– Role MODEL FOR
When we think of Joseph, our thoughts are drawn to Nazareth, to
the hidden life of the Holy Family. We should feel at home there,
because their experience of the family life was not unlike ours
today, ordinary, obscure and routine.
“Through God’s mysterious design, it was in the family
that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore
the prototype and example for all Christian families,” we
read in Familiaris Consortio (n. 82).
In the company of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, parents and their children
can also grow in wisdom, in favour with God (Lk. 2:52) and in love.
Human love, on which the family is founded and maintained, flourishes
like that of Joseph and Mary when it is animated by the grace of
God from above. The media images of marriage and family life today
give the impression that the family based on marriage is the tomb
of love. Through Joseph and Mary, however, God who is the source
of love lined among us and continues to live among us we keep Him
in our midst (Mt. 18:20). And so Nazareth is like a compass in these
confusing times, gently showing what the family is meant to be in
God’s plan: the cradle of life and the sanctuary of love.
Joseph’s example of giving himself heart and soul through
his life and work to God, and through God to Mary and Jesus, defines
what being a loving husband and father involves. At the heart of
the household of Nazareth was Mary, the beloved wife of Joseph and
Mother of Jesus. Observing that God had joined them together in
a real marriage, Pope Leo XIII wrote in Quamquam pluries, the only
encyclical latter we have on St. Joseph: “When God gave Joseph
as husband to the virgin, he gave him a companion in life, a witness
to her maidenhood, a guardian of her honour.”
Going back to Nazareth with Joseph, teaches us what family life
is, a sacred institution of the Creator and a foundation for Church
and society. “Let us learn from Nazareth that the formation
received at home is gentle and irreplaceable,” observed Pope
Paul VI on his memorable visit there.
To Joseph was entrusted the task of fostering the human growth of
Jesus, “in wisdom, age and grace.” “We must recognise,”
writes Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris
Custos (1989), “that Joseph showed Jesus by a special gift
from heaven, all the natural love, all the affectionate solicitude
that a father’s heart can know” (No. 8).
At the heart of Joseph’s “fatherhood” was the
total gift of himself to Mary and her Son, using his time and talents
at the service of the Messiah growing up by his side in his home.
In return, Jesus “was obedient to them” (Lk. 2:51),
respectfully returning the affection of his “parents.”
Intimately united on earth, Joseph still knows the way to the heart
of Jesus, to the Holy Spirit and to the Father. “Jesus is
so full of charity that He can never refuse Joseph’s prayer,”
St. Bernard tells us. "How can He refuse anything to one who
loved Him so tenderly and watched over Him so faithfully during
His sacred infancy?”
There is a lovely Flemish poem concerning St. Joseph, which humourously
illustrated the intercessory power of St. Joseph on our behalf.
Certain complaints were being lodged in heaven that souls whom it
was alleged had no business being there, had been allowed in. St.
Peter kept a check-list and he maintained that all was in order.
But then St. Joseph was accused: he had a ladder over the back wall
and he was getting his clients into heaven that way. St. Peter put
the accusation to him, saying he would have to stop it or else.
“Very well,” St. Joseph said in his serene way, “I’ll
go. But I’m taking my wife and Child with me!” And that
was the end of that!
Two other “lessons” we learn from the spirituality of
Joseph at Nazareth are silence and work.
First, the lesson of silence. Not one word of Joseph is recorded.
Sacred scripture speaks only of what Joseph “did”: “by
their fruits you shall know them.” Humble, silent fidelity
to Jesus Chris and his Blessed Mother is the mark of Joseph. The
hiddenness of Joseph encourages us to seek holiness of life through
the ordinary events of daily life. “St. Joseph is the model
of those humble ones that Christianity raises up to great destinies,”
observed Pope Paul VI in 1969. “He is the proof that in order
to be a good and genuine follower of Christ, there is no need of
great things – it is enough to have the common, simple and
human virtues, but they must be true and authentic.” For this
reason, the Church encourages husbands and fathers to imitate Joseph’s
domestic virtues: industriousness, listening, patience and sacrifice,
detachment from material possessions, purity of heart and faithfulness
At Nazareth, in this school of the Gospel, Joseph helps us to understand
the life of Jesus and the need to develop and deepen our spiritual
life. Raising the mind and heart to God through prayer and work
requires moments of stillness the hustle and bustle of family life.
Noise and distraction are the hallmarks of the marketplace and TV
culture; silence and the tranquillity of order are the marks of
the presence of God. Peace and quiet in ourselves and our surroundings
are necessary if we are to recreate the atmosphere of Nazareth in
our homes. Obviously, laughter and the carefree playfulness of children
in the home are a great blessing. But in order to leave ‘room
at the inn’ for God in our homes, we need to understand the
words of the Psalmist: ‘Be still and know that I am God.’
A quiet, disciplined lifestyle helps us to see the need for simplicity,
for the humility of spirit, for detachment from material things.
In this way we learn to treasure what is of true value in God’s
Then there is the lesson of work. Following in the footsteps of
Joseph helps us to appreciate the personal meaning of work. Nazareth
home of the ‘Carpenter’s Son,’ restores our awareness
of the nobility of work, Pope Paul said. “Work cannot be an
end in itself,” he declared, “its freedom and its excellence
derive, over and above its economic worth, from the value of those
for whose sake it is undertaken.” When work is undertaken
as an expression of love for our family, it fosters personal development
and maturity; it promotes health of body and mind and deepens our
capacity to love, by drawing the family closer together. It is as
if Joseph is appealing to us through St. Paul: “I appeal to
you … to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and
acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Let us sum up all this by recalling the blessing of Pope John Paul
II in his Letter to Families: “May the Holy Family, icon and
model of every human family, help each individual to walk in the
spirit of Nazareth. May it help each family unit to grow in understanding
of its particular mission in society and the Church by hearing the
word of God, by prayer and by fraternal sharing of life. May Mary,
Mother of ‘Fairest Love,’ and Joseph, Guardian of he
Redeemer, accompany us all with the constant protection. I bless
every family in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and