St Joseph: Model Husband and Father – A Reflection for the Feast of the Holy Family

I remember once being amused to hear that a certain Franciscan Theologian from the 19th Century (whose name I cannot remember) wrote a six volume “Life of St. Joseph.” Six volumes?! How could one possibly get enough material? We know so little of Joseph from the Scriptures. He seems to have been the strong, silent type. Not a word of his is recorded. But his actions have much to say, especially to to men. On this feast of the Holy Family we do well to ponder him as a model for manhood, for husbands and fathers.

1. A man who obeys God and clings to his wife – We saw last Sunday the Gospel  that Joseph was betrothed to Mary. This is more than being engaged. It means they were actually married. It was the practice at that time for a couple to marry rather young. Once betrothed they usually lived an additional year in their parents’ household as they became more acquainted and prepared for life together. Now at a certain point it was discovered that Mary was pregnant, though not by Joseph. Now the Law said that if a man discovered that a woman to whom he was betrothed was not a virgin, he should divorce her and not “sully” his home. Joseph as a follower of the Law, was prepared to follow its requirements. However, he did not wish to expose Mary to the full force of the law which permitted the stoning of such women. He would thus remained  quiet as to his reason for the divorce and Mary would escape possible stoning. To fail to divorce Mary would expose Joseph to cultural ramifications. Just men just didn’t marry women guilty of fornication or adultery. To ignore this might have harmed not only Joseph’s standing in the community but also that of his family of origin. But you know the rest of the story. Joseph is told in a dream not to fear and that Mary has committed no sin. Matthew records: When Joseph awoke, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. (Matt 1:24).

Now a man obeys God even if it not popular, even if he may suffer for it. Joseph is told to cling to his wife. He may suffer for it but he, as a man, “obeys God rather than men.” It takes a strong man to do this especially when we consider the culture in which Joseph lived, and in a small town, no less. Joseph models strong manhood and has something to say to the men of our day. In the current wedding vows a man agrees to cling to his wife, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or health. This is what a man is to do. Our culture often pressures men to bail out when there is trouble Joseph shows the way by obeying God over the pressures of prevailing culture, even if he will personally suffer for it.

2. A man whose vocation is more important than his career – In today’s Gospel set likely in Bethlehem Joseph is warned by an angel in a dream: Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him (Matt 2:13). Joseph may well have had much to lose in this flight. Back in Nazareth (or perhaps Judea)  he had a business, a career if you will. He had business prospects, business partners and contacts. Fleeing to a distant land might mean others would take his business etc. But Joseph was a father and husband before he was a businessman. His child was threatened and his first obligation was to Jesus and Mary. His vocation outweighed his career. In a culture like ours where too many parents make their careers and livelihoods paramount and their children are too easily placed in day care Joseph displays a different priority.

It is true that many parents feel they have no choice but to work. But it is also true that many demand a lifestyle which requires a lot of extra income. Perhaps a smaller house, less amenities etc would permit a daycare free childhood for more of our children. Joseph points the way for parents: vocation has priority over career. For fathers especially Joseph shows that a man is a husband and father before he is a businessman.

3. A man who protects his family– And for men, Joseph also models a protective instinct that too many men lack today. Our children, like Jesus was, are exposed to many dangers. Our American scene does not feature a lot of physical dangers but moral dangers surely abound. Fathers, what are your children watching on TV? What are their Internet habits? Who are their friends? What do your children think about important moral issues? Are you preparing them to face the moral challenges and temptations of life? Are you teaching them the faith along with your wife? Or are you just a passive father, uninvolved in the raising of your children? A man protects his children from harm, physical, moral and spiritual. Joseph shows forth this aspect of manhood.

