Saint Joseph is the man of silence. Not a word from him in the Gospels. And yet, he “speaks” to the greatest number: boss of workers, model of fatherhood, he gives his name to schools, parishes, religious congregations, when it is not generations, from father to son, who carry his first name. A spiritual figure sometimes forgotten, Saint Joseph is this “Righteous man” of which the gospel speaks, in which we can find courage and comfort.
If Pope Francis invites us to dedicate this year 2021 to the discovery of Saint Joseph, it is by virtue of his humility, his discretion, his confidence, which make him a fraternal support, a paternal recourse, a spiritual support: “We can all find in Saint Joseph the man who goes unnoticed, the man of daily presence, discreet and hidden, an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of difficulty, writes Pope Francis in his apostolic letter Patris rope (“With a father’s heart”), published on December 8, 2020. Saint Joseph reminds us that all those who seemingly are hidden or on the “second line” play an unparalleled role in the history of salvation. “ What is said of Mary applies to Joseph, when the Gospel reports that Mary “Remembered all these events and meditated them in his heart” (Lk 2, 19). Joseph, model of interior life. Joseph, a father who helps through troubled times.
Before being a father, Joseph was a son. It is part of a lineage that the evangelist Matthew reconstitutes from the first chapter. Joseph, heir to a long line of prophets, comes to close the Old Testament. Descendant of Abraham, Jacob and David, he transmits to Jesus a genealogy, that of the expectation of Christ. Even today, Joseph brings us into a holy history. But it is not to him that he attracts: “Joseph knew how to love in an extraordinarily free way. He never put himself in the center. He knew how to shift his focus, put Mary and Jesus at the center of his life ”, explains Pope Francis.
Moreover : “Saint Joseph is the patron of the hidden life”, wrote Claudel. The father of the Word has nothing to say. But he is intensely present. Listening to Mary, and to the angel who warns her in a dream, on several occasions. Joseph is “plugged in” to the events of his hectic existence, ready to accept, to consent to reality. “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to your home”, the angel whispers to him (Mt 1, 20). In another dream, the angel of the Lord enjoins Joseph to flee to Egypt. “He teaches us that in the storms of life, we should not be afraid to leave the rudder of our ship to God. Sometimes we would like to control everything, but he always looks further “, insists Pope Francis.
“Joseph let the unforeseen events of God enter his life, it is part of God’s plan”, confides Brother Noël-Marie Rath, priest of the Servites of Mary and author of Living of Christ with Saint Joseph (1). Jesus’ father is still there when the son, at 12, fled to the Temple: “My child, why did you do this to us?” See how your father and I suffered while looking for you! “, exclaims Mary (Lk 2, 48). Having the Son of God at home is not really easy. “Jesus does not allow them to repos: he only comes into the world to disturb them “, notes Bossuet. Families recognize each other: “There is no life that is not beset with many dangers, temptations, weaknesses and falls, wrote Paul VI in 1968. Joseph, silent and good, faithful, meek, strong and undefeated, teaches us what to do. “
We also like to evoke Jesus, a wise apprentice on the workbench of his carpenter father. At the birth of his son, Aurélien Clappe turned to Saint Joseph: “I imagined him as a loving, tender father who passed on his knowledge and skills to Jesus his son. Carpenter, it’s not nothing, you have to have a sense of measure, of balance. “ Documentalist in Lyon, Aurélien Clappe reconstitutes this relationship in his novel (2): “Writing was like listening to a little voice coming out of the fog. “ And a discovery: “In the paintings, we see the Child Jesus carrying the light: we have so much to receive from our children. “ With his 9-year-old son Théo, the writer learns to be “Fully in what we do”. Holder of the mystery of the Incarnation, Joseph steps aside to follow Jesus: “In fact, he is more of an adopted father than an adoptive father”, remarks Brother Noël-Marie.
A discreet saint, Joseph is designated as “Servant of salvation” by John Paul II. At the request of Francis and since 2013, he has been appointed during the Eucharistic prayers just after Mary and before the apostles. And it is on the occasion of the 150e anniversary of the declaration of Saint Joseph as patron of the Universal Church as the Pope published his apostolic letter. Spiritual master celebrated on March 19, Saint Joseph is also patron of workers celebrated on March 1er may. Two feasts for one and the same teaching, aiming to unify prayer and work: “To address ourselves to Saint Joseph in our functions and in our responsibilities, and to ask him urgently for his conduct, not only for the interior, but also for the exterior”, summarized the Jesuit Louis Lallemant (1588-1635). Noble activity that work can be, and the craftsman of Nazareth is a fine icon of it.
But Pope Francis draws attention to today’s issues: “In our time when work seems to represent again an urgent social question and where unemployment sometimes reaches impressive levels, including in nations where for decades we have experienced a certain well-being, it is necessary to understand, with a renewed awareness, the meaning of work which gives dignity and of which our saint is the exemplary patron. “ Joseph’s work sheds light on our link with the concrete of existence: “Joseph has his feet firmly on the ground, and tools in hand, but there is a meaning to manual work, he participates in creation, he dominates nature without plundering it, explains Brother Noël-Marie Rath. We are interdependent on our environment. “
“Saint Joseph does not look for shortcuts but faces” with open eyes “what happens to him by taking personal responsibility”, says Pope Francis, who proposes to meditate on the example of Saint Joseph in this period of pandemic. A call as much as a prayer, to face the test: “His persistent silence contains no complaints but always concrete gestures of confidence. “