By Grace Small
This month, when we celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph, with the help of the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, we will reflect on St. Joseph’s role as Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Head of the Holy Family.
At the mystery of the Annunciation we ponder upon the beautiful fact that the Virgin Mary is already taken as the spouse of St. Joseph at the moment that the Archangel Gabriel appears to her, but before they live together as man and wife. God wanted His Son to become Man born of a woman and united to a husband in Marriage. This Marriage is a virginal Marriage in which both have beforehand taken vows of chastity. As Mary, the virgin handmaid of the Lord, pronounces her consent, espoused virginally to Joseph, the Word becomes Flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit. This meditation on the Holy Family should bring us to reflect on the human family, constituted by a father, mother and child. The family is and remains the building block of society and the Church.
The structure of the family is established by God not only since Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but from all eternity. Then, in the fullness of time, God Himself becomes a member of a human family, by His holy Incarnation by the power of the Holy Spirit becoming the true Son of Mary and legal Son of Joseph. God redeems the family by means of a family, and He allows each of us to become members of His Own family: we, too, become children of God by adoption through holy Baptism, sharing the same Spiritual Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the same foster-father and guardian in St. Joseph.
At the Visitation, Joseph is prayerfully in the background as Mary hastens in charity to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was in her sixth month, “for nothing is impossible with God” (Lk 1:37). It is reasonable to think that Joseph as the provider and protector of his virginal spouse, and sharer in her charity, accompanies the Virgin Mother of God. As Mary hastens on her journey, the love of Christ compels her to aid her elderly cousin and mediate the grace to the precursor of the Lord. Mary goes to sanctify John the Baptist in the womb of her cousin Elizabeth as evidenced by her words, “For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy” (Lk 1:44).
In the Nativity we reflect on how Joseph takes the lead as head of the Holy Family to enroll his family in the census. “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn” (Lk 2: 4-7). We need only to think of the weariness and continual hope of the Holy Family in their search for a shelter in which Mary would give birth to the Son of God. Homeless as migrants and pilgrims who seek shelter on their journey, the Holy Family were denied entrance into the inns of this world. They were satisfied with the stable which God in His Providence arranged for His Son. We can imagine the scene as Joseph cleans the stable and prepares the manger in tears of love and humility, in joyful poverty of spirit as he does his best to provide for his family.
At the Presentation of the Child in the Temple, Joseph gave the Infant Lord the name Jesus and offered two turtle doves as a sacrifice according to the Law (Lk 2: 21-24). It is the fulfillment of the message given by the Archangel Gabriel and reminiscent of the experience of Elizabeth who is also given the name of the child, but it is Zechariah, who, as father, in pronouncing the name, will be delivered of his muteness. “And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they called him by his father’s name Zachary. And his mother answering, said: Not so; but he shall be called John. And they said to her: There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And demanding a writing tablet, he wrote, saying: John is his name. And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened, and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God” (Lk 1:59-64). In like fashion, Joseph, as the true legal father of Our Lord, in providing the name for Jesus, exercises the authority given to him by God as head of the Holy Family.
At the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, we reflect upon the anguish of Our Heavenly Mother and St. Joseph after the loss of Jesus, Who as a young boy stays behind after their journey to the Temple in Jerusalem. After a search of three days full of prayer and patient long-suffering, their perseverance is rewarded by finding Jesus in the temple amidst the doctors. “And seeing Him, they wondered. And His mother said to Him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing”(Lk 2:48). “And He said to them: How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Lk 2:49). Ought we not feel a similar urgency today and search for Jesus and find Him where He is truly present, “Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity” in the Blessed Sacrament in every Tabernacle? We need only go to the Father’s house, the Church to find Him there doing “the Father’s business” offering Himself in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the redemption of the world. There Jesus is waiting for you to make Him a visit, to spend time with Him in Adoration, tell Him of your love, to praise Him for His goodness and implore the graces we need for ourselves and for the world.
As the true spouse of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and our mother, we also have the right to call upon St. Joseph as our foster-father and intercessor with Christ, Our Lord. It seems that it is most important to develop an open, loving and true relationship with our Heavenly family. Whereas the other saints are our holy “friends of God” in Heaven who can intercede for us, we would be highly remiss to not develop stronger bonds of love and friendship with the Holy Family not just as a model to be imitated but members of our true celestial family to be venerated, loved, praised and lived with in union with our own families, within our domestic families and parochial families. Let us take this opportunity to re-establish these bonds of filial affection, love and dependence on that family which so suffered for love of us, paved the way and longs to see us reunited with them and those we love in Heaven.
St. Joseph, Spouse of the Mother of God, Pray for Us!
Small and her husband Bill are parishioners of St. Mary Church in Providence, R.I., and have made their solemn profession as Third Order Franciscans of the Immaculate, through the Franciscans of the Immaculate in New Bedford. They have both earned a Certificate in Catechetical Studies through TINE, The Institute for the New Evangelization of the Archdiocese of Boston.