Do as I do, not as I say

Of St. Joseph, St. Teresa of Avila said:
“To other Saints Our Lord seems to have given power to succor us in some special necessity – but to this glorious Saint, I know by experience, He has given the power to help us in all. Our Lord would have us understand that as He was subject to St. Joseph on earth – for St. Joseph, bearing the title of father and being His guardian, could command Him – so now in Heaven Our Lord grants all his petitions,” (Autobiography, VI, 9).
I have found this to be true in my own experiences as well.
Perhaps it’s natural that people have forgotten about St. Joseph, given that we have no recorded words in Scripture from the foster father of Jesus. Yet, that’s a great disservice for the man who cared for and protected the Blessed Mother and the Christ Child. It is as if the fact that his lack of biological contribution somehow made him less the head of the Holy Family.
And yet this is not the case. For just as Mary’s fiat was necessary for the salvation of mankind, so too was Joseph’s fiatnecessary for the fulfillment of the prophecies that the Son of Man would come from the House of David. Mary’s “yes” was reinforced and augmented by Joseph’s consent to be united to Mary in a virginal marriage and take her into his home. This “yes” protected Mary and the Christ Child from shame and the violence that may have otherwise come upon her because of Christ’s conception.


Certainly, Christ was obedient to his earthly father. Joseph himself is a tremendous example of obedience, as demonstrated by the way he trustingly took Mary to be his wife. We also see Joseph’s obedience at work when he travels to Bethlehem for the census, despite having a wife in an advanced stage of pregnancy. And we see his obedience to the will of God when he flees to Egypt with Mary and Jesus, and when he returns to Jerusalem after Herod’s death. Joseph’s actions demonstrate in a profound way that love means obedience. Christ certainly modeled that kind of obedience in subjecting himself to the will of His Heavenly Father, all the way to his passion and death upon the Cross.

Joseph, the carpenter, is also an exemplary model of humility. Consider his wife — the Immaculate Conception — and Son. Joseph, a sinner, was asked to care for the very Son of God. How unworthy must he have felt in comparison to his sinless wife and Son? And yet he concedes to raise the Christ Child as his own. Did he feel inadequate or somehow not up to the task? Scripture shows him as determined, as silent, and as just. Christ models a similar humility as a shepherd to his flock of tax collectors, prostitutes, the blind, the lame, lepers, and other outcasts of his day. He invites them, forgives their sins, and charges them to “sin no more.”

Finally, Joseph is a man of action. Perhaps this is why we are given no words from Joseph. His very actions speak of the great love that he has — for his wife, for his Son, and for His God. Just as Mary and Jesus were united with the Holy Spirit, so too do Joseph’s actions demonstrate his union with the will of God and his surrender to the Holy Spirit. No man acting of his own accord would travel a great distance with an expectant wife. No man acting of his own accord would flee with his wife and newborn to a foreign land. In these actions, we see Joseph’s cooperation with the Holy Spirit.


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