Following the Path of Our Spiritual Father
December 8, 2020 was not only the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, but also the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church made by Pope Pius IX in 1870. To mark the occasion, Pope Francis issued his Apostolic Letter “Patris corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”) declaring December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021 the Year of St. Joseph.
We know very few details about this great saint, and we have no recorded words of him. The Gospels describe St. Joseph as a just and righteous man, a lowly carpenter by trade, descended from the line of King David and living in the unremarkable village of Nazareth. After Mary and Joseph are betrothed, St. Joseph discovers Mary is inexplicably with child – a revelation that causes St. Joseph so much consternation that he resolves to divorce her quietly. Before he acts, however, an Angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream, saying, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Immediately upon awakening, St. Joseph gives his own fiat: he takes Mary as his wife and, after the birth, names the baby Jesus.
Shortly after Jesus’ birth, St. Joseph again demonstrates his obedience by presenting Jesus with Mary in the Temple in accordance with Jewish law, listening in amazement to Simeon and Anna’s prophecies concerning Jesus and Mary. Then comes the astonishing visit of the Magi, followed swiftly by a second dream: “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt…; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”
Once again, St. Joseph immediately obeys, escaping with Our Lady and the Christ Child to the distant, foreign land of Egypt. The Holy Family remains there several years until the angel appears a third time to St. Joseph, ordering him to rise and return to the land of Israel. Again, St. Joseph obeys. The last we hear of St. Joseph in Scripture is at the finding of the boy Jesus in the Temple, after St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin searched for Him “with great anxiety” for three days. This time, it is Jesus who obeys, returning to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph.
Through these few but incredible details, St. Joseph reveals a spiritual path that is not one that demands answers or seeks explanations but accepts God’s will. He does so not with passive resignation, but with courage, hope, and faith. God revealed His will to St. Joseph through incredible revelations, extraordinary sufferings, and even the mundanity of ordinary life. St. Joseph, ever attentive to the movements of the Divine, not only came to understand His will, but play an indispensable role in salvation history. God commanded, and St. Joseph obeyed. St. Joseph trusted God, and God trusted St. Joseph with His two greatest treasures: Jesus and Our Lady.
So it is, then, for each of us. Coming out of one of the most difficult years in recent memory, it is not an understatement to say that St. Joseph, more than any other, is the saint we need. No matter where you find yourself in your spiritual journey this year – whether it be the mountaintops, plains, or valleys – St. Joseph stands ready to accompany you. “With a Father’s Heart: that is how Joseph loved Jesus,” explains Pope Francis. And that is how St. Joseph loves each of us, as well.
In this year of St. Joseph, harken to the ancient wisdom of the book of Genesis: Ite ad Ioseph. “Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do.” (Gen. 41:55). God has entrusted the treasures of Jesus and Our Lady to you in the same way He did St. Joseph. Let St. Joseph show you the way of loving obedience and the path that will unveil these glorious treasures more fully in your own life as you seek to know and follow God’s will and play your own part in salvation history. Together let us pray:
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust; with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too, show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life. Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen.