The Forgotten Saint
May 20, 2019
How came this man by this wisdom and miracles? Is not this the carpenter’s son?
This week on May 1st, we celebrated the Feast of the Saint Joseph the Worker, the holy spouse of our Blessed Mother and the foster father of Jesus. It’s fitting that we begin this month of May dedicated to Mary with a feast honoring Saint Joseph. A worker in the ancient world referred to him as a carpenter. Indeed, he was a carpenter, but Saint Joseph was a man of great spiritual works as well. Saint Joseph was a model of humility. We can imagine he would love one of his other titles: the forgotten saint.
It is true we don’t hear much from or about Saint Joseph in Sacred Scripture. But we know he was “a just man”, which means a man full of virtue. It is clear from Sacred Scripture that Saint Joseph was a doer, an active man full of holiness. He responds willingly in his obedient response to the angel telling him in a dream to not fear to take Mary as his wife.
Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying: Do not be afraid, Joseph, Son of David, to take to thee Mary thy wife, for that which is begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit.
The reality of Saint Joseph as the earthly father of the Savior of the World and the protector of our Blessed Mother is a witness to his obedient humility. As he began to understand the full reality of his situation, we can imagine he worked tirelessly to serve the needs of the Blessed Mother. The humility of him being served by Her in the holy house of Nazareth, too, would take great humility, knowing Mary was the Ark of the New Covenant, chosen by God to bring the Savior into the world. Finally, his humility in welcoming our Lord into the world and protecting Him from the evils of Herod by taking his family into another country is a work of humble obedience and witness to the Divine Providence which sent him into a foreign country to save his family from evil. Saint Joseph takes up his holy family, draws Jesus and our Blessed Mother to himself, into his heart, and heads off into the desert.
Saint Joseph is close to the Father through the physical adoration of Jesus and the veneration of Mary. Saint Joseph simply prays and grows more in union with grace by caring for his family and looking on Jesus and Mary in love, growing deeper in trust of our Heavenly Father. With his prayers we can imagine Saint Joseph also suffered many trials along this way, which he accepted in his holy work with humility, obedience, and charity. In these holy virtues, we also see Saint Joseph’s virtue of fidelity as head of the Holy Family and protector of it. We see in it God’s blessing on the family, as what the Church teaches is the soul of human society in choosing to have the Savior come into the world in a human family under the love of a mother and father.
Along with these visible and earthly works, Saint Joseph’s great holiness showed through his interior works. The Spiritual tradition of the Church teaches us that the true life of man is the inner life; the silent life within us holds the reality of who we are. So we can’t help but wonder at how the beautiful inner life of Saint Joseph assisted him in his life with the Holy Family. Tradition and reflections from the saints and Fathers of the Church tell us Saint Joseph shared the same joys of the saints in heaven while still on earth. Saint Joseph was full of the light of love, the Fathers teach us; they interpret the finding of Jesus in the Temple as one example of the deep spiritual life of Saint Joseph and our Blessed Mother. When we read, “... they wondered at all these things being said about Jesus and pondered them in their hearts...”, this was a deep spiritual reflection only perfect souls could enjoy. Saint Joseph was able to have this type of union with the Heavenly Father through ceaseless prayer, and, the saints say, while he was awake and sleeping! We can’t forget that our Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph enjoyed the presence of our Lord in their own home! They had what we might call the first Eucharistic Adoration: the joy to reflect on our Lord all the time!
We might ask ourselves, how did this humble, obscure carpenter become such a powerful saint? We at first might become discouraged, thinking Saint Joseph was the first saint we could relate to because of his more relatable life. Saint Joseph was a humble carpenter who was not immaculately conceived like our Blessed Mother. He wasn’t divine, but only a man. How did Saint Joseph achieve such holiness? He became a powerful saint the same way we all can: through God’s goodness. We become saints like Saint Joseph through our own personal prayer and God’s grace. Prayer is work, but prayer is growing in faith, and our prayer is fed through grace, which we receive through our participation in the Sacraments of the Church, in particular the Most Holy Eucharist. In addition to these works, we also need humility, trust, and dependence on the other gifts Saint Joseph shows us in his life. So we have the tools for this union at our fingertips.
God bless you and your families,
Father Aidan, OSB