however, probably accounts for the sparsity of devotion during those centuries to the man closest to Jesus and Mary. It certainly necessitates a study of Joseph in Sacred Scripture, a study that attempts to avoid the legendary interpretations and accretions that have arisen.”
Pope John Paul II writes, “One can say that what Joseph did united him in an altogether special way to the faith of Mary. He accepted as truth coming from God the very thing that she had already accepted at the Annunciation. The Council teaches: ‘The obedience of faith’ must be given to God as he reveals himself. By this obedience of faith man freely commits himself entirely to God, making ‘the full submission of his intellect and will to God who reveals,’ and willingly assenting to the revelation given by him.’ This statement, which touches the very essence of faith, is perfectly applicable to Joseph of Nazareth.”
“Therefore he became a unique guardian of the mystery ‘hidden for ages in God’ (Eph 3:9), as did Mary, in that decisive moment which St. Paul calls ‘the fullness of time,’ when ‘God sent forth his Son, born of woman…to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons’ (Gal 4:4-5). In the words of the Council: ‘It pleased God, in His goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will (cf. Eph 1:9). His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and become sharers in the divine nature.'”
Pope John Paul II writes, “Together with Mary, Joseph is the first guardian of this divine mystery.” St. Joseph is appointed by God to guard and accompany Our Lady along this path until his death.
Pope John Paul II writes, “Together with Mary, Joseph is the first guardian of this divine mystery. Together with Mary, and in relation to Mary, he shares in this final phase of God’s self-revelation in Christ and he does so from the very beginning. Looking at the gospel texts of both Matthew and Luke, one can also say that Joseph is the first to share in the faith of the Mother of God and that in doing so he supports his spouse in the faith of the divine annunciation. He is also the first to be placed by God on the path of Mary’s ‘pilgrimage of faith.’ It is a path along which – especially at the time of Calvary and Pentecost – Mary will precede in a perfect way.”
Pope Benedict XVI, in an address in Cameroon, Africa in 2009 said, “St. Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus, whose Father is God alone, and yet he lives his fatherhood fully and completely. To be a father means above all to be at the service of life and growth. Saint Joseph, in this sense, gave proof of his great devotion. For the sake of Christ he experienced persecution, exile and the poverty which this entails. He had to settle far from his native town. His only reward was to be with Christ.”
The pope also said, “When Mary received the visit of the angel at the Annunciation, she was already betrothed to Joseph. In addressing Mary personally, the Lord already closely associates Joseph to the mystery of the Incarnation. Joseph agreed to be part of the great events which God was beginning to bring about in the womb of his spouse. He took Mary into his home. He welcomed the mystery that was in Mary and the mystery that was Mary herself. He loved her with great respect, which is the mark of all authentic love.”
Pope Benedict concludes, “In Joseph, faith is not separated from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions. Paradoxically, it was by acting, by carrying out his responsibilities, that he stepped aside and left God free to act, placing no obstacles in his way. Joseph is a ‘just man’ because his existence is ‘ad-justed to the word of God.”
“The life of St. Joseph,” Pope Benedict says, “lived in obedience to God’s word, is an eloquent sign for all the disciples of Jesus who seek the unity of the Church.”
Let us conclude this meditation on St. Joseph as the Protector of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the words of a beautiful prayer to St. Joseph. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath.
St. Joseph, Protector of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Protector of the Christ Child, and Patron of the Universal Church, pray for us. Amen.
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