“My name is Joseph. I am a carpenter by trade, and I live with my family in the small village of Nazareth, a village of just a few hundred people. We are simple folk here, workers for the most, with not much money, and life is hard. It has been that way for all of my life.

I am now getting on in years and I look back on a long and very eventful life. In fact, not many would be able to recount the experiences I have been fortunate to have, and none would be able to say that they had been partly responsible for the care and upbringing of a lad – carpenter like me and one of God’s own. He will do great things, though I doubt I’ll be around to see them.

I was brought up to be a carpenter, to work with wood all my life and to cut and fashion with plane and saw, the wooden implements, furniture and buildings you see around, everywhere. It has been hard work, but I have been proud to work with wood, one of God’s own living materials, created by his own hand centuries and centuries ago. It is rewarding work, to be able to take a piece of rough-hewn timber and then to cut and shape, to joint and carve into the finished article; I liken it to God’s own handiwork.

Joseph the Carpenter with Jesus (Georges de la Tour)

Apart from this, my interests are few and quite simple. I am a Jew, and go to the Synagogue on the Sabbath. I follow God’s law as best I can, being a God-fearing man, and a man who loves God with my whole life. I get on with my friends and neighbours – trying to help where I can. The main part of my life has to do with my family. As I said before, my life has not been easy. I have had my share of troubles – but they have also been the source of some of my greatest joys in life. And this is where my story gets interesting.

Many years ago, I was engaged to a young Jewish girl called Mary. We were intending to get married, and then the first of my calamities hit me. I found out that she was expecting a baby and this ‘knocked me for six’. I didn’t know what to do; I was very angry, because I knew the baby wasn’t mine – and I had never thought that Mary was ‘that’ kind of girl. Anyway, the only way out of this, for me, was to ‘divorce’ her – to finish the relationship and leave Mary to it. The trouble with this was that, should people find out, and find out they must, then Mary’s life would be in danger. The people don’t take kindly to adultery, and the usual fate of a woman found in Mary’s condition, is to stone her to death. I did not want that to happen, for Mary was, in my view, a ‘good’ girl, and not given to ‘flirting’ around with the young men.

Despite being in two minds, however, there was no way that I could marry her, and take her into my home, and that’s the way it was until, one night I had a dream, and in this dream, God’s messenger told me that May was pregnant because she was expecting God’s son, and he would be great. God had asked Mary about this, and she had agreed. Well to put it mildly, I was shattered when I heard this. Nothing like this had ever happened before, and it gave a whole new slant to the story, and now, I was determined to do the right thing, for Mary and her child. The least I could do was to take her into my home, as my spouse, and to protect her, and the child she was expecting.

Now you might think that, with this decision, my troubles might be over, but you would be wrong. At that time, Israel was occupied by the Roman authorities, and apart from having to obey our own Jewish laws, we also had to abide by what the Romans laid down. Mary was well on in her pregnancy, when we had to leave home and travel to Bethlehem, in order to be registered – a kind of census. We joined a caravan travelling in that direction – it took us some days – and the going was hard, especially for Mary, but worse was to come. When we got to the city, the place was full to the brim with people, all on the same errand. Could we find somewhere to stay? No way! Mary was going into labour, and the only place to ‘camp’ was in a farm outhouse. It was there that she gave birth to her son, and we called him Jesus, because that is what the angel said we should do. From the very first, you could see this child was going to be ‘special’, as some shepherds from the nearby fields came to visit him, and the night was filled with stars, and angels and things. Awesome! Then three kings came to bring him presents. I can honestly say I have never seen anything like this in my life. But, it filled me with great adoration and wonder.

Then, no sooner had we returned to Nazareth, than we had to leave again, and this time, in one mad rush. Again God sent a messenger and warned us that Jesus’ life was in danger from King Herod’s soldiers, as they had been sent to kill the child. It seems Herod was a very jealous king and did not like the idea of another ‘king’ in his territory, and so, with donkey and all we could put together in a hurry, we left and made the difficult journey into Egypt. ‘T was a good job we did, for the soldiers came and murdered all the young baby boys – talk about ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’! Eventually, when God said it was safe to go back home, we returned to Nazareth, Mary and Jesus and I, and we lived the life of a small, simple family.

