While Our Lady and her seven sorrows is a well-known devotion in the Catholic Faith, the Seven Sorrows and Joys of St. Joseph are sometimes overlooked. A few hundred years ago, two shipwrecked Franciscan priests were guided to safety by an apparition of a young St. Joseph, who revealed to them the Seven Sorrows and Joys.
In preparation for today’s celebration of the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, Timmerie discussed this story and the specific events of St. Joseph’s life that provided these poignant meditations.
The first of the sorrows is when St. Joseph found out that Mary was with child. He doubted his worthiness to partake in the circumstances set out before him.
“Then there’s a dream. And in that dream we find the first joy of St. Joseph,” says Timmerie. “…the angel Gabriel reveals to St. Joseph that in fact Our Lady has conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and the child’s name will be Jesus.” Thus, Joseph is reassured that it is God’s will that he should take Mary into his home and raise and protect both her and Jesus, as is a husband and father’s duty.
The second sorrow that beset St. Joseph was the pain of bringing the child into the world in a cave filled with animals and hay and filth. Jesus was born into utter poverty. He would face much hatred and many hardships, the least of all being poverty and destitution. But here, in the middle of this suffering and the moment of anguish at not being able to meet the needs of his family, Joseph experiences his second joy that lets him know all is well: Our Savior, the Son of God is born.
The third sorrow of St. Joseph occurs at the circumcision of Jesus. He is sorrowful that Jesus must undergo “the pain and the challenge” of His circumcision, bowing in submission to the customs and traditions of Jewish law. He is the Son of God, after all. Why should He submit as everyone else did? However, there is a joyful part to the process – the naming of the baby. “When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21) He was named Jesus, meaning “God is Salvation.”
St. Joseph’s fourth sorrow occurs during the mystery that we know as the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. There, the righteous man Simeon who was promised that he should not die until he had seen the Messiah holds Jesus and says, “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32) Joseph is overwhelmed with the ensuing burden of caring for the Son of God. But at the same time, he is reinvigorated with the hope of man’s redemption that will be brought about by this baby in his arms.
The fifth sorrow came about when Joseph and the Holy Family were forced to flee to Egypt out of fear that Jesus would be killed. Once again, Joseph was led by an angel in a dream to embrace pain and suffering in the name of protecting his wife and child, but once again he is graced with a joy to overcome it. By traveling to Egypt and engaging in the most intimate form of worship of the one true God, they overcame the pagan idolatry that filled that land.
The return from Egypt was Joseph’s sixth sorrow. While that may seem like it would be a joyful event, one can imagine how difficult it might be to pick up and restart in a new land yet again. Moving was exponentially more difficult in their time and to do it multiple times within a few years must have been very difficult for the Holy Family. But the joy of being able to find a home in Nazareth and finally settle down with Mary and Jesus must have made it all worth it.
The final sorrow of St. Joseph is when Jesus is “lost” and later found in the temple. It was custom for children of Jesus’s age, around 12, to now be considered adults, and this period of duress while Joseph and Mary looked for Him acted as a sort of assertion for this. When Joseph and Mary finally found Him, also marking the seventh of Joseph’s joys, He said, “’Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’” (Luke 2:49) After going through so much to provide, protect, and raise Jesus, we cannot begin to imagine the pain of having lost the Savior of the world, followed by the immense joy upon finding Him again.
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