“… Christ was promised to Abraham as man, to David as his successor in his kingdom, but to Joseph under the name of Saviour; in order that we may be persuaded that, although Joseph had no share in the formation of the Body of Jesus neither did he place the crown upon His head, he nevertheless contributed to making Him the Saviour of all men, journeying and labouring and toiling along with Him, and supporting Him by the fruit of his toils for so many years. And thus (he says) he was the last of the Patriarchs to whom the Messias was promised, but in a more excellent manner than all.” (The Life and Glories of St. Joseph, Edward Healy Thompson, Aeterna Press, Kindle)
Since St. Joseph is silent in the Scriptures, regrettably many erroneous impressions have been given of him. He was not, as some assert, a decrepit old man when he and the Blessed Virgin were betrothed, but was fair-haired and in his prime, about 33 years old. He had no other children, for he was a virgin, having made his vow to that effect at the age of 12. Joseph and Mary both knew of each others’ vow of chastity. For to marry under Hebrew Law without advising each other of that vow would have been deceitful. And so, when Matthew 1, 18 tells us, “She was found with child, of the Holy Ghost”, it was Joseph himself who realized this, for he and the Blessed Virgin were aware of the sacred vows each had made, to offer their virginity to God as a sacred oblation. Most of the following is from the book cited above, with my comments.
St. Joseph did not ever, for one instant, doubt Our Lady, but simply sought God’s will. In his profound humility, he was abashed to think that the Lord God would choose him for the spouse and consort of the Mother of the Savior. When the Blessed Virgin saw that Joseph was perplexed, she prayed to God to enlighten him; a prayer which was heard by God most promptly. Thompson tells us that according to Eastern legend, not a night passed before Joseph was delivered from his uncertainty. As scripture tells us,
“But while he thought on these things, behold the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins”.
There is much insight available on this passage, but many writers do not make use of it and prefer instead to weave misleading fables about how Joseph was “afraid”, doubted God, doubted Mary and so on. Note that the angel called Joseph by his name, and added the honorific, “Son of David”. Thus showing him deference which would not have been indicated were he to have doubted God or the Blessed Virgin. We have already seen how Zachary was reproved for his doubts! Although many suppose that the angel’s words were an instruction to Joseph to wed the Virgin, the angel was actually telling him to remain with her.
According to Pope Benedict XIV, quoted by Edward Healy Thompson:
“The word of the angel by which he bade him not to fear to take unto him Mary for his wife is a Hebrew mode of expression, which does not signify the commencement of an act, but the continuation of an act already begun. The meaning of his mandate is this: ‘Retain and keep the wife you have taken, and do not forsake her’; and such is the interpretation of those who are adepts in the Hebrew idiom.”
The angel does not tell Joseph to discard his suspicions, for he has none. But the angel does tell Joseph, “thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins”. Now, note the wording here: the angel does not say, “His name shall be Jesus”, but says, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus”, which was also said to Mary, thus acknowledging Joseph’s rights and dignity as the foster father of Our Lord.
With this knowledge, St. Joseph’s soul was flooded with a superabundance of grace, for only by a special favor of God was he able to approach this true “Ark of the Covenant”, this most sacred “Temple of the Trinity”. In her Revelations, St. Bridget tells us that when Joseph beheld her with Child by the Holy Ghost, he feared exceedingly, suspecting no evil of her, but, remembering the words of the prophet which foretold how the Son of God would be born of a virgin, reputed himself unworthy to serve such a mother, until the angel in sleep bade him not to fear, but to minister to her with charity. And our Lady added: “From that moment Joseph never ceased to serve me as his sovereign and I humbled myself to the lowest offices to show him my submission.” (Thompson, op. cit.)
In his Gospel, Chapter 1, v. 19, Matthew tells us,
“Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately.”
Here, we must note that according to the Hebrew usage, the term “just” indicated complete compliance with the Mosaic Law; that includes some rather severe penalties for the crime of adultery, as well as for those who sought to cover it up.
St. Jerome uses this very argument in defence of Joseph. “If,” he says, “it was a precept of the Law that, not only the guilty, but those who had knowledge of their guilt, were under the penalty of sin, how could Joseph, in concealing the sin of his wife, be styled just? Yet it was precisely because he was just that he would not denounce her, being persuaded that she was innocent, and that, if she were with child, it was through the power of God. But, if she were innocent, why does he not remain with her?
The reason, as we have said, is clear. Having become persuaded from so many signs that she is the mother of the Messias, he, reckoning himself unworthy to abide under the same roof with her, and with the Desired of all nations, comes to the determination to leave her privily, so that her reputation may remain undamaged. And now we ask, why would Joseph withdraw from her at this time of need?