The Holy Family (Sir John Everett Millais)

Jesus helped me with the carpentry, and I taught him to use the tools of the trade. He was a good lad – and I was proud of him – even though I always knew there was something very different about him. That was proved when we took him to the Temple. He was around 12 years old then, and, surprise, surprise, once inside the Temple, Jesus set about lecturing the elders on all aspects of the Law. It was then that Mary, and I, really came to realise, that here was a young man who would not be a carpenter all his life. He had other more important things on his mind.

And so, this is me now, getting old and knowing that it will not be long before I have to leave Mary and Jesus. As I said before, I have had my share of worries, and life has not been easy. However, I have tried my best to love God and carry out his wishes – certainly so far as Mary and Jesus have been concerned. They have returned my love a hundredfold, and all the work and care I have put into looking after my family, has been well worthwhile. I know, in my heart, that this is not the end of the story. It is most likely that I shall not be alive to see things develop; the life I have known with just the three of us will not go on much longer. I know that God has plans for Jesus, and when those plans materialise, he will leave home, and his trade behind, to take on much more important work – and God only knows where that will end. For my own part, all I can say is thank you to God, to Mary and Jesus. It has been a pleasure to be part of your lives, and to look after you as best I can. I hope you will think well of me, and the part I have tried to play, in looking after you both. I have faith that God will look, with favour, on my life’s work when I die, and so I have no fears in that direction. God be with you, always.”

From authority, not much is known for certain concerning St. Joseph, whose feast day is celebrated, annually by the western Christian Churches, on 19th March (this last Monday). He is regarded as one of the greatest saints of the Church, understandably, since a great part of his life was so closely woven with the lives of Jesus and Mary.

In the Epistles of St. Paul, amongst the earliest of Christian writings, St. Joseph is not mentioned and the earliest of the Gospels, that of St. Mark, gives him no part to play. In the gospels of St. Luke and St. Matthew, we have records concerning the lineage of St. Joseph – traceable back to King David – and we also have narratives concerning the infancy of Jesus, though the two accounts differ in the detail. From Matthew, we have the massacre of the innocents and the flight into Egypt. After the death of King Herod, we know from the same source that the Holy Family moved back to Nazareth. The only later reference we have to St. Joseph – though not by name – is concerned with the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, when he was then 12 years old. There is a reference to this in St. Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus speaks to ‘both his parents’. Moving on from this point, and because it is thought that Joseph was considerably older than Mary, most authorities appear to assume that he was already deceased before Jesus’ public ministry began.

Records of devotions to St. Joseph go back to at least AD 800, and there are references to him as the ‘Guardian of the Lord’ in the 9th Century. Devotions continued to grow in popularity through to the 14th Century. In the 13th Century, St. Thomas Aquinas stressed the importance of St. Joseph as husband of Mary (and guardian of Jesus), given that the Jews would have put Mary to death had she not been married and of his household, and whilst growing up, it was necessary for Jesus to have the care and protection of a ‘foster’ father.

Devotions to St. Joseph were developed further during the 15th Century by the actions of St. Bernadine and others. Later, in 1870, Pope Pius IX proclaimed St. Joseph patron of the Universal Church, especially in the fight against Communism, but St. Joseph is also venerated by those praying for a happy death, by fathers everywhere, by travellers, by immigrants, craftsmen, and workers in general. The lists of his patronages go on and on. In 1889, Pope Leo XIII urged Catholics to pray to St. Joseph as patron of the Church and the challenges it was then facing. Much more recently, Pope John Paul II issued an Encyclical, “Redemptoris Custos” (Guardian of the Redeemer), in which he presented St. Joseph’s most important role in the whole plan of redemption. A great saint, indeed!

St. Joseph, pray for us now and always.


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