What we know about Saint Joseph, the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus, comes from Scripture. He was a carpenter, a working man. He wasn’t rich when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified. He offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb (Luke 2:24).
Despite his humble work and means, Joseph came from a royal lineage. Luke and Matthew disagree some about the details of Joseph’s genealogy but they both mark his descent from David, the greatest king of Israel (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38). Indeed the angel who first tells Joseph about Jesus greets him as “son of David,” a royal title used also for Jesus.
We know Joseph was a compassionate, caring man: a man of faith and obedient to what God asked of him. When the angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him the truth about the child Mary was carrying, Joseph immediately and without question or concern for gossip, took Mary as his wife. When the angel came again to tell him that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything he owned, all his family and friends, and fled to a strange country with his young wife and the baby. He waited in Egypt without question until the angel told him it was safe to go back (Matthew 2:13-2 3).
We know Joseph loved Jesus. His one concern was for the safety of this child entrusted to him. Not only did he leave his home to protect Jesus, but upon his return settled in the obscure town of Nazareth out of fear for his life. When Jesus stayed in the Temple we are told Joseph (along with Mary) searched with great anxiety for three days for him (Luke 2:48). We also know that Joseph treated Jesus as his own son for over and over the people of Nazareth say of Jesus, “Is this not the son of Joseph?” (Luke 4:22)
Joseph observed the Jewish law having Jesus circumcised and Mary purified after Jesus’ birth. We are told that he took his family to Jerusalem every year for Passover, something that could not have been easy for a working man. Since Joseph does not appear in Jesus’ public life, at his death, or resurrection, many historians believe Joseph probably had died before Jesus entered public ministry. Joseph is the patron of the dying because, assuming he died before Jesus’ public life, he died with Jesus and Mary close to him, the way we all would like to leave this earth.
Joseph is also patron of the universal Church, fathers, carpenters, and social justice. We celebrate two feast days for Joseph: March 19 for Joseph the Husband of Mary and May 1 for Joseph the Worker.
1873–97, French Carmelite nun, one of the most widely loved saints of the Roman Catholic Church, b. Alençon. Her original name was Thérèse Martin, and her name in religion was Theresa of the Child Jesus; she is known as the Little Flower of Jesus. The youngest of five daughters of a watchmaker, she became, as proclaimed by Pope Pius XI, “the greatest saint of modern times.” At the age of 15 she was permitted to follow two of her sisters into the Carmelite convent at Lisieux. There she spent the remaining nine years of her life and died of tuberculosis.
Many miracles are attributed to her, but perhaps the greatest miracle connected with her is that she became known at all. A simple nun in an obscure convent, she was remarkable only for her goodness. The holiness of her life so impressed her superior that Theresa was asked to write her spiritual autobiography. This has become one of the most widely read religious autobiographies. It is filled, as are her letters, with her message of seeking good with childlike simplicity. She exemplified the “little way”—achieving goodness by performing the humblest task and carrying out the most trivial action.
She was canonized in 1925, just 28 years after her death, and Lisieux has become a major place of pilgrimage. There are churches dedicated to St. Theresa throughout the Roman Catholic world, and meditations from her writings are read by many of the devout with the frequency of a manual of prayer. She is often represented in art with an armful of roses, because of her cryptic promise: “After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses.” In 1997, Pope John Paul II named her a Doctor of the Church. She is the patron of aviators and foreign missionaries.
Therese of Lisieux is one of the patron saints of the missions, not because she ever went anywhere, but because of her special love of the missions, and the prayers and letters she gave in support of missionaries. This is reminder to all of us who feel we can do nothing, that it is the little things that keep God’s kingdom growing.