The Virtues of St. Joseph

Written on: March 30, 2021

The Spiritual Animation Committee plans to highlight the six virtues of St. Joseph over the next few months. The first virtue is:

Joseph, A beloved father

The greatness of Saint Joseph is that he was the spouse of Mary and the father of Jesus. In this way, he placed himself, in the words of St. John Chrysostom, “ at the service of the entire plan of salvation.” St. Paul VI pointed out that Joseph concretely expressed his fatherhood “by making his life a sacrificial service to the mystery of the Incarnation and its redemptive purpose. He employed his legal authority over the Holy Family to devote himself completely to them in his life and work. He turned his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of himself, his heart and all his abilities, a love placed at the service of the Messiah who was growing to maturity in his home.”

The 2nd virtue is

Joseph, A tender and loving father

In Joseph, Jesus saw the tender love of God: “As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him” (Ps 103:13). Joseph would surely have heard again and again that the God of Israel is a God of tender love, who is good to all, whose “compassion is over all that he has made” (Ps 145:9). We must learn to look upon our weaknesses with tender mercy. The Spirit brings our frailty to light with tender love. Tenderness is the best way to touch the frailty within us. Joseph teaches us that faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties and our weaknesses.

Pope Francis, “Patris Corde”

The 3rd virtue is

Joseph, An obedient father.

Pope Francis points out that, as with Mary, God revealed the Plan of Salvation to Joseph through a series of dreams.

Mary’s pregnancy: “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:20-21). We are told that Joseph immediately responded and “he did as the angel commanded him” (Mt 1:24)

Flight to Egypt: In this dream the angel tells Joseph, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Mt 2:13). Joseph did not hesitate to obey despite the hardships that were involved.

Return home: In a 3rd dream the angel told him “those who sought to kill the child are dead. Rise, take the child and his mother, and return to the land of Israel (cf. Mt 2:19-20). Again, Joseph responded immediately and “He got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel” (Mt 2:21).

Nazareth: On the journey, Joseph had a 4th dream warning him that the new ruler would make it not safe for his family and “he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth” (Mt 2:22-23).

In every situation, Joseph declared his own “fiat,” like those of Mary at the Annunciation, and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The fourth virtue is

Joseph, An accepting father

“Often in life, things happen whose meaning we do not understand. Our first reaction is frequently one of disappointment and rebellion. Joseph set aside his own ideas in order to accept the course of events and, mysterious as they seemed, to embrace them, take responsibility for them and make them part of his own history. Unless we are reconciled with our own history, we will be unable to take a single step forward, for we will always remain hostage to our expectations and the disappointments that follow. The spiritual path that Joseph traces for us is not one that explains, but accepts. Only as a result of this acceptance, this reconciliation, can we begin to glimpse a broader history, a deeper meaning… In our own lives, acceptance and welcome can be an expression of the Holy Spirit’s gift of fortitude. Only the Lord can give us the strength needed to accept life as it is, with all its contradictions, frustrations and disappointments. Jesus’ appearance in our midst is a gift from the Father, which makes it possible for each of us to be reconciled to the flesh of our own history, even when we fail to understand it completely…” Patris Corde

The fifth virtue is

Joseph’s Creative Courage

Creative courage “emerges especially in the way we deal with difficulties. In the face of difficulty, we can either give up and walk away, or somehow engage with it. At times, difficulties bring out resources we did not even think we had.”

“God acts through events and people. Joseph was the man chosen by God to guide the beginnings of the history of redemption. He was the true “miracle” by which God saves the child and his mother. God acted by trusting in Joseph’s creative courage.”

“Joseph took a stable and, as best he could, turned it into a welcoming home for the Son of God come into the world (cf. Lk 2:6-7). Faced with imminent danger from Herod, who wanted to kill the child, Joseph was warned once again in a dream to protect the child, and rose in the middle of the night to prepare the flight into Egypt (cf. Mt 2:13-14).”

“God always finds a way to save us, provided we show the same creative courage as the carpenter of Nazareth, who was able to turn a problem into a possibility by trusting always in divine providence.”

The sixth virtue is

Joseph, A working father

From the time of the first social Encyclical, Rerum Novarum issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, the virtue of St. Joseph that was emphasized was his relation to work. We all know the stories of Joseph’s skill as a carpenter and how it was the way he earned a living in order to support his family. This was how Jesus “learned the value, the dignity and the joy of what it means to eat bread that is the fruit of one’s own labor.”

Today, especially in this time of pandemic, employment is again a complex social issue even in countries deemed more prosperous. We are in a time when the importance of dignified work rises to the surface and the patronage of Saint Joseph is needed even more.

“Working persons, whatever their job may be, are cooperating with God himself, and in some way become creators of the world around us. The crisis of our time, which is economic, social, cultural and spiritual, can serve as a summons for all of us to rediscover the value, the importance and necessity of work for bringing about a new normal” from which no one is excluded.”

Adapted from Patris Corde (With a Father’s Heart). Pope Francis

The seventh virtue is

Joseph, A father in the shadows

In writing on this virtue of Joseph, Pope Francis makes reference to a novel written by a Polish author, Jan Dobraczyński (The Shadow of the Father) where Joseph is described as the “earthly shadow of the Heavenly Father.”  Francis reminds us that bringing a child into the world does not make one a “father” but taking up the care and responsibility for that child are attributes of “fatherhood”. This was who Joseph was for Jesus.

Joseph found happiness not in mere self-sacrifice but in self-gift. In him, we never see frustration but only trust. His patient silence was the prelude to concrete expressions of trust.

In a way, we are all like Joseph: a shadow of the Heavenly Father, who ‘makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust’ (Mt 5:45) a shadow that follows his Son.”

Pope Francis

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