History on St. Joseph
Little is known about Saint Joseph, as he only appears in three Gospels, and in limited references. Tradition holds that he was an artisan, a carpenter by most contemporary accounts. He was Mary’s husband, steadfast in the face of what must have surely been the difficult situation of Mary’s Immaculate Conception pregnancy.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Joseph was a righteous man. His actions toward Mary also revealed he was a kind and sensitive man. When Mary told Joseph she was pregnant, he had every right to feel disgraced. He knew the child was not his own, and Mary’s apparent unfaithfulness carried a very grave social stigma in their society. Joseph not only had the right to divorce Mary, but under Jewish law at the time she also could be put to death by stoning.
Although Joseph’s initial reaction was to break the engagement — the appropriate thing for a righteous man to do — he treated Mary with extreme kindness. He did not want to cause her further shame, so he decided to act quietly. Before he could act, God sent an angel to Joseph to verify Mary’s story and reassure him that his marriage to her was God’s will. Joseph willingly obeyed God, in spite of the public humiliation he faced. Perhaps this noble quality made him God’s choice for the Messiah’s earthly father.
The Bible doesn’t reveal much detail about Joseph’s role as father to Jesus Christ. We know from Matthew, Chapter 1, that he was an excellent earthly example of integrity and that he passed on the carpentry trade to his son. From the story of Jesus being presented at the Temple when he was six weeks old, in accordance with Jewish Law, we also know that Joseph raised him in the Jewish traditions and spiritual observances. Additionally, Luke told us that “ …the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.”
Joseph is last mentioned in Scripture when Jesus was 12 years old in the story of the Visit to the Temple, [Luke 2:41-52], when Jesus accompanies Mary, Joseph, and a large group of their relatives and friends to Jerusalem on pilgrimage for Passover and becomes separated from his parents and they have to return to find him.
St. Joseph is the Patron Saint of the Good Death, as tradition says he took his last breath while in the arms of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin. His Feast Day, March 19th, is celebrated by Catholics, Anglicans, many Lutherans and other denominations.
In 1870, Pope Pius IX declared Joseph patron of the universal Church.
He is the patron saint of a number of cities, regions and countries, including: the Americas, Canada, China, Croatia, Mexico, Korea, Austria, Belgium, Peru, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as of families, fathers, pregnant women, travelers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers, and working people in general.
Quite a legacy for someone about whom we have only a few references in all of Scripture.