Today is the Feast of St. Joseph, one of the few saint days I remember from year to year. That’s because I spent eight years as a student at St. Joseph School, and we had a special Mass to honor our patron. We always sang a particular hymn on that day, and I can’t find a link with either the words or the music, but that’s okay because the lyrics are embedded in my brain along with those of several thousand other hymns:
St. Joseph was a just man, a man of upright life. Our Lord’s kind foster father took Mary as his wife. He knew the pain of exile in far Egyptian land. Obedient, kind, and faithful, he followed God’s command. As head of God’s own family St. Joseph is renowned. He searched the ancient city until the child was found. All honor to St. Joseph, whose merits we acclaim. God bless each home and family in good St. Joseph’s name.
You can sing that to a variety of tunes, O Sacred Head Surrounded and The Church’s One Foundation among them, but the tune we used was in a minor key and I seem to recall it was a Flanders tune. I can sing it to you, if you like.
Anyway, I liked it. It’s a nice little hymn; it gets every single thing we KNOW about Joseph, which isn’t much, right out there. We don’t need to know much to recognize that he is an excellent model to follow in living the Christian life. He was kind to others–to Mary whom he had cause to doubt, and to a child who was not his own. He was obedient, taking Mary as his wife and going to Egypt as commanded by God’s messenger. He was faithful, believing in things that many might have found impossible. He was just, a follower of the law. And he was a hard worker, a man who worked with his hands to provide for his wife and child.
I have a number of wonderful children’s Christmas books that attempt to flesh Joseph out a little bit. And I think Anne Rice did a fine job with him in her Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. It’s fun and interesting to imagine the unknown details of the Holy Family’s life in the years that the Gospels don’t show us, but in the end what little we know of Joseph gives us plenty of reasons to venerate him today.
There has been a fad in recent years to pray to St. Joseph if you need to sell a house, I guess because he was a carpenter. You can even buy a kit which comes with instructions, a statue to plant in your yard, and a prayer to say. That seems more like superstition than veneration to me, but I suppose it is okay if one does it with the proper spirit. There are certainly plenty of prayers out there to St. Joseph, for almost any intention you can think of.
I’m going to end this post with a prayer to St. Joseph for fathers. May he watch over all fathers today and every day, especially those who have chosen to parent a child who is not theirs biologically.
Saint Joseph, guardian of Jesus and chaste husband of Mary, you passed your life in loving fulfillment of duty. You supported the holy family of Nazareth with the work of your hands. Kindly protect those who trustingly come to you. You know their aspirations, their hardships, their hopes. They look to you because they know you will understand and protect them. You too knew trial, labour and weariness. But amid the worries of material life, your soul was full of deep peace and sang out in true joy through intimacy with God’s Son entrusted to you and with Mary, his tender Mother. Assure those you protect that they do not labour alone. Teach them to find Jesus near them and to watch over Him faithfully as you have done.