The Great Mission of St. Joseph

Joseph's mission:

And Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary,

of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.


st joseph


Among the Jews, as among other peoples of nomadic origin, the genealogical tree was of vital importance. A person was known fundamentally of the clan or tribe to which he belonged rather than by the place where he lived.  Among the Hebrews we have the added circumstances ­of belonging to the chosen people through ties of a person's ancestry being traced through the male. Joseph, as the husband of Mary, was the legal father of Jesus and, as such, carried the duties of a true father. Joseph, like Mary, was of the house and family of David of whom would be born the Messiah.

It would also be Joseph's responsibility to name the Word incarnate, in accordance with the instructions given him by the angel: You shall call his name Jesus.

God had foreseen that his Son would be born of the Virgin Mary, in a family just like any other, and that in her he would develop in his humanity. The life of Jesus had to be in this respect the same as that of other men. He was to be born defenseless, in need of a father who would protect him and teach him the things that all fathers should teach their sons. The essence and ultimate meaning of Joseph's life had to lie in the fulfillment of his mission as Mary's husband and as the father of Jesus. He was born into the world to act as the father of Jesus and to be Mary's most chaste spouse, in the same way that every person who comes into the world has a specific vocation from God, in which is rooted the whole meaning of his life.

When the angel revealed to him the mystery of the virgin birth of Jesus, Joseph quietly accepted the vocation to which he was to remain faithful until death. St Joseph's whole glory and happiness lay in his knowing how to understand what God wanted of him and in his having faithfully carried it out to the end.

Let us contemplate Joseph at the side of the Blessed Virgin, who is with child and soon to give birth to her only begotten Son. And let us resolve to spend the time of Christmas at St Joseph's side, a place as unnoticed as it is privileged: How good Joseph is!

Joseph's relations with Jesus:

Joseph, we read in a sermon of St Augustine, not only claims the name of father, but has a greater claim to it than any other. And then he adds: How was he a father? All the more effectively, the more chaste the paternity. Some thought that he was the father of our Lord Jesus Christ in the same way as other fathers, who beget sons of the flesh and do not receive them only as the fruit of a spiritual love. This is why St Luke says: 'he was thought to be the father of Jesus.

St Joseph was deeply in love With Mary. He must have loved her so much and with such generosity of heart that, when he learned of her desire to preserve the consecration she had made to God, he agreed to marry her. He would rather renounce having children than live apart from the woman he loved.  His was a pure, refined and deep love. It was full of respect with no hint of selfishness. God himself had definitively sealed their union with a new and even stronger bond, which was their joint earthly mission of bringing up the Messiah. And they had already been betrothed, which was why the angel had said: Do not be afraid to take Mary to be 'your wife'.

What kind of relationship would Joseph have had with Jesus? Joseph loved Jesus as a father loves his son and showed his love by giving him the best he had. Joseph, caring for the child as he had been commanded, made Jesus a craftsman, transmitting his own skill to him. So the neighbors in Nazareth would call Jesus the son of the craftsman. Jesus worked in Joseph's workshop and by Joseph's side. What sort of man must Joseph have been, and how must grace have been active in him, that he was able to carry out the task of bringing up the Son of God?

For Jesus must have resembled Joseph: in his way of working, in the traits of his character and in his way of speaking. Jesus' realism, his eye for detail, the way he sat at table and broke bread, his preference for using everyday situations in his teaching – all this reflects his childhood and the influence of Joseph.  

We stay close to Joseph as we meditate on the approaching Nativity. He only asks us to be simple and humble in our contemplation of Mary and her son. There is no room for the proud in that little group in Bethlehem.

Go to Joseph, so that he may teach us to live side by side with Jesus and Mary:

Joseph is only a silent witness to the Holy Maternity. Joseph, full of admiration, unspeak­ing and respectful, contemplates the child and its mother. After Mary, he was the first person to see the Son of God made man. No one could have experienced more happiness than he when he took in his arms the Messiah, who in no visible way could be distinguished from any other child. Initially, Joseph's participation in the mystery had come about through the knowledge given him by the angel's revelation of the mission he was to carry out for these two exceptional people.

St Joseph was present later when the shepherds arrived. He saw them approach the cave, timid and curious, to see for themselves the 'babe wrapped in swaddling clothes'. He heard them explain to Mary about the apparition of the heavenly messenger who had told them about the birth of the Savior in Bethlehem and about the sign by which they would recognize him, describing how a multitude of angels had gathered with this first herald envoy, glorifying God and promising peace on earth to men of good will … Joseph also contemplated the radiant happiness of the woman who was his wife, this marvelous lady who had been entrusted into his keeping. Enthralled by the way she gazed at her son, he saw her own unspeakable joy, her own overflow­ing love, her every gesture so full of exquisite tenderness and meaning.

If we stay close to Joseph during these few days between now and Christmas, he will help us to contem­plate this tremendous mystery of which he was a silent witness and to gaze lovingly at Mary as she holds in her arms the Son of God made man.

From the very start Saint Joseph grasped the fact that his whole reason for living was this child, precisely because he was a child, and as such, in need of help and protection, as Mary was too, for God himself had commissioned him to take her into his home and give her protection.

How grateful Jesus would be for all the vigilance and attention that Joseph paid to Mary. That is why the Church has always paid him great tribute and been fervent in his praise, having recourse to him in times of greatest difficulty. Saint Joseph, pray for them (for our loved ones), pray for me (for I too need your help). In whatever need, the Holy Patriarch, together with the Blessed Virgin, will hear our prayers. Today, we ask him to make us simple of heart so that we will know how to show our love for the child Jesus as he did.

From "In Conversation with God" by Fr. Francis Fernandez






Joseph likewise draws near to adore. The earthly shadow of the Eternal Father rests softly on the Child. Joseph draws near, that most hidden of all God's saints. His soul is an abyss nameless graces, of graces deeper than those from which ordinary virtues spring. We can give no name to the character of his sanctity. We cannot compare him with any other of saints of God. As his office was unshared, so was his grace.  It followed the peculiarities of his office; it stood alone.

He stood to Jesus visibly in the place of the Eternal Father. The human soul of Jesus must have regarded him not only with the tenderest love but also with deep reverence and an inexplicable submission. Meek and gentle, blameless and loving as St. Joseph was, it is not possible to think of him without extreme awe, because of that identity with the Eternal Father which belongs to him  We cannot describe his holiness, because we have no term of comparison. It was not only higher in degree than that of the saints but it was different in kind. But it was eminently hidden in God.

From "Bethlehem" by Father Faber


holy family



I love you, St. Joseph…

And Jesus and Mary too!

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