St. Joseph: Example for Today’s Christian Family

Although we have ordered special prayers to be offered up throughout the world, for the interests of Catholicism to be consistently recommended to God, none will deem it a surprise that we consider the present moment an opportune one to again inculcate this duty. During periods of trial and stress—especially when every lawless act seems permitted by the powers of darkness—it has been the custom of the Church to plead with special fervor and perseverance to God, her author and protector. By recourse, we invoke the intercession of the saints—and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God—whose patronage has ever been the most efficacious. We know that there is certain help in the maternal goodness of the Virgin, and we are very certain that we shall never vainly place our trust in her.

If on multiple occasions, she has displayed her power in aiding the Christian world, why should we doubt that she would not renew the assistance of her power and favor, if humble and constant prayers are offered up on all sides to her? That God may be more favorable to our prayers, and that He may come with bounty and quickness to the aid of His Church, we judge it of deep utility for the Christian people, continually to invoke with great piety and trust, together with the Virgin- Mother of God, her chaste Spouse, Blessed St. Joseph.

The special motives for which St. Joseph has been proclaimed Patron of the Church, and from which the Church looks for singular benefit from his patronage and protection, are that Joseph was the spouse of Mary and that he was reputed to be the Father of Jesus Christ. His dignity, his holiness and his glory have sprung from these sources.

In truth, the dignity of the Mother of God is so lofty that none created can rank above it. But as Joseph has been united to the Blessed Virgin by the ties of marriage, it may not be doubted that he approached nearer than any to the eminent dignity by which the Mother of God surpasses so nobly all created nature. For marriage is the most intimate of all unions from which its essence imparts a community of gifts between those that by it are joined together.

Thus, in giving Joseph the Blessed Virgin as spouse, God appointed him to be not only her life’s companion, the witness of her maidenhood, the protector of her honor, but also, by virtue of the conjugal tie, a participator in her sublime dignity. And Joseph shines among all mankind by the most august dignity, since by divine will, he was the guardian of the Son of God and reputed as His father among men. Hence it came about that the Word of God was humbly subject to Joseph, that He obeyed him, and that He rendered to him all those offices that children are bound to render to their parents. From this two-fold dignity flowed the obligation which nature lies upon the head of families, so that Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose head he was.

During the whole course of his life, he fulfilled those charges and those duties. Now the divine house which Joseph ruled with the authority of a father, contained within its limits, the first-born Church. From the same fact that the most holy Virgin is the mother of Jesus Christ, she is the mother of all Christians whom she bore on Mount Calvary amid the supreme throes of the Redemption. Jesus Christ is, in a manner, “Fathers of families find in Joseph the best personification of paternal solicitude and vigilance; spouses a perfect example of love, of peace, and of conjugal fidelity…”

Honoring St. Joseph the firstborn of Christians, who by the adoption and Redemption are his brothers. And for such reasons the Blessed Patriarch looks upon the multitude of Christians who make up the Church as confided especially to his trust—this limitless family spread over the earth, over which, because he is the spouse of Mary and the Father of Jesus Christ he holds, a paternal authority. It is, then, natural and worthy that as the Blessed Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and surrounded them with his protection, he should now cover with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.

Fathers of families find in Joseph the best personification of paternal solicitude and vigilance; spouses a perfect example of love, of peace, and of conjugal fidelity; virgins at the same time find in him the model and protector of virginal integrity. The noble of birth will earn of Joseph how to guard their dignity even in misfortune; the rich will understand, by his lessons, what are the goods to be most desired and won at the price of their labor. As to workmen, artisans, and persons of lesser degree, their recourse to Joseph is a special right, and his example is for their particular imitation.

Taken from The Encyclical “Quam Quam Pluries” by Pope Leo XIII

Reprinted with permission from The Pious Union of St. Joseph Now and at the Hour Magazine.