St. Joseph, Protector of the Church

Today’s guest post is by Brandon Rappuhn, a Logos marketing copywriter.

St. Joseph and the Christ child 1599What do we really know about St. Joseph?

According to tradition, St. Joseph, the foster father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was born and raised in Bethlehem. He learned the trade of carpentry from his father, just as he would pass that trade on to his foster son, Jesus. Joseph was an honorable and righteous man, who followed the law of Moses for the purpose of serving God and his fellow man (Matthew 1:19). This man of humble stature has had a deep and profound influence on the Catholic Church for the past 2,000 years.

Admittedly, much of what we know of Joseph is speculation, educated guesses, and hearsay. But none of our veneration is without merit. The plain and simple fact that God chose Joseph and Mary to raise, teach, and train the child Jesus attests far more to their character than even the Church assumes. The Church remembers that Joseph is a simple, humble man and that he protected Mary and Jesus when they were vulnerable (Matthew 2:14), but that probably wasn’t the only time Joseph kept Mary and Jesus from harm. He worked with his hands to provide a bed, food, and clothing for the young Jesus—the small, vulnerable child who was (and is) the God of the entire universe.

It is commonly held that Joseph gently passed away of natural causes before Jesus began his public ministry. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that St. Epiphanius says Joseph died at 90 years of age, and Venerable Bede attests he was buried in the Valley of Josaphat. In any case, Joseph’s mission on earth was completed as Jesus prepared to enter into public ministry, leaving Jesus and Mary to begin a radical movement and new covenant that would change the world.

St. Joseph in the world today

We venerate St. Joseph today as the patron of fathers, workers, and the celibate. Countless parishes, schools, hospitals, and US counties have been named after him. Pope Pius IX devoted himself to St. Joseph and, in 1847, established that his feast day should be honored by the entire Catholic Church. Later, in 1871, the same pope declared that the entire Church should be under his patronage, thus establishing him today as the Church’s protector. Just as God appointed him to protect Jesus and Mary, so does he continue to pray for the protection of the Church Jesus so loves.

Written by
Alex Renn
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  • As I teach the children put into my care at church there is a ritual that parents perform called the Ritual of Inviting Children into This World. If they do not perform the Ritual then they will have no children. It does not always work.

    Joseph knew that he and Mary had not performed the Ritual but when he saw Mary that day, six months with child after returning from her visit with Elisabeth, he knew that she had performed the Ritual with some other man. That God was involved never crossed his mind. Note that the scripture says that he thought of putting her aside quietly. He could have had her stoned. He was so in love with Mary that if she wanted a man other than himself he was willing to step aside and let her go.

    Jesus’s love for us is the first and most important love story in scripture. But, IMHO, what a love the man picked to be his ‘protector’ had. A love sure enough, strong enough to let the love of his life go if she did not want to stay.

    • So did I, when I came into the church last Easter, as a matter of fact (it was between him and St. Luke the evangelist). St. Joseph has had a huge influence over me. Praying his novena and striving to be like him as a common worker has helped me grow in humility and contentment.
      Really, there is no saint quite like Joseph. Most saints have miracles and mysticism associated with their lives; St. Joseph is recognized as a saint because he lived in holiness in a very simple life (if I may dare to call his life simple–he raised our very God from childhood to adulthood!). There are hardly any miracles attributed to St. Joseph (although he was present in perhaps the greatest miracle of all–the birth of our Lord).

Written by Alex Renn