Saint Joseph is a guide and intercessor to those who struggle with sexual purity. He offers us an example of a humble man who overcame his fears and did not abandon Mary, taking her into the protection of his house. He obediently accepted his mission given by God and took care of Mary and Jesus. Purity, as modeled by Joseph, is more than the absence of sin; it also involves taking on a mission in response to God’s call.
Joseph as a Model for Purity
Joseph was a man who was willing to forego sexual intimacy with his spouse to help affirm God’s plan. Through Sacred Scripture and Tradition, we understand that Joseph did not have a sexual relationship with Mary. Though he did not physically consummate their marriage, he gave himself in faith to the mission that God gave him as a spouse. Since Mary is known as a perpetual virgin, we know that Joseph also, through God's help, lived as a virgin.
Joseph as a Spouse
Saint Joseph was a true spouse to Mary. We are aware that after their betrothal, Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant. In early Jewish wedding ceremonies, according to Saint Joseph: Father of Faith, by Father Frederick Miller, S.T.D., there were two stages: the temple ceremony of “betrothal” and the wedding ceremony where the bride would be taken to live in the bridegroom’s household.
At the betrothal, the couple was considered married, but they did not yet live together as husband and wife until the groom had completed making a room for her in his father’s house. Then she would be ceremoniously brought to his house where they would then live together, and complete the wedding celebration.
During their betrothal and while he was preparing a place for her, Joseph discovered Mary had become pregnant. Joseph did not decide to divorce and “put her away quietly,” but through the guidance of an angel, he still took her into his home. As it states in the Gospel of Matthew, “When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord had told him to do” (Matthew 1:24). Joseph was a model of resolved faithfulness in accepting Mary as his wife rather than turning away from his mission.
Joseph as a Father
Saint Joseph was a true father to Jesus. As mentioned, Joseph took Mary into his house, which according to Father Miller, in Jewish law meant that he was also adopting Jesus as his son. In the Gospel of Matthew, the angel refers to Joseph as “Son of David,” indicating the lineage that Joseph would pass on to Jesus.
Jesus received Joseph’s lineage and therefore was also a Son of David, fulfilling what Sacred Scripture predicted. Joseph was told to name Mary’s child Jesus, which was his fatherly role. Saint Joseph not only fulfilled his role in protecting the child Jesus, but he was a mentor, teaching him the skills of a trade and modeling the human virtues of a man.
Joseph as a Man of Faith
Saint Joseph was a man of faith who was able to overcome his emotions. In the Gospel of Matthew, an angel appeared to him and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife” (Matthew 1:20). In some form, Joseph was afraid. He had to choose whether or not to accept his role as a spouse and father.
How important it is when dealing with sexual brokenness that we have to face our fears or sense of unworthiness and learn to act rather than avoid risk. Saint Joseph did this and continued to after taking Mary into his home.
Joseph as Our Intercessor
Saint Joseph lastly is our fatherly intercessor. As a good father, he is responsive to our needs. He is willing to address all our needs. Pope Benedict VI once commented that saints continue to do in heaven what they had done on earth. Obedient, just, and pure, Saint Joseph, pray for us!
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