4. A man of work –The Scriptures (Matt 13:55) speak of Joseph as a “carpenter.” The Greek word however is τέκτονος (tekton, os) which can mean more than a worker in wood. It can also refer to a builder or any craftsman. It seems unlikely that Joseph and Jesus would have worked exclusively in wood since wood was more rare in the Holy Land and used more sparingly than in our culture. Stone was surely plentiful and so it may be that Joseph also worked with stone as well as wood in his work. It was and through his work Joseph supported his family. It is the call of a man to work diligently and to responsibly and reliably provide for his family. Joseph models this essential aspect of manhood. Paul felt it necessary to rebuke some of the men of his day for their idleness: In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teachingyou received from us….For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ that with quietness they earn the bread they eat. (2 Thess 310-12)

Joseph is a model for manhood. Nothing he ever said was recorded but his life speaks eloquently enough. He is referred to at the Guardian and Patron of the Universal Church. He has these titles for he was guardian, protector and patron(provider) of the Church in the earliest stage, when the “Church” was just Jesus, Mary and himself. But since the Church is the mystical Body of Christ, in protecting and providing for Jesus he was doing that for us for we are in Christ as members of his body. Men especially do well to imitate St. Joseph and invoke his patronage in all their endeavors as Husbands, Fathers and providers.

St. Joseph, pray for us. Holy Family Pray for us.

20 Replies to “St Joseph: Model Husband and Father – A Reflection for the Feast of the Holy Family”

  1. Msgr. Pope, that was wonderful way of telling us about Joseph via the video.
    I also am happy to see your face and red lettering of your articles now in the “New Advent”.
    Now I do not have to search for your writings when I’m pressed for time.

  2. A wonderful reflection. As one of your readers had commented a while back, we should all strive to have our will be aligned with God’s so that when He asks of us, we can obey, say “yes.” I cannot express this properly but in surrendering oneself to God, there is freedom. I am free to say yes to what is right and good without any fear because God is with me. Mary and Joseph do the difficult but the right things, putting their trust in God.

    We are blessed to have a good man heading our family. My husband reads your blog faithfully too, but he is shy (the strong, silent type, much like St. Joseph) and does not mind that I ask hundreds of questions.

    I imagine you must be tired after all the Christmas liturgies. Rest, dear Father.

  3. Msgr. Pope, as I was praying the Liturgy of the Hours this morning, I was suddenly hit with the thought whether Joseph, the husband of Mary, is the same person who was the son of Jacob, and was sold by his brothers to some slave traders, and was brought to Egypt. He then went on to become the vizier of Pharaoh’s kingdom. Joseph was an upright man, had good business foresight, God-fearing, and had the gift of interpreting dreams. He was forgiving of his brothers and was a very loving son to his father, Jacob, and dearly loved his younger brother Benjamin.
    With this insight, It made sense to me then that in the infancy narratives, the angel always communicated with him through dreams. Then, as if that thrill of being able to connect Joseph as the son of Jacob was not enough, the first article I saw in the New Advent is your article about him. The attributes that you enumerated about Joseph sort of sum up the kind of person the Joseph of the OT is – a very generous and upright man, industrious, very forgiving, upholds family unity and is very protective of its members.
    I hope I am on track in this because I have always wondered why in the Gospel of Luke, the evangelist mentions him as the the son of Eli (Lk 3:23) in the genealogy. Only if you have the time, could you enlighten us on this?Thank you so much.

    1. His patents are a differemt Jacob and Rachel. Check out the book recommended by Nick and I.

      1. Craig, thank you so much for pointing this one out. I stand corrected. I read the genealogy in the Gospel of St Matthew again, and indeed, it says that Jacob is the son of Matthan. It was a nice thought, anyway. I take it that God has a tremendous sense of humor, playing this prank on me! I also tried to browse on the book you and Nick recommended. I did not really get into it any deeper, but is this an account by a visonary, something like the visions of St. Catherine of Emmerich of Mary Magdalen? Again, thank you.

