Grant, we pray, almighty God, that by St. 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, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
This beautiful prayer points us to an important and central aspect of who St. Joseph is and how he lived his life on earth – namely, that he is a protector. We hear that the beginnings of the mysteries of human salvation were entrusted to his faithful care and even now St. Joseph exercises that role as protector and guardian for the entire Church. St. Joseph is known as a just and righteous man, the Preface of St. Joseph states this directly, he is “this just man” and he was a “wise and faithful servant” who was placed “in charge of your household.” St. Joseph exercises this protecting charge today as the Protector of the Universal Church – just as he guarded Mary and the Christ Child, so too today does he stand as guard over the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.
Furthermore, St. Joseph’s role as protector and guardian of the Holy Family makes him a model and example of what it means to be a Christian husband and father. As we pray again the Preface, he was called “to watch like a father” over the Holy Family and we hear in the Prayer over the Offerings that St. Joseph “served with loving care” God’s “Only Begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary…” This is one of the primary roles and duties of a Christian husband and father, to watch over and to guide and protect the family in his care – to protect them certainly physically from danger, but also from spiritual and moral danger. Like St. Joseph, the Christian husband and father is called to be morally upright and righteous in God’s sight, and a man whose strength lies in the strength of his faith and who exercises that strength as guardian over his family.
In addition to serving as a role model for Christian husbands and fathers, St. Joseph also serves as a model and example for all who work. On May 1st we will celebrate a second feast of St. Joseph, this time of St. Joseph the Worker. In the Collect of that Mass we hear:
O God, Creator of all things, who laid down for the human race the law of work, graciously grant that by the example of Saint Joseph and under his patronage we may complete the works you set us to do and attain the rewards you promise. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
The call to work is part of what it means to live here on earth and while the professions and work we engage in varies from person to person, the disposition with which we are meant to approach it is the same – we are meant to work as St. Joseph worked. In his own work, St. Joseph was a man of integrity, doing an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, he is just with the interaction of those who purchased his handmade wooden goods from him, and he saw that the work he was called to do not only supported his family, but also made use of the talents and the time that God had given him and helped him to imitate the Father Himself, who “worked” for the six days of creation. St. Joseph also honored the Sabbath and was able to set aside work on the Sabbath day so as to devote more time to God and his family and sought to provide for his family not only materially (the monetary compensation for his work), but also to provide for his family his love and affection and care and the wisdom to know when work needed to be set aside in order to provide for the Holy Family in other ways.
Finally, St. Joseph is considered the patron saint of a happy death. This is rooted in the ancient tradition that St. Joseph died in the arms of Mary and Jesus. We too hope and pray that after our earthly lives are complete we die “in the arms” of Mary and Jesus – with our souls in the state of grace and having faithfully served the Lord over the course of our earthly lives so that we may be welcomed into the heavenly kingdom.
(This article is part of a series that will appear over the course of this year on the Monthly Devotions of the Church’s year).