St. Joseph’s hidden life is the key to his strong character

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St. Joseph
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St. Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Feast day: March 19

“When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” (Mt 1:24)

It is with this Bible verse that Pope St. John Paul II opens his 1989 apostolic exhortation Redemptoris Custos (“Guardian of the Redeemer”), on devotion to St. Joseph, foster father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the simple humility of St. Joseph evident in this one verse from Sacred Scripture which describes him best. Without hesitation, St. Joseph obeys the angel, God’s messenger, and takes the expectant Mary as his wife. The life of St. Joseph is thereby devoted to the Incarnation through an attitude already present in him to obey the will of God.

St. Joseph lives this hidden, humble life throughout sacred Scripture. Without a word and again in obedience to an angel, he takes the child Jesus and Mary into Egypt to avoid Herod (Mt 2:13-15). St. Joseph is clearly a man with a strong prayer life. No matter the cost, he not only takes care of his family, but even more importantly, he protects the Son of Man. All of St. Joseph’s decisions are about what is best for Jesus.

Pope St. John Paul II describes this quality of St. Joseph as follows: “The total sacrifice, whereby Joseph surrendered his whole existence to the demands of the Messiah’s coming into his home, becomes understandable only in the light of his profound interior life. It was from this interior life that very singular commands and consolations came, bringing him also the logic and strength that belong to simple and clear souls, and giving him the power of making great decisions-such as the decision to put his liberty immediately at the disposition of the divine designs, to make over to them also his legitimate human calling, his conjugal happiness, to accept the conditions, the responsibility and the burden of a family, but, through an incomparable virginal love, to renounce that natural conjugal love that is the foundation and nourishment of the family.”

St. Joseph’s great faith is a means of encouragement to give of ourselves totally to Christ and his Church no matter the demands of the conditions in which we find ourselves living. St. Joseph also has another fundamental importance in the history of salvation, since as part of the tribe of Judah, he united Jesus to the Davidic lineage. In this way, fulfilling the promises regarding the Messiah, the Son of the Virgin Mary might really be called the “son of David,” as Christ describes himself (Lk 20:41-44).

As he cared for Christ, St. Joseph is someone to ask for protection in any circumstance to include sharing Jesus with others. With reference to St. Joseph, Pope St. John Paul II concludes as follows, “This patronage must be invoked as ever necessary for the Church, not only as a defense against all dangers, but also, and indeed primarily, as an impetus for her renewed commitment to evangelization in the world and to re-evangelization in those lands and nations where … religion and the Christian life were formerly flourishing and … are now put to a hard test.”


My Lord and my God, thank you so much for the example of St. Joseph. May I pray unceasingly to you through the intercession of St. Joseph so that I am ready to do all that you ask and to share your great love with those around me.


Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that by Saint Joseph’s intercession
your Church may constantly watch over
the unfolding of the mysteries of human salvation,
whose beginnings you entrusted to his faithful care.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.

Maryella Hierholzer

Maryella Hierholzer is a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and did graduate work at Georgetown University. After concluding a career in the Washington area, she is now retired in Indiana where she is a teacher of adult and youth faith formation at her parish. She is also a volunteer at Catholic Charities in Fort Wayne.