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The Catholic Defender: Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary


The Bible pays Joseph the highest compliment: he was a “just” man. The quality meant a lot more than faithfulness in paying debts.


When the Bible speaks of God “justifying” someone, it means that God, the all-holy or “righteous” one, so transforms a person that the individual shares somehow in God’s own holiness, and hence it is really “right” for God to love him or her. In other words, God is not playing games, acting as if we were lovable when we are not.

By saying Joseph was “just,” the Bible means that he was one who was completely open to all that God wanted to do for him. He became holy by opening himself totally to God.


The rest we can easily surmise. Think of the kind of love with which he wooed and won Mary, and the depth of the love they shared during their marriage.


It is no contradiction of Joseph’s manly holiness that he decided to divorce Mary when she was found to be with child. The important words of the Bible are that he planned to do this “quietly” because he was “a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame” (Matthew 1:19).


The just man was simply, joyfully, wholeheartedly obedient to God—in marrying Mary, in naming Jesus, in shepherding the precious pair to Egypt, in bringing them to Nazareth, in the undetermined number of years of quiet faith and courage.


The Bible tells us nothing of Joseph in the years after the return to Nazareth except the incident of finding Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41–51). Perhaps this can be taken to mean that God wants us to realize that the holiest family was like every other family, that the circumstances of life for the holiest family were like those of every family, so that when Jesus’ mysterious nature began to appear, people couldn’t believe that he came from such humble beginnings: “Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary…?” (Matthew 13:55a). It was almost as indignant as “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46b).


In 1st-century Palestine, the ideal age for marriage, for both women and men, was during late adolescence. Men, however, often married a bit later, sometimes even as late as 30. We can probably assume, therefore, that when they married, Mary was between 14 and 19 years old while Joseph may have been in his 20s.


The Gospel of Thomas speaks of James, the son of Joseph. The Coptic History of Joseph the Carpenter names Justus, Judas, James and Simon as Joseph's sons, and Assia and Lydia as his daughters.


A careful look at the New Testament shows that Mary kept her vow of virginity and never had any children other than Jesus. When Jesus was found in the Temple at age twelve, the context suggests that he was the only son of Mary and Joseph.


Scripture is quite clear that Mary conceived Jesus in a virginal way – by the power of the Holy Spirit. Additionally, it is the constant teaching of the Church that she always retained her virginity. She had no other children and never engaged in the marital act with Joseph.


St. Joseph is the patron of:


Belgium


Canada


Carpenters


China


Families


Fathers

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