St. Joseph was an ordinary sort of man on whom God relied to do great things. He did exactly what the Lord wanted him to do, in each and every event that went to make up his life. – St. Josemaria Escriva
Recently, I have been growing in devotion to St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. St. Joseph is the model for every man.
But, you might say, we know so little about him! How can we imitate a man we barely know? Actually, we know more about St. Joseph than you might think. Here are 5 attributes of St. Joseph that we can imitate.
1. St. Joseph was a righteous man – Scripture refers to Joseph as a “righteous” man (Matthew 1:19). In other words, he was a holy and devout Jew who fulfilled the two greatest commandments— he loved the Lord his God with all his heart and strength, and he loved his neighbor as himself. He was also a man of prayer who knew the Psalms and the Mosaic Law inside and out, and, like all devout Jews, he prayed at least 3 times daily. He fulfilled all that was required with him with a humble heart of worship, not legalism. Unlike the Pharisees, he understood the spirit as well as the letter of the law.
As Catholics, we can imitate St. Joseph by giving God the first place in our lives and by loving our neighbor selflessly. We can fulfill the commandments of Holy Mother Church without grumbling or complaining. After all, the law of the Church is incredibly easy to fulfill, especially in comparison to the Mosaic law. We should be men of prayer, reading Scripture and sanctifying each day with prayer.
2. St. Joseph loved Jesus - Joseph was entrusted with the care of Jesus, the Son of God. While this is an awe-inspiring thought, his encounters with Jesus were those of a normal father. He held Jesus lovingly in the stable at Bethlehem. He helped him learn to walk. When Jesus hurt himself (as all little boys do), he comforted him. They prayed together, they talked together, they spent many long hours in the shop together working with their hands.
In short, St. Joseph had the deep love a father for Jesus. If you’ve ever had children, you know the kind of love I’m talking about. And guess what? Jesus loved St. Joseph, and he loves you and I with all the fiery intensity of Divine Love. We can imitate St. Joseph by loving Jesus fervently and by giving our lives to him.
3. St. Joseph loved Mary - Imagine being married to the perfect woman. You could say, “My wife is the Queen of the Universe” with a straight face. In one sense, it must have been the most humbling job ever given to a man. In another sense, though, Joseph loved Mary devotedly as his wife— because that’s exactly what she was. He would have died to protect her honor. When she was distraught, he comforted her. When she was tired, she leaned on him. He patiently listened to her and he worked long hours to provide for her. He was the best husband to the greatest woman who ever lived.
Every man should have a devotion to Mary (I will write more on this in the future). She is our mother and our Queen. Let’s love her, protect her honor, and give ourselves to her like St. Joseph did.
4. St. Joseph embraced work – St. Joseph is known “the worker.” He worked so hard that work is forever identified with his name. He wasn’t a lazy procrastinator, and he didn’t idolize comfort and ease as we so often do. He labored with his hands to provide for his wife and Son, and no task was too insignificant for him. He poured his body and soul into his daily duties, and this work was an act of worship and prayer.
As men, we are called to embrace our work like St. Joseph, no matter how mundane it may be. Whether we are business professionals, in the military, craftsman, graphic designers, professors, writers, or anything else we can glorify God with the labor of our minds and bodies.
5. St. Joseph did the will of God - Why did God choose St. Joseph? Of all the thousands of Jewish men, many of whom no doubt were righteous, why was a humble carpenter chosen for the task of being the earthly father of the Savior? The answer is simple: God knew St. Joseph would immediately do anything that was asked of him, no matter how difficult.
The saints agree that conformity to the will of God through prompt obedience is one of the surest paths to holiness. St. Joseph exemplified this virtue, and a perfect example is the flight into Egypt. The angel of the Lord appeared to St. Joseph in a dream, warning him of the danger that was coming. Scripture then tells us that, “When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt.” Did you catch that? The minute he woke up, he obeyed. He didn’t let fear of uncertainty paralyze him, he didn’t spend weeks planning, and he didn’t save up some money first. He took Jesus and Mary and left for Egypt, entrusting his family to the providence of God. That is prompt obedience, and that is why St. Joseph was entrusted with the greatest responsibility ever given to a man.
St. Joseph was an extraordinary man, the holy head of the Holy Family. While Jesus and Mary were both sinless, they both obeyed St. Joseph. He had the toughest job on the planet, and he passed with flying colors. He has a special place in heaven and a special place in the hearts of Jesus and Mary.
He is also patron of the Universal Church and one of the most powerful intercessors among the saints. St. Andre Bessette, the recently canonized Canadian brother, was credited with healing thousands of individuals. His secret? Praying to St. Joseph. If you are in trouble, if you are tempted, if you need anything at all, turn to St. Joseph for help.
Learn more about St. Joseph. A great place to start is the encyclical of Leo XIII on devotion to St. Joseph, entitled Quamquam Pluries. Meditate on his life and his interactions with Jesus and Mary. Ask for his intercession. It will make you a better man.
O Joseph, virgin-father of Jesus, most pure spouse of the Virgin Mary, pray every day for us to the same Jesus, the Son of God, that we, being defended by the power of His grace and striving dutifully in life, may be crowned by him at the hour of death. Amen.
PS: If you want to take your devotion to St. Joseph up a notch, you may want to look into the cord of St. Joseph, a knotted rope worn in honor of St. Joseph’s virtues, especially chastity.