During this liturgical season of Christmas, while meditating on the mystery of Christ’s birth, we discover a person who has fulfilled his God-given task so well that he often remains unnoticed. This person is Saint Joseph, the protector of Jesus and the Virgin Mary here on earth. In today’s world, where we often seek others’ attention and recognition, his virtues are of great need and importance.
The first virtue he teaches us is justice. When the blessed Virgin Mary returns from her cousin Elisabeth’s house, with clear signs of pregnancy, Saint Joseph decides to dismiss her in secret, which means cancelling the engagement without accusing her publicly, hence sparing her from severe punishment. This punishment would have repaired his offended honor before society. But he didn’t use, like we often do, the appearance of being right as a weapon to crush his neighbor.
The second virtue is obedience. In his dream the angel tells him to marry her, revealing that the child conceived by the Virgin Mary is the Son of God. Would we obey if an angel in a dream contradicted our experience and own plans? Or would we just go on with our own wishes and not with God’s? We have the freedom to disregard what our Lord’s tells us to do. Our own path may even seem more reasonable. “What a madness!” Saint Joseph may have thought, “what will people say? I don’t know if I will be able to do this…” But against these human objections Saint Joseph conforms his will to the plan of God.
But what Saint Joseph really stands out for is his humility. Chosen to form a family with the Incarnate Word and His most pure Mother, in an act of humility he accepts having spiritually the lowest rank while being head of the family. Based on the Gospels we can imagine many situations in which Saint Joseph has very likely exercised his humility.
When he had to follow Caesar’s order and set out on a dangerous and arduous trip to Bethlehem with the Virgin Mary, days before she gave birth, he might have blamed himself for not protecting the Holy Family as he should. More so when he could not find an adequate shelter for the night. The Virgin Mary surely comforted him, helping him see the will of God in all these events. The greatest comfort however would have been the birth of the Messiah on Christmas Night, which made all the stress and strains of the trip vanish. These trials God gave him were perhaps important lessons in preparation of the flight into Egypt, during which Saint Joseph most likely saved the Holy Family from danger several times.
May the virtues of Saint Joseph, chaste, hard-working, humble and discrete fulfiller of his obligations be an example to all, especially to young men.