The importance of St Joseph – a working man who provided for his family

St Joseph, by Guido Reni

Today for the first time at Mass, I added the words “with Blessed Joseph, her spouse” to the words of the third Eucharistic prayer. I hope I have got this right, but I did read on the Catholic Herald website a few days ago:

A decree signed on May 1 by Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, congregation prefect, and Archbishop Arthur Roche, congregation secretary, said Benedict XVI had received petitions from Catholics around the world and approved adding after the name of the Virgin Mary, the words “with blessed Joseph, her spouse”.

Blessed John XXIII had added the name of St Joseph to the first Eucharistic Prayer, known as the Roman Canon, in the 1960s. The new decree inserts his name into Eucharistic Prayers II, III and IV.

A congregation official told the American Catholic News Service that national bishops’ conferences could set a date for the changes to begin if they believe that is necessary, “but because it is a matter of only adding five words, priests can begin immediately”.

I am one of the ones who has begun ‘immediately’, and I must say I am very pleased by this change. What was good enough for the Roman Canon in the time of Blessed John XXIII, is good for the other Eucharistic Prayers as well.

Saint Joseph does not of course need a boost from us; rather we need a boost from Saint Joseph. He is the greatest of saints, for it was to him that God entrusted the upbringing of His only Son. The human upbringing of Jesus was of the greatest importance, as it was, indeed is, His Blessed Humanity that is God’s chosen instrument for the salvation of the world. Thus it is that the Son of God’s human mannerisms, which were so very attractive to His fellow human beings, would have been ways of behaving that He learned from the Carpenter of Nazareth.

God chose Saint Joseph for the education of His Son (and let us remember that Jesus was essentially home schooled) because He wanted the best educator for Jesus. But the role of Joseph was not strictly speaking necessary. The Blessed Virgin, best of mothers, could have brought Jesus up on her own, and there would have been many single mothers in Israel at that time. (I am thinking of the widows, frequently mentioned in the New Testament and the Old, as well as the fact that the Law allowed divorce.) But God always goes beyond the minimal in His provisions, and that is why He chose Saint Joseph for his special role as educator, guide and mentor to the boy Jesus.

One of the things that Saint Joseph taught by word and example was the rule of working for one’s living, something that the early Christians too were keen on, if St Paul (a tent and sail maker by trade) is anything to go by. There have been some rather fanciful efforts to translate the Greek word “tekton”, as meaning something other than carpenter. But the truth of the matter is surely that Joseph worked in a carpenter’s shop. Whether he owned the carpenter’s shop, or was an employee of the owner, is not clear. But whichever way, he worked. For that is something that god wants all young people, perhaps boys especially, to see – the example of a working man.

The Blessed Virgin was deeply blessed in so many ways; and among her many blessings was the husband that God gave her. And now, when she is mentioned in the most important part of the Mass, Joseph too is not far behind. How pleased I am that this is so!