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“The man who did not speak a word in scripture speaks loudly to many Christians today.” – Fr. Kevin Mannara’s, CSB Reflection on St. Joseph – Rochester, NY.

March 20, 2024

I grew up in an Italian American, working class neighborhood.  St. Joseph was honored in many homes with pictures and statues of this beloved saint. One time around his feast day an elderly priest told me that St. Joseph was Italian. I responded that he was not. The priest told me in return, “don’t tell these people that, they have made him their own!”

I know in part that my own fascination with him is that my middle name, Joseph, was given to me in honor of my Dad and his Dad, both Josephs and both carpenters.

Why do so many people find this man so captivating and inspirational as both a patron and companion?

We see in the gospels that he is a paragon of virtue, honoring his commitment to take Mary as his wife even though she is pregnant, and he knows he is not the father. He trusts in the message he heard in a dream, and thus became an important part of God’s Dream. His trust led him through many challenges: taking his pregnant wife on a journey, having to arrange a place for them to stay where she would deliver her son, God’s Son. To protect them, he lived as a refugee in Egypt and had to find work to support them, which must have been quite a challenge as a foreigner who likely did not speak the local language. When the child was twelve Joseph experienced a parent’s worst nightmare: their child was missing. They searched for days. Imagine Joseph trying to comfort his anxious wife as they searched for the boy. I can imagine Mary telling those early Christians this story and very sternly saying, “after that, he was obedient to us!” (Luke 2:51)

As Jesus advanced in age and wisdom, how powerful the influence of Joseph, day by day, must have been.

We do not hear about Joseph during Jesus’ public ministry, so it is safe to assume he had died. Likely he would have been attended to by Jesus and Mary as his life here reached its completion. Don’t we all hope for Jesus and Mary to attend to us as we prepare to transition from this life to the next?

This image of St. Joseph with the child Jesus is by the same artist who painted the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Hermance Family Chapel of St Basil the Great at St. John Fisher University that was blessed and dedicated by Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, CSB, on December 10, 2017. It is located near a stained-glass window of St. Joseph

For centuries, Joseph was rarely shown in art lest people question Mary’s virginity. That’s why he was often depicted as old. Representations of the “Holy Family” often included the child Jesus along with his mother Mary and grandmother Ann, and sometimes his cousin John.  Contemporary artists more often portray a younger Joseph, of an age where he could make long journeys on foot and earn a living through hard, physical labor. The iconographer Minhhang K. Huynh who painted this image depicts him as youthful.  She said, “the Blessed Mother is beautiful, of course she had a handsome husband!”

The man who did not speak a word in scripture speaks loudly to many Christians today. He dared to set any personal dreams aside and trust in God’s Dream. That indeed makes him a good patron for the Mission of Christ and an inspirational companion to Jesus’ disciples today.

What is said of St. Joseph is what many men (and women) hope to be in God’s eyes:

“Joseph was a righteous man.” (Matthew 1:19)

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