“Go to Joseph: and do all that he shall say to you.” (Genesis 41:55)
The Institute for Human Ecology invokes Saint Joseph as its patron saint. March 19 is the primary feast day in the Latin Rite for Saint Joseph. And so, the Catholic Church has traditionally spotlighted the Foster Father of Jesus Christ during this third month of the year.
Pope Leo XIII underlined in his encyclical, Quamquam Pluries, that “the Joseph of ancient times, son of the patriarch Jacob, was the type of Saint Joseph, and the former by his glory prefigured the greatness of the future guardian of the Holy Family.” The Book of Genesis tells how the brothers of the first Joseph betrayed and sold him to the chief palace guard of the Egyptian pharaoh. After many trials, Jacob’s son became the vizier of Egypt.
During a famine in and around Egypt, the pharaoh advised his people to turn to Joseph in all of their needs: “Go to Joseph: and do all that he shall say to you.” Many spiritual writers of the Catholic Church have applied this verse to the foster father of Jesus.
None of Saint Joseph’s words are recorded in the Gospels, but this great saint’s actions speak loudly to Christians. He was the “just man” (Matthew 1:19) who responded promptly to the messages from God given to him in dreams and by angels. He subsequently took the Blessed Virgin Mary into his home, and later led his Holy Family to Egypt when Herod sought to kill Jesus. He returned to Nazareth after an angel informed him of Herod’s death.
Later in Quamquam Pluries, Pope Leo XIII recommended that “men of every rank and country should fly to the trust and guard of the blessed Joseph. Fathers of families find in Joseph the best personification of paternal solicitude and vigilance; spouses a perfect example of love, of peace, and of conjugal fidelity….the rich will understand, by his lessons, what are the goods most to be desired and won at the price of their labor. As to workmen, artisans, and persons of lesser degree, their recourse to Joseph is a special right, and his example is for their particular imitation.”
One hundred years later, in his apostolic letter Redemptoris Custos, Pope Saint John Paul II emphasized the “profound interior life” of Saint Joseph. He noted that the saint’s “submission to God…is really nothing less than that exercise of devotion which constitutes one expression of the virtue of religion.” The Guardian of the Holy Family’s life of work and prayer prefigures the Rule of Saint Benedict.
A 19th-century follower of Saint Benedict, Dom Bernard Maréchaux, wrote eloquently about Saint Joseph’s patronage to all humanity: “The life of Joseph the worker was a humble life, and because of this, it was doomed to be forgotten. Here is precisely how, from this life of humility, God could fashion a patronage that extends itself to billions of human beings…Far above the half-faded images of founders of empires, law-givers, and conquerors, appears the gentle and inspired face of Saint Joseph the Worker, brightened by the divine radiance of Jesus.”
May Saint Joseph inspire us and protect us as we go about our daily lives working for the advancement of the Kingdom of God!
Matthew Balan started working at the Institute for Human Ecology in January 2019. He is a native of Wilmington, Delaware, and currently lives in Annapolis, Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.