St. Joseph was an instrument of God’s mercy Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Mar. 17, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

A friend sent me a Christmas card that he proudly created. It featured a picture of Mary lovingly holding the infant Jesus. Under the picture were the words, “Who is Missing?”

The answer is St. Joseph, who as the head of the Holy Family, was there to support Mary as she gave birth to Jesus on Christmas. We honor him as a great saint because he was the foster father of Jesus who with Mary guided young Jesus as he grew in wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.

Role as protector

Joseph exercised his role as protector of Mary and Jesus discreetly, humbly, and silently. He did so with an unfailing presence and fidelity, even when he found it difficult and confusing.

From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the 12-year-old Jesus in the Jerusalem Temple, he was there at every moment with loving care. As Mary’s spouse, he was at her side in good times and bad on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth.

He led and protected the Holy Family during the flight into Egypt, during the frantic search for their child in the Temple, and later in the day-to-day life in his Nazareth home. At his workshop, St. Joseph taught his carpenter trade to Jesus.

Stayed in the background

When we contemplate the saints in heaven, we may be dazzled by their colors, talents, and the depth of their accomplishments. But, when we come to St. Joseph, we might wonder what dazzling colors do we find in him?

Not the red of the martyrs, nor the gold of a world leader, nor the pulpit of a great preacher, nor the scroll of a great author. Sometimes he is called Joseph the Silent, because he never spoke a word in Scripture. He very rightfully stayed in the background to Jesus and Mary.

His uniqueness is that no other saint besides the Blessed Mother could say that every day for almost 30 years he sat at table with the young boy who was the Son of God. Daily he watched him grow into manhood. He taught him his prayers. He showed him how to make chairs and tables.

Who could count the times he held Jesus in his arms when he was little or the times Jesus hugged him and kissed him? Who could count the meals they ate together, the miles they traveled together, or the joy they had in working together?

Honoring St. Joseph

In front of Beloit Catholic High was a statue of St. Joseph, the Worker, with the teenage Jesus. There was also a statue of St. Joseph, the Worker, at Beloit’s St. Paul Catholic Church. These statues remind us that as Mary’s husband and Jesus’ foster father, he worked as a carpenter to help provide for the Holy Family. He also supported and protected them through his active, courageous love.

A surprising number of parishes are named in honor of St. Joseph. They remind us to continue to admire and respect St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and patron saint of fathers. He spoke not only with words but especially with his deeds.

He was truly an instrument of God’s mercy as he lived the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Let us imitate his loyalty and faithfulness to Jesus and his devotion to Mary and ask for his intercession.


Fr. Donald Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.