December 2011: St. Joseph

Both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke depict St. Joseph as the husband and protector of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Joseph was faced with a difficult choice when he discovered that Mary was already pregnant at the time of their betrothal. Wanting to spare Mary the shame of a scandal, Scripture tells us that Joseph initially decided to “divorce her quietly”:

Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1: 20-21)

From that moment on, Joseph continued to guard Mary and Jesus, bringing Mary to Bethlehem to give birth to Jesus and taking his family to safety in Egypt when he has another dream about King Herod’s plan to kill the infant Jesus. Besides the Nativity narratives and the Scripture passage in which the young Jesus becomes temporarily separated from his parents and they discover him preaching in the temple, there are no other references to Joseph in the Bible.

Since the Scriptures refer to Jesus as a “carpenter’s son” during his earthly ministry, statues of St. Joseph frequently show him holding carpenter’s tools or as part of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The feast of St. Joseph is March 19, and the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker is held on May 1. St. Joseph is the patron saint of the Catholic Church, unborn children, fathers, immigrants, workers, and many others.