By: Crystal Peccia

The Italian Family! The classic symbol of the Italian culture and one of the many things that makes Italians unique. We all know how important it is in anything to have a strong foundation. Whether you are building a house or baking a cake, a good solid foundation is crucial. Society is no different! The family is that foundation, that structure that really makes it all work. It’s no wonder God made sure Jesus had a family while He was here on earth. God, knowing all things, provided that stability and foundation for Jesus. Not only did He pick out a beautiful, pious person for Jesus’ mother, but He hand picked His father as well. So, let’s talk about Joseph.

There is not a whole lot about Joseph in the Bible, but we can gain some insight into his life through what is available in the Holy Scriptures. The Bible tells us that Joseph was born circa 100 B.C. and died in Israel circa 1 A.D. and that Joseph descended from royalty. We can read about the genealogy of Saint Joseph in Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-28, where we can follow his lineage all the way back to King David. We know 
Joseph was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55) – a working man. He didn’t have a ton of money (Luke 2:24) because when he brought Jesus to the temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified, he offered a sacrifice of two turtle doves allowed for those who could not afford a lamