Friday is truly a joyful day - an oasis in the midst of Lenten sacrifice, fasting and penance - for it is the Solemnity of Saint Joseph when the priests put away the purple or violet vestments for a day and bring out the lily-white ones to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Since it is a solemnity, most dioceses lift the Lenten Friday fasting and abstinence stipulations. The swallows traditionally return to Mission San Juan Capistrano on his feast day. These winged wonders know a good thing when they see it and in the deja vu mode, you can set your clock on St. Joseph's Day for them to take up their nests under the gables and in the mission arches. It is a day to celebrate and how fitting it comes during the week of Laetare Sunday for it is truly a time to rejoice - for Joseph epitomizes all that is good in man; all that God intended for His finite creation. Few saints are so misunderstood and not given his proper place in the lives of the faithful as good St. Joseph. Like his loving and chaste spouse the Blessed Virgin Mary, Joseph has many titles.
First of all, Joseph is remembered mostly as the "Foster Father of Jesus" and the "Protector of Mary." But, did you realize he is also known as "Model of Christian Workers" and "Patron of Social Justice?" For those two titles he has his own special feast declared by Pope Pius XII in 1955: May 1st. Today we concentrate on the day at hand and the many titles attributed to this wondrous man. One title many don't give him credit for is "Patron of the Universal Church" for Joseph is the one we call on to protect God's Holy Church just as he protected the Holy Family, obediently stealing away in the dead of the night to flee the fast-approaching soldiers of Herod. Joseph was the "Model of Righteousness" for he could easily have walked away from his betrothal to Mary once he heard she was with child. Though the stigma of pregnancy outside marriage is nothing today, in fact, sadly encouraged by society, in Joseph's time and Jewish customs this was paramount to stoning the woman. But Joseph was righteous in the most holy sense and chose, after God sent His angel, to follow through with his promise to his bride-to-be and did everything in his power to protect her and her reputation. How many men would do that today? Furthermore, how many men would do that when coming to the realization that, though they might marry, would never consummate their vows in the marriage bed, but remain forever chaste in obedience to God's Holy Will? We doubt there are a handful today. That was the caliber of man Joseph was. As the "Model of Single Men and Married Men" Joseph's example should be imitated by more, not necessarily celibate if married, but gentle and loving with no roving eye toward another; for the single man, saving himself for the right woman whom God would place in his life. Joseph is the "Guardian of Virgins" and virgins mean both unmarried men and women.
Many, many in the public limelight today could take a severe lesson from Joseph's virtues, in particular those who stand as "role models" for our youth, such men as today's movie stars, music icons and sports superstars; men who hold important, influential positions in society. Inevitably, Bill Clinton comes immediately to mind. Before our liberal Democrat friends start complaining that we're spouting politics again, consider that the travesty of the immoral escapades of this man, who holds the highest office in the land, is an aberation to God and to Joseph, and should be the same for every American. But sadly, the "in thing" is to wink, and spout the pc line, "what's the harm if it doesn't hurt anybody" or "who cares what he does in his private life, as long as the economy is good." How low we have sunk as a nation, a country dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. Even though this amoral man denies it or rationalizes it all away with one lie after another, he exudes a cocky flamboyance that flaunts the possibilities. Believe it or not, folks, he loves the attention to his sexual prowess as if he were still a college stud sowing his oats. That is truly sad in the face of younger generations struggling with the moral compass that has seemed to go askew in today's society and mores. That is why it is so important to lean on Joseph, the "Protector of children and teens" for his fatherly love provided the sturdy mast of the Holy Family's ship, while Mary provided the sails that billowed in holiness day in and day out. With so many teens in trouble or troubled, parents and friends need to turn to Joseph as "Solace of the Afflicted" and "Comforter of the Troubled" for he can sustain them in their many trials and temptations if only they ask. Remember, Joseph is also considered "Rescuer of Sinners" which includes everyone of us. Call on him for he is the "Safeguard of Families," God's chosen guardian for His Only-begotten Son and the Blessed Mother who the Almighty has given to us as protector of all Christian homes. Tap into his intercessory power!
For those ill with something, remember Joseph is the foster father of the Divine Physician, so he should know a thing or two about sustaining the sick and obtaining relief for anyone who is sick and calls on his care for Joseph is the "Hope of the Sick." Joseph was not a wealthy man, he made his living by the sweat of his brow through carpentry work, providing what he could for his family and the family accepted everything gratefully, sharing with others when needed. That is another reason Joseph is also known as "Consolation of the Poor" for he not only provided for the needs of Jesus and Mary, but others as well, and continues today to help the needy of the entire world if they but call on him. Few realize Joseph is also known as "Patron of Priests and Seminarians" for he was the foster father of Jesus, the First Priest Who was also the Priest-Victim. His virtues of chastity, obedience, poverty, prudence, - the list goes on - are the ideal for every man of the cloth preparing to take vows. If only more priests and to-be-priests relied on exemplifying Joseph's attributes, the world and our Church would be that much better.
Finally, the one title so many devote to Joseph is "Patron of a Happy Death" for he died in the arms of Mary and Jesus the young Man. Holy Mother Church has for centuries entreated us to call on him for intercession for the dying, when we take our last breath. Who better to be standing at our bedside than the good, holy Joseph who silently will extend his firm hand to guide us to the Heavenly portals if we but exemplify his virtues.
One of the best prayers, ejaculations the Church calls them, is the short but effective "Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I love you. Save souls." So short, and yet so powerful. While Mary was the Heart of the Holy Family, Joseph was the Head and Jesus, the Body. All members worked in unison. By the example of the Holy Family we can go to school on how they did it in striving to bring harmony into our own families; not easy in today's modernistic culture. But by calling on them often, we can better equate our own hardships to the Holy Family's travails and offer them up in order to gain rewarding graces from above. With all the titles good Saint Joseph has been given, we doubt anyone has been left off his "care list."
On his wonderful feast day we can come to the conclusion that good St. Joseph is all things to all men and by following the example of this silent giant we can eradicate sin in our lives and bring grace alive through the example of this holy, fatherly saint whose intercession is attributed to killing vice with the swift sword of virtue. And why not? Afterall, he's the "Silent Assassin!"