  4. I very much enjoyed your reflection. I have a slightly differing thought, however. I try to view Scripture from the point of all participants in a reading. Today we have God the Father, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The Father is certainly a member of the Holy Family, as He should be in ANY marriage and family. His view is really often thought of as a model for Fatherhood. Mary and Jesus’ roles are readily thought about and expounded. But of Joseph, however, it gets confusing if you think of God the Father as the key “father” of the family. Then what of Joseph’s role. If I were to put myself in his role, what would I see.
    I see primarily a role of Faith, as when he accepted Mary’s pregnancy although all reason said not to. It was also a role of answering God’s call, without understanding the outcome, as the call to flee to Egypt — now! I think Joseph’s role is our role, the average man’s role. He’s adopted into the family of God, as we hope to be. Faith is a key guide, yet He listens for specific calls to action. We all must imitate him in this regard. And he is called to love and protect others brought into his life. That too is our duty, to love our neighbor. Joseph’s role doesn’t seem that large, doesn’t seem that important. It almost seems like he could be left out of the story —- but so could we. But God gave us all a reason, a purpose for living, as He did Joseph. It may seem small, but no small part of God’s plan is unimportant. Neither are we.
    I’m not a parent; I’m not married, but I see Joseph as my role model. A model which shows me how I should act toward God, and toward my neighbor. It may be a small role, but I’ll try to do my best.

    1. “I think Joseph’s role is our role, the average man’s role. He’s adopted into the family of God, as we hope to be.”

      Hi, Tom – I was wondering if you would clarify what you meant by this last sentence: “He’s adopted into the family of God, as we hope to be.” It seems you can either mean the Family of God (i.e., the Church Universal) or the particular family to which a particular husband is bonded through the Sacrament of Matrimony. If you meant the former (the Family of God), I will reply that I do not *hope* to be adopted into the family of God; I already *am* adopted into the Family of God through baptism. This is true of every baptized person. On the other hand, if you meant the latter (the particular family), I would urge caution. In the Holy Family Joseph was a foster father, for Jesus’ father was God; the rest of us, however, have human fathers. These human fathers do not stand on the outskirts of their families, hoping to be “adopted in;” — or at least, this should not be the case. Through marriage and the conjugal act a man’s children are his; it is not his wife’s place to decide whether he gets to father them. In the beginning, the maternal bond is naturally stronger than the paternal bond, so a woman will have the ability to damage her husband’s bond with their children if she wishes; however, in this case, she is doing something wrong, and he has grounds upon which to assert his rights as father. I hope that when you do become a father (if this is your calling) you will not feel that it is up to your wife to adopt you into your own family! You will need to be careful — some women today believe they have the right to remove fathers from their families at will, and any woman who makes this decision has recourse to the full power of the law to enforce her will.

      You said that Joseph could be left out of the story, but this is not so. Without Joseph Herod would have murdered Jesus. Without Joseph Mary and Jesus would have struggled for survival. Without Joseph, who knows what other dangers would have befallen Mary? Without Joseph, who knows what would have become of Jesus? His role was not unimportant. He was the foster father of the Messiah. Can you imagine many more important roles to play than this?

      Many men are left out of their families today because their women and society at large does not value men, masculinity, or fatherhood. I would even say that in a sense we men have been “kicked out” of the larger home of the culture: we are not wanted here. Our culture glorifies Woman and the Single Mother. But what becomes of fatherless families? And what has become of our larger home, this American culture? I would invite you to consider that men are not indispensable as our society wishes to believe.

      Finally, Tom, please excuse me if I have misinterpreted your comments, but your sentence, “It almost seems like [Joseph] could be left out of the story — but so could we,” makes it sound like you think Joseph and all fathers (“so could we”) are completely optional, total accessories to the family and civilization. This is not so.

  5. I can remember as a girl it was not unusual for young married couples to live with their parents in the beginning of their marriages. As I reflect back on it I can see the wisdom in this. Young women and men could look to their in-laws as models for married life. Mothers would guilde young wives in raising their children because they were in the same household. The same held true for young husbands. Today we experience too much individualism, and we are not dependent on each other for the moral stability of our familites.

    Additionally, as parents aged they would move in with their children for care in their later years. We truly should look to St. Joseph and return to the nuturing and care of our families.

  6. Monsignor: Revelations in The Life of St. Joseph, a book found at www Incredible account from before his birth and on.

