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A year of St. Joseph, family protector

A statue of the St. Joseph and the baby Jesus located in the courtyard of Providence Hall at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Pope Francis has proclaimed a “Year of Saint Joseph.” I am elated. I have a special devotion to Saint Joseph because he reminds me of my father who was a steady, faithful presence in our family. Joseph has that same aura. I remember putting Joseph’s figure in the crèche in front of the manager only to have him put back on the side near an ox after my mother rearranged the figures. I tried!

Joseph in Scripture

There is little about Joseph in the New Testament. We know he was from the House of David; he was a carpenter and he was a faithful and devoted spouse to Mary and a loving father to Jesus. We don’t know when he died. We last hear about him in Luke 2:41-52 when he and Mary find the 12-year-old Jesus speaking to the teachers in the temple. Joseph is not at the marriage feast in Cana so I surmise that he died before Jesus was 30 years old.

I reflect on how disturbing it was for Joseph to realize that his betrothed and beloved Mary was pregnant. What was their conversation like, which surely included tears and pain? In the Jewish tradition, Joseph could divorce Mary. How he must have loved her because he had decided to divorce her quietly in order to spare Mary from further embarrassment. Joseph’s fears and trepidation are relieved by a dream of an angel comforting him and reassuring him that Mary would be his wife and Jesus “will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21. He accepts and becomes a loving husband to Mary.

Responsibility

On their way to Bethlehem for the census, Mary is about to give birth. Where can they find a room with so many people in Bethlehem all looking for lodgings? Joseph must have been frantic. He has to protect his wife and is grasping the importance of the baby that would soon enter the world. All he can find is a cave where animals are kept. He accepts the offer of the owner to let them stay there. While he and Mary were surely relieved, I would guess that Joseph was still looking for a better place for them. The blessed event of Jesus’ birth takes place. Shepherds visit the family. Was Joseph welcoming but a little wary because he must shield the baby from any harm?

How did he react to the Magi? In Matthew 2: 11 the Magi visit Jesus in a house. Had Joseph found a more suitable place for the family? Joseph must have been very concerned that these three wise men had journeyed far to find Jesus. Joseph may have been cautious and questioned the magi until he believed it was safe for them to bring their gifts in homage to Jesus. Mary may have looked to Joseph for direction since she, as any new mother, was consumed with caring for Jesus.

Family life

At some point in the holy family’s time in Bethlehem, an angel once again visits Joseph in a dream. He is not to return to Nazareth but to find refuge in Egypt because of Herod’s plan to kill Jesus. Joseph must have felt frightened and filled with dread. He and Mary take Jesus to Egypt and stay until Herod’s death. They are refugees in a strange land. Were they welcomed when they looked for lodgings? Did Joseph find some carpentry work to provide for the family? Joseph is the steady and constant protector and provider.

The last mention of Joseph in the scripture is looking for Jesus who is missing during the pilgrimage to the temple. Imagine losing your child and frantically looking for him/her amid many people during a pilgrimage. Joseph and Mary kept each other hopeful as they searched faces on their way back to the temple. And there was Jesus in the temple speaking with the teachers. What relief! What joy tinged with parental frustration!

Creatively courageous

Pope Francis describes Saint Joseph as “…a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows. (Patris Corde).

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ, the Light of the world, reflect on the example of Joseph. We will need to be “creatively courageous” this Christmas. Be hopeful and filled with the peace of Christmas!

(And look at your crèche and move Saint Joseph toward the front of the manger!)

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Sister Sue Paweski

Sister Sue has been a Sister of Providence since 1998. She currently ministers as Co-director of the Providence Associate relationship with the Sisters of Providence. Prior to that she taught fine arts at St. Genevieve Catholic School in Chicago.

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3 Comments

  1. Ken Siarkiewicz, MAPT '91 on December 22, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you, Sister Sue, for your comments about Joseph. I think it is especially powerful that you broke your thoughts down into the sections that you did. Joseph is a member of my inner circle of intercessors. Our house in NY state sold in six days under the loving eye of Joseph on the stove in the kitchen. When we moved to Arizona, we bought a four-foot statue of Joseph the Worker and put it in the corner of our back yard. Because I do a lot of house remodeling, I prefer Joseph the Worker as my model. I do my best to follow that model in my family life and in my relationships with others. I was very pleased that Pope Francis dedicated this liturgical year to St. Joseph.

    • Susan Paweski, SP on December 26, 2020 at 11:12 am

      Ken, thank you for sharing your devotion to Saint Joseph. He is a compassionate role model for all of us.
      S. Sue

  2. Cathy Dearing on December 28, 2020 at 9:23 pm

    Good evening Sister Sue,

    Wonderful article. I am using your reflection as a springboard for our conversation and prayer at our Southside Providence Associate meeting in Indianapolis in January.

    God bless and Happy Healthy New Year to you!

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