St. Bernard tells us,
“For what cause did Joseph think of leaving Mary? Hear upon this point, not my opinion, but that of the Fathers. Joseph wished to separate himself from Mary for the same reason as made Peter desire to leave the Lord, when he said, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’; and for which the centurion would dissuade Him from coming into his house, saying, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof’. In like manner, Joseph, reputing himself a sinner and unworthy, did not think it fitting to live familiarly with one whose surpassing dignity inspired him with awe. With a sacred dread he beheld in her the indubitable token of the Divine Presence, and, as he could not fathom the mystery, he desired to leave her.
Peter was confounded at the greatness of the Divine power, the centurion by the majesty of the Divine presence; and Joseph also, as a man, was struck with fear at the strangeness of so great a mystery, and therefore was minded privily to leave her. Do you marvel that Joseph, beholding her pregnancy, should esteem himself unworthy to abide with his virgin spouse when you hear St. Elizabeth, unable to sustain her presence without trepidation and awe, exclaiming, ‘Whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?’ “
We just note here that the Fathers to which St. Bernard refers are, Origen, Jerome, Basil, Remigius, and Theophylact, according to Thompson. To the above Fathers, Thompson adds St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bernardine of Siena and St. Francis de Sales.
St. Francis de Sales tells us,
“The humility of St. Joseph, as St. Bernard explains, was the cause of his desiring to abandon our Lady when he perceived her to be with child. St. Bernard says that he reasoned thus within himself: ‘What is this? I know that she is a virgin, for together we took the vow of preserving our virginity and our purity, in which she would certainly not have failed. On the other hand, I perceive that she is with child, that she is a mother. And how can maternity and virginity subsist together? How should not virginity be an obstacle to maternity? Might it be, he then said, that she is that glorious Virgin of whom the Prophet declares that she shall conceive and bring forth the Messias? If this be so, far be it from me to abide any longer with her, I who am unworthy to do so. It were better that I should secretly leave her on account of my unworthiness, and not live any longer in her company.’ “
I wish it were possible to write more of beloved St. Joseph at this time, but hope that this small sample has helped to refute the slurs on Our Lady and St. Joseph which have arisen as the media pushes the agenda of false mercy for those who persist in adultery, fornication and other grave sins.
Let me share with you briefly a personal note.
Before we made the move to attend SSPX Chapel full time (actually we were forced out as I have related elsewhere), we attended First Saturdays at a diocesan church which offered the TLM for First Saturdays. The priest there had been sent to Rome to become one of Pope Francis’s “Missionaries of Mercy” for the Year of Mercy. As soon as he returned from the Vatican, the priest observed of Our Lady in his homily that she “was in an irregular situation” as an “unwed mother”. I was very disconcerted to hear this, and my husband and I slipped out as soon as Father began administering Holy Communion. I later emailed him and retain his response, in which he justified his remarks by noting that she was in fact, an unwed mother. We never returned. However, to my knowledge, none of the other traditional Catholics present objected to the priest’s remarks slurring Our Lady.
There have been articles, even in the traditional Catholic media, especially at Christmas time, which discuss St. Joseph’s purported frustration and even anger over Mary’s pregnancy. To repeat, St. Joseph and Mary understood each other perfectly. They were both virgins and knew of each others’ vows, and believed in the sacred scriptures which foretold that the Messias would be born of a Virgin.
Just as Mary was predestined to be the Mother of the Savior, St. Joseph was predestined to be the foster father of Jesus and the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In fact St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that in the order of grace, the highest level, the Hypostatic Union, there are just three beings: Our Lord Jesus Christ, the most Blessed Virgin Mary, His Mother, and St. Joseph, His Foster-Father and Spouse of Mary.
Although it has not been declared infallibly, it is the opinion of many Church Fathers and theologians that St. Joseph, as Mary, was assumed into heaven body and soul. To read more of these beautiful thoughts I recommend reading Edward Healy Thompson’s delightful book. It is available as a free pdf download from archive.org, as a Kindle or paperback from Amazon (cited above), and there is an excellent, if brief, summary of it available online from The Remnant archives.
God willing, I hope to write more on St. Joseph soon, especially as regards his role in these days.
I’m sorry to have to end here; there is so much that must be said, my efforts fall far short! Thank you for reading. I pray for you always and entrust you to beloved St. Joseph.
Please, pray the Rosary!
~ by evensong, for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, King.
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin; give me strength against thine enemies!