The Spiritual Fatherhood of St Joseph
On 8th December 2020, the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, Pope Francis announced a special year of St Joseph to mark the event. This Friday 19th March, we celebrate the Solemnity of St Joseph, Spouse of Our Lady and foster-father of JESUS, and so this year his Feast has an added weight to it.
We are used to thinking of Mary as our Heavenly Mother but perhaps rarely think of St Joseph as being our spiritual father. Although St Joseph was not the biological father of JESUS, (Our Lord was conceived by the Holy Spirit), Scripture tells us that he watched over and protected Our Lord as if he were His father, and Scripture does call St Joseph the father of JESUS (Luke 2:33, 48). So it follows that because St Joseph was the father of the Head of the Mystical Body, He is also the father of the members of that Mystical Body (that’s us). If Mary is our Mother and JESUS is our brother, St Joseph must be our father in the spiritual sense, and so he wants to watch over and protect us just as he did the Holy Family. His fatherhood was emphasised at the final apparition of Our Lady at Fatima on 13th October 1917, when St Joseph appeared with the Child JESUS blessing the world showing his paternal role as Patron or Guardian of the whole Church.
It seems now is the time of St Joseph. God wants to give him to us in these times of difficulty and of spiritual and moral confusion, so as we can take refuge in his spiritual fatherhood. With so many attempts being made today to redefine what marriage and the family are, who could better help us understand what they are truly all about? St Teresa of Avila (1515-82) once said, “To other saints Our Lord seems to have given power to succour us in some special necessity – but to this glorious Saint, I know by experience, He has given the power to help us in all.” As St Joseph provided for JESUS and Mary, so will he provide for our needs. As Fr Donald Calloway, an authority on St Joseph says, he “will shelter you in the safety of the Sacraments and teachings of the Church, clothe you with virtue, educate you in the interior life, protect you under his fatherly cloak and correct you should you go astray.”
St Joseph is also the patron of a happy death. By this we mean dying in the grace and peace of JESUS Christ. He is the patron of a happy death because when he died JESUS and Mary were at his side and so it must have been very peaceful. St Joseph, being our spiritual father, wants to guide us safely home to Heaven. So let us pray to him that JESUS and Mary will also conduct us safely into Paradise when our time comes to depart this life.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC