The Gospel says that Joseph was “a righteous man” (Mt 1:19). Some people ask: What more can be said?
Plenty! In 1989, Pope John Paul II offered us a masterful explanation and reflection of the unique vocation of St. Joseph in God’s plan of salvation with the pastoral exhortation Redemptoris Custos (“Guardian of the Redeemer”). This inspirational document, marking the centenary of Pope Leo’s landmark encyclical, treats “the person and mission of St. Joseph in the life of Christ and of the Church.” It recalls what makes him special, not only for us personally but for the universal Church.
Some note that Joseph’s role must not have been so important because it is not treated in any great detail in holy Scripture. Yet neither is the vocation of Mary. What little is said, however, is highly significant.
Theologians have reasoned from the scriptural basics to explore many of the functions and privileges grant ed Mary. The same process has taken place in regard to Joseph. Once the divinity of Jesus and the virginal motherhood of Mary were firmly established in Catholic doctrine and in popular understanding, teaching about Joseph could emerge without concern that his unique position in the Holy Family would be misunderstood.
The better we know Mary, the better we know her Son, from whom she derives all her dignity and whom she reflects so faith-fully. In a similar way, contemplating more deeply the mission of Joseph helps us to know more deeply the greatness of Mary.
Pope Benedict XV summed it up this way: “By St. Joseph we are led directly to Mary, and by Mary to the fountain of all holiness, Jesus Christ, who sanctified the domestic virtues by his obedience to St. Joseph and Mary.”
Like Wife, Like Husband: Why should we honor St. Joseph?
BROTHER JOHN M. SAMAHA