With Valentine’s Day upon us, an annual tradition in the U.S., and in many parts of the world, is for fathers to reach out and display their love and affection for their families. Typically, a father presents gifts to his wife and children on Valentine’s Day to display his commitment to them.
As a role model, Catholic fathers are blessed to have St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus. St. Joseph is held in high regard by the Church as a selfless father and a faithful husband who was devoted to his family.
“St. Joseph is a protector and a reliable and a trustworthy father,” says Sister Eileen McNerney of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. “The stability he showed in a marriage is extremely important because today 50 percent of marriages end in divorce.”
Joseph is also patron saint of the Universal Church, families, fathers, expectant mothers, travelers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers, and working people.
The Catholic Church honors St. Joseph annually with two feasts days, on March 19 and May 1.
When Joseph discovered Mary was pregnant after they had been betrothed, he knew the child was not his but he was unaware that she was carrying the Son of God.
Joseph knew women accused of adultery could be stoned to death, so he resolved to send her away quietly and not expose her to shame or cruelty. However, when an angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph did as the angel told him and took Mary as his wife. (Matthew 1:19-25).
“Joseph would have been justified not to marry Mary because she was pregnant and the baby was not his,” says Sister Katherine “Kit” Gray of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. “He would have been justified in doing so, but he listened and obeyed the Angel and married Mary and formed a family showing selfless love.
“Today, we can follow the example of St. Joseph by serving others in ministry, volunteering, collaborating with others and by providing support from beyond the scenes. St. Joseph sacrificed for the big picture of God’s plan for Salvation.”
When the angel came again to tell Joseph that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything he owned, all his family and friends, and fled to a strange country with his young wife and baby. Joseph waited in Egypt without question until the angel told him it was safe to go back (Matthew 2:13-23).
“St. Joseph exemplifies a symbol of providing safety for his family,” says Fr. Troy Schneider, the Parochial Vicar of the Diocese of Orange. “Joseph had courage that others would not have had. He provided safety and protection for his family on the long and dangerous journey through the desert.”
“St. Joseph is an example for immigrant families who live in fear,” says Sister McNerney added. “He took a big risk to leave his home for a foreign land, not knowing where his next meal or job would be for the well-being of his family.”
We know Joseph loved Jesus. His concern was for the safety of this child entrusted to him. Not only did he leave his home to protect Jesus, but upon his return settled in the obscure town of Nazareth out of fear for his life. When Jesus stayed in the Temple we are told Joseph, along with Mary, searched with great anxiety for three days for him (Luke 2:48).
“I image many of us have a notion of the image of what marriage and the family looks like in modern western world,” says Katie Dawson Director of Parish Faith Formation for the Diocese of Orange. “St. Joseph exemplifies what it truly means to sacrifice for your marriage and your family.
“I’m sure Joseph had dreams and aspirations for his marriage, but God intervened and changed his life. We find a solid example of model faith with St. Joseph. He shepherded his family away from danger on their flight to Egypt.”
The Pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in Placentia, Reverend Jack Sewell, emphasized that St. Joseph followed God’s plan.
“The role that St. Joseph took on, without fully understanding it, was not his plan, but part of God’s plan,” says Rev. Sewell. “Joseph’s obedience is an example for all of us. The unusual circumstances he experienced changed his life, Mary’s as well, to be the mother and the foster father of the Son of God.
“Scriptures tells us that Joseph was a model educator who guarded and accompanied Jesus in his growth of wisdom, age and grace and who provided Jesus and the family with a stable environment.
“We can strive to have the virtue of humility as St. Joseph did. Joseph openly received God’s word, heard God’s word and humbly obeyed God’s word.”
In His Footsteps Prayer: Saint Joseph, patron of the universal Church, watch over the Church as carefully as you watched over Jesus, help protect it and guide it as you did with your adopted son. Amen