  7. St. Joseph, the Carpenter. How fitting that the Foster Father of Jesus would be a builder, because Jesus by way of the Godhead is the Architect of the Universe, and all things. The Book of Wisdom (absent from the King James Version) at Chapter 11:20, says He made all things by ‘measure, numbers, and weight,’ (a trinity), so it is fitting that Jesus should have both Heavenly and Earthly Fathers who are builders. It was also fitting that Jesus and Joseph worked with wood, because wood plays such an important part of biblical history, beginning with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, together with the Tree of Life in the Book of Genesis, followed by the wood the Noah’s Ark, and the Staff of Moses, up to the wood of the Sycamore Tree which is the wood of Jesus’s Cross.

    St. Joseph is a strong model for the family, and is a strong Patron Saint. There is a prayer over 1900 years old which is a nine day novena, which begins by saying: O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interest and desires. I started this novena in 1996, and have never stopped saying it daily. I begin the novena when I underwent surgery, and had a colostomy bag attached to me. I started a sobriety program which consisted of the novena, (no professional assistance) and have been completely sober since then, and my colostomy bag was reversed six months after is was installed. St. Joseph does provide a powerful intercession to obtain your request through Jesus Christ, his earthly adopted Son, and His Lord.

    St. Joseph with his big carpenter hands full of strength, would also have had a giant hand in raising the child Jesus, teaching Him, caring for Him, and most of all, protecting the infant child Jesus. As you said, Msgr. Pope, Joseph is a role model for teaching obedience, work discipline, and the virtues of wisdom, strength, and grace. I can imagine the lessons Joseph taught Jesus while working on a table, saying things like the four legs of the table represent a good foundation, or maybe that the table top must be smooth, which takes patience, hard work, and time to see the results of what started out as a tree. Lessons Jesus would use during his public life as we know Him from scripture. Justin Martyr said Jesus made among other things, yokes (for cattle) and ploughs.

    I have seen pictures of St. Joseph’s Coronation. St. James in his Protoevangelium, says St. Joseph died at the age of 111. So this brings me to ask you Msgr. Pope, if you know: “Does St. Joseph have a ‘burial site’ where visitors may go, or did St. Joseph get taken into heaven like Mary?”


    O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so promt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interest and desires. O St. Joseph do assist me by your powerfull intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord: so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power I may offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name (say your name here), and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen.

    It is written; Say this prayer for nine consecutive mornings for anything you may desire. It has seldom been known to fail.

  9. What with all the discussion that has been had here the last year about smiting enemies of God and engaging in war against His enemies, e.g. the Amalekites —

    How very interesting it is that, given what God had done at the Exodus (plagues, etc.), that God should turn to Egypt to save His family. Part of that seems to be so that Jesus could come out of Egypt, as did Moses, but it seems that there is more to it than that.

    Just as the first Joseph had protected and provided for his family — the family of God — by bringing them to Egypt, so too did the second Joseph (as had Abraham before them). But once Egypt enslaved Israel and refused to let them go worship God, resulting in the plagues, one would have thought that Egypt was an everlasting enemy. Instead, it appears to be favored by God. Egypt is forgiven, the “enemy” is loved.

  10. Thank you, venerable Monsignor, for encouraging all of us men to be better husbands and fathers after the example of holy St. Joseph.

  11. How insightful and beautiful. Giving thanks now for the gift of a husband who emulates so many of these qualities and looks to Joseph as a model. What a grace! Thank you Lord!!

  12. True, thank you so much Msgr Charles for such a wonderful meditation. Personally, i silently adimire St Joseph for his pesonality. He lived a silent life where holiness was shinnig greatly. St Joseph pray for us to remain in the innocence of the child Jesus who hadbeen born for us. Amen

  13. St. Joseph, I entreat to you the souls of my own father, Alberto, father in law, Milton, and also the following men: the father of my daughter, Frank, my brother José who is a father of three kids, Ron the father of my nephews, Jonathan who is a father and my nephew, and Fernando my neighbor who is a father of two, and Alberto father of two, and F. Steve Watson who is a priest. Bless men, intercede for them so that they have fortitude, help us women recognize their efforts and render unto men the respect they are due, and the love, as Mary did for her husband, father of Jesus.

  14. St. Joseph is a person whose life inspires us at.all time. He is the man of faith and commitment.

  15. Great reflection.It is of great help in my book as i am writing daily reflection on Lent period..

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