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My talk notes on St. Joseph

This past Saturday I was volunteered (*ahem*) to give a talk to my parish’s Men of St. Joseph group on, of all things, St. Joseph – his life and spirituality.  Given that the talk was only to be for 15-20 minutes I could hardly do justice to the depth of scholarship available (particularly thanks to my dear Internet-friend Lisa Franciscat) but I shared what I could.  The discussion afterwards was, in my entirely insufficiently humble opinion, even better than the talk itself.  Should anyone want a cursory overview of the life and spirituality of St. Joseph, I offer you my talk notes following the break.  I should note that these are only talk notes – highlights to keep me on track, not the fullness of the talk; I did go off-script and talk extemporaneously a few times, much to the delight (or perhaps chagrin, I couldn’t quite tell) of those present.  If anyone has additions or corrections, please do let me know in the combox – I’d hate to think I led anyone astray. 🙂

  • It is amazing how much has been written about a man who has not a single spoken word recorded in the Scriptures. I had papers and documents strewn all over my desk researching for this presentation. Yes, even worse than normal.
  • READ: Mt 1:18-25 2:13-15, 19-23
  • Joseph’s life – two versions
  • From the Protoevangelium of James – Joseph was an old widower with grown children
  • This also provides an easy rationale for the “Brethren of the Lord” (e.g. Mt. 13:55, Mk 3:31, Lk 8:19) issue – they were children from Joseph’s first marriage
  • This also provides an easy defense of Mary’s virginity
  • In the mid-15th century Jean Gerson and St. Bernardine gathered fragments of existing devotion to St. Joseph and came to a different conclusion
  • Joseph came to be understood as a strong young man, able to care for and defend the Holy Family.
  • Tradition holds that both he and Mary had taken a vow of celibate service to the Temple.
  • A member of the House of David, thus of a royal household, yet he worked daily as a carpenter.
  • He is believed to have died in the presence and care of Jesus and our Blessed Mother, thus he is the Patron Saint of a happy death.
  • He is also the patron saint of: civil engineers, craftsmen, emigrants, expectant mothers, families and unborn children among many others, as well as the patron saint of this Diocese.
  • He is frequently portrayed holding a carpenter’s square, symbolizing his vocation, and a lily, symbolizing his virginity.
  • Each of the letters of his name stand for one of the virtues he embodied:
  • J – Justice; O – Obedience; S – Silence; E – Experience; P – Prudence; H – Humility
  • “The just man”
  • We see him “unwilling to put [Mary] to shame” yet simultaneously sincere in holding to the Law.
  • What in the Old Testament would be called a “just man” in the New Testament would be called a “saint”.
  • Obedience
  • You notice every time he receives a message from God through an angel he does as he is asked – immediately and without questioning.
  • There is an interesting reciprocity in obedience between Joseph and God and Jesus and Joseph.
  • Silence
  • Evidenced by his not having a single recorded word in Scripture.
  • A reminder to us that while “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” there is often greater virtue in quietly going about doing God’s will.
  • There is also a profound humility in his silence, for he kept his blessed understanding of the works of the Lord to himself, so as not to become an obstacle to the Word of God.
  • This is also a reminder to us of how Jesus taught us to pray – quietly, by ourselves, allowing God to reveal His plans to us in the quiet of our hearts.
  • Experience
  • His quiet life of prayer and contemplating Scripture made him the perfect choice for the adoptive father of Jesus and husband of Mary.
  • You’ll notice his reaction to receiving messages from angels – calm, serene and determined. Me, I’d probably have a heart attack on the spot.
  • Prudence
  • He was prudent enough to find a way to solve the issue of Mary’s pregnancy without either causing harm to her or ignoring the Law. He was even more prudent in his quick and unquestioning acceptance of the directive of the angel.


  • Humility
  • Despite being the adoptive father of God, despite coming from a Davidic line, Joseph saw no contradiction in a life of hard work for the good of his family and others.
  • He was humble enough to pick up and leave at God’s command without any time for elaborate planning, knowing that God would reveal Himself in time.
  • O Saint Joseph, guardian of Jesus, chaste spouse of Mary, who passed your life in the perfect fulfillment of duty, sustaining the Holy Family of Nazareth with the labor of your hands, protect kindly those who trustingly turn to you. You know their aspirations, their miseries, their hopes, and they have recourse to you because they know that they will find in you one who will understand and protect them. You too have known trial, labor and weariness. But, even in the midst of worries of the material life, your soul was filled with profound peace and it exulted in unerring joy through intimacy with the Son of God entrusted to you, and with Mary, his most sweet mother. Make those whom you protect understand that they are not alone in their labor, but show them how to discover Jesus near them, to receive him with grace, to guard him faithfully, as you have done. And assure that in every family, in every factory, in every workshop, wherever a Christian works, all may be satisfied in charity, in patience, in justice, in seeking to do well, so that abundant gifts may descend from heaven. — Pope Blessed John XXIII
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