Today, March 19, is the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary. Because it is a solemnity, even though it falls on a Friday of Lent, Catholics may eat meat today.
The Scripture readings about Saint Joseph say that he was a righteous man. When he first learned of Mary’s pregnancy, he was naturally bewildered and saddened, but he wanted to deal with her and her situation in a discreet and gracious manner so as not to bring shame or worse upon her. Even still, he was open to what the Lord had in store for him, and when he received God’s revelation regarding Mary’s pregnancy and the hope of the Messiah, he acted on faith and came to her and Jesus’ protection. He took them to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath, and then back to Palestine, to Nazareth, where he continued to provide for Mary and to teach Jesus in all matters regarding faith in the God of Israel and in the work of his hands.
There are two traditions about Saint Joseph’s age and children. I don’t know which is older. One, according to the Protoevangelium of James, and early Church document, is that Joseph was an older man with children from a previous marriage who was given the charge of caring for Mary and Jesus. This accounts for his absence in Jesus’ adult life and for the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus. Another tradition, favored by St. Jerome and other Church Fathers, is that Saint Joseph was a younger man, but that he and Mary decided to sacrifice marital conjugal relations in favor of a complete dedication to God and to their unique mission of raising the Messiah. In this case, Jerome regards the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus as close kin, but not children of Mary.
Saint Joseph is the patron of the Church, fathers, unborn children, immigrants, workers (feast of St. Joseph the Worker is May 1), employment, explorers, pilgrims, travelers, carpenters (‘natch!), engineers, realtors, against doubt and hesitation, and patron of a happy death.
A prayer to Saint Joseph by Pope Leo XIII to be prayed after the recitation of the rosary:
To you, O Blessed Joseph, we have recourse in our affliction, and having implored the help of your most holy spouse, we now, with hearts filled with confidence, earnestly beg you to take us under your protection. Through that sacred bond of charity which united you to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by that fatherly love with which you embraced the Child Jesus, we humbly beg you to look graciously upon the beloved inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by his blood, and to aid us in our necessities with your power and strength.
Defend, O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen children of Jesus Christ. Keep from us, O most loving father, all blight of error and corruption. Aid us from on high, most valiant defender, in this conflict with the powers of darkness. And just as you once saved the Child Jesus from mortal danger, so now defend God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Shield us by your constant protection, so that, supported by your example and strengthened by your help, we may be able to live a virtuous life, die a happy death, and obtain everlasting bliss in heaven. Amen.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.