Protector. Provider. Righteous. Obedient. Compassionate. Humble. Foster Father of Jesus. Most Chaste Spouse. For a man who appears very little in the Gospels, St. Joseph is one of the most beloved and all-encompassing saints. Who was this silent paragon, and why is he the patron of our seminary?
The Real St. Joseph: Holiness and Strength
We know the general story of St. Joseph, and we can piece together details of his life from the Gospels. He was a carpenter, devout in his faith, and likely poor. And, this quiet, humble man was tasked with protecting the Son of God. When an angel appears in his dream and says, “Noli Timere,” or “Do not be afraid,” Joseph bravely accepted his vocation. Without questioning where God’s will might lead him, he took Mary as his wife, and assumed his role as protector of Jesus. He did not worry about the impending gossip, or demand to know the full extent of the plan he was to execute. He heard the will of God and he humbly obeyed.
Imagine the quiet life that they shared, the humble Joseph and joyful Mary. The conversations they must have laughed over, the comfort they must have brought each other as they tried to protect their child, the prayers they must have shared in their closeness to God. Joseph was the protector, provider, compassionate spouse, and example of purity. How he must have keenly felt his unworthiness when he could find nothing better for Mary than a stable. She probably comforted him in that moment, thanking him for his constant, tender care.
Then, the angel came back to warn him of Herod’s search, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him” (Matt. 2:13). So, Joseph immediately left his business, his life, and his own plans to protect the innocent child in his care. This is why St. Joseph is more than a patron of husbands and fathers, he is truly a role model for priests. To protect and build the Church, a priest must leave behind his old job, his old life, and follow where God leads him.
Meditating on the Angel’s Words
Imagine the weight on Joseph’s shoulders as he led his family to a foreign, pagan country. Mary must have been a beacon of maternal care, sharing in the worries, listening to his fears, and doing what she could to take some of the burden from her husband. How often Joseph must have replayed the angel’s words in his head: Do not be afraid. Noli Timere. Do not be afraid. With the threat of Herod’s violence at their heels, Joseph must have drawn on those words each morning as he trekked through miles of desert to bring his family to safety.
When all finally was safe, Joseph led his family back to their beloved country. It must have been such a relief for both Joseph and Mary to practice their faith once again in a Jewish community. To raise their young son in the ways of the Law, praying with him and pondering in awe at their role in salvation history. Imagine the hours that young Jesus spent with his foster father, learning to work with his hands, learning to read and write from the Torah, learning to sing, and pray, and play.
Our Patron and Motto
The quiet St. Joseph was not called to lead armies to victory or achieve moments of glory. He was called to sacrifice himself every day, doing the same thing over and over for the family that needed him. As the patron of our seminary, these are the graces that he will bring to our future priests – dedication, perseverance, humility, and obedience.
As our guide and intercessor, St. Joseph is surely repeating the words of the angel in the hearts of our college seminarians. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid to take on the Church as your bride. Do not be afraid to protect and provide for her. Do not be afraid to take the Eucharist into your hands, to be a channel of grace for the souls in your care. Do not be afraid to turn to your mother, Mary, to seek refuge under her mantle. She will listen to your worries, lighten your burdens, and gently guide you to her Son. Do not be afraid. Noli Timere.