What kind of man is this, that God would choose him to be husband of a Virgin Mother, and foster father of the Son of God? Joseph was like any man, made in the image and likeness of God; and yet there must have been something in him very much like the heavenly Father, something of God the Father’s holiness and love for the Son. The Gospel calls him a “righteous man”, and his holiness shines out in everything the Gospel says of him. Since all of us are also called to holiness, we can all go to Joseph to learn what holiness of life means in practice.
The first thing we learn from the Gospel is that St Joseph is a hero of chastity, like his namesake the patriarch Joseph in Egypt. Only someone who was himself a man of honor could guard the virginity and honor of Mary. The Gospel tells us that he was betrothed to the Virgin Mary, but was not yet aware of the mystery of the Incarnation, and the secret of how she came to be with child through the Holy Spirit. He wanted to spare her publicity so that she would not be slandered by ignorant people. But “the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’”. Joseph obeyed without a word, and took Mary as his wife; he always respected her virginity throughout their married life.
This humble, pure, and brave man knew the secret of living a life of holiness: it was the fruit of his unbroken union with the Word incarnate. Joseph lived as Jesus would live, prayed as Jesus would pray, and preferred nothing whatever to the love of Jesus and Mary, with an intensity of love that would later be called perfectae caritatis, the perfection of charity. All of us can go to Joseph to learn the secret of living a holy life, whether we are monks or anyone who truly seeks God.
St Joseph is a model of the interior life for everyone, a life which is selfless and pure. Chastity, whether for monks or for anyone else, is not possible without prayer. It is because he was so much a man of prayer that Joseph was able to persevere in a life that was ordinary, obscure, and laborious. The masculine strength of his purity made him more sensitive to spiritual things and to what the Lord was asking of him. If we follow St Joseph in these areas, then our life, however hidden and insignificant it may be, will be infinitely fruitful in the eyes of God.
May St Joseph obtain for us the spirit of prayer and the grace to do God’s will. And may he acknowledge us as his sons and daughters in that largest of families, the company of saints in heaven.