St. Joseph – Patron Saint of Canada
On March 19, we pause from Lent to have a celebration of Saint Joseph. The liturgy today includes the Glory to God, an additional reading, and the Profession of Faith. The presider wears white vestments. We are celebrating Joseph’s faithfulness to his responsibilities as husband to Mary and foster father of Jesus.
If you have not read it, I strongly recommend a beautiful document from Pope Francis. His apostolic letter, Patris Corde (with a Father’s Heart), was released in December 2020. You can find it here. https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco-lettera-ap_20201208_patris-corde.html
I have written an earlier post about it, offering a summary of some of the beautiful ideas he offers. It’s worthwhile reading for any of us, perhaps especially fathers.
Matthew’s Gospel says this of Joseph. “Mary’s husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.” The angel explained the situation to Joseph and when he woke from sleep, “he took her as his wife.”
St. Joseph was faithful to Mary. He was a good father to Jesus. We can imagine him quietly going about his work, gently teaching and passing on fatherly advice to Jesus. He would teach skills and crafts, but, also, important attitudes and ways of approaching people.
We see evidence of what his parents passed on in the priorities set out by Jesus and the ways in which he treats and is attentive to people. He couldn’t speak of love if he hadn’t experienced it. The very fact that he uses the image of “father” to speak of God is an indication that he had a good experience of his earthly father. Jesus’ pastoral skills didn’t come from doing a Master of Divinity at a school of theology. They are the product of a different kind of school. The primary teachers in that school were Mary and Joseph.
Faithful marriage partners are unsung heroes of our world. How often do we hear stories of mothers and fathers who sacrifice so much for their children or for one another! It’s always beautiful and moving to hear stories of how people stay faithful to each other, regardless of what life has handed them.
On their marriage day, husband and wife “promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” Those are easy words to say when people are young and carefree. What happens when the good times and health come to an end? None of us has any idea how our vows and promises will be tested. We’ve all heard sad stories of one spouse developing Alzheimer’s or some other debilitating illness.
Yet, there is something beautiful about how one spouse cares for the other. How many of us know couples who have weathered serious financial struggles? Or, people who become parents to a severely handicapped child? Or parents to a criminal?
Faithfulness and integrity come in many sizes and shapes. As we celebrate the life of a husband and foster father who remained faithful, let’s ponder the illustrations of faithful devotion we see all around us.