Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Feast of St. Joseph

The Feast of St. Joseph

          My three sons are named after St. Damien of Molokai, St. Dominic and St. Maximilian Kolbe.  Those three men lived quite extraordinary lives.  Damien voluntarily spent the last two decades of his life living in a leper colony and ministering to those dying from that dreaded disease.  Predictably, he contracted leprosy himself and offered his life as a sacrifice to Christ.  St. Dominic traveled all over preaching the Faith against the Albigensian heresy.  He won many souls back to the Church because of the fidelity of his life to his teaching.  St. Maximilian Kolbe established the Knights of the Immaculata, was one of the first to use the mass media for the spread of the Faith, and voluntarily died in another man’s place in a Nazi concentration camp.
          Today (March 19) is the feast day of St. Joseph, whose life, to undiscerning eyes might seem less remarkable than those of these three great saints.  But to us he is among the greatest of the saints.  He is the man specifically chosen by God to be the foster father of His Son and the spouse of His Mother. 
          The Scriptures and even Tradition tell us very few of the details of the life of St. Joseph.  He, of course, brought Mary to Bethlehem for Caesar’s census, where Jesus was born.  He then led the Holy Family as refugees into Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath.  When finally he returned to Nazareth he lived the rest of his life as a simple carpenter, husband and father.  But a deeper examination reveals some of the virtues that made St. Joseph truly an extraordinary man. 
          We do see some rather unique events in Joseph’s life, namely the fact that three times an angel spoke to him in dreams.  What is telling, however, is Josephs’ reaction.  Each time he listens to God.  Without reservation he embarks on the mission to which God calls him.  Clearly St. Joseph was a man of prayer who was attentive to the Voice of God. 
          Most of Joseph’s life, though, is hidden, in his home or his carpentry shop in Nazareth.  His life could have been any man’s life.  But the Scripture tells us that Joseph was a “righteous man.”  He was the spiritual head of his family, even though that family contained the Son of God and His Blessed Mother.  He was a provider, a protector and a teacher.
          We can imagine how Joseph must have treated Our Lord and Our Lady as husband and father.  We can conclude with what diligence and faithfulness he tended to his work and cared for his customers.  He lived a life that any of us might live, and yet he attained the heights of holiness.
          I am always fascinated by the life of St. Joseph.  I could imagine a St. Dominic or St. Maximilian Kolbe as being the patron of the Universal Church, but that title is reserved for Joseph.  The simple man with the hidden life receives the title, in Litany of St. Joseph, “Terror of demons.”
          What an incredible patron for all men, for husbands, for fathers, for workers.  We who provide, protect and lead our families can find a wonderful model in Joseph who, not because of extraordinary deeds, but because of his righteousness, became the greatest of saints.  We too need not live lives of unusual heroics to obtain holiness or to be the terror of demons in our homes.  We only need, in our normal lives, to seek heroic virtue and to be attentive and obedient to God.
A Prayer to St. Joseph Dating From the First Century
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, patron of departing souls, pray for me.  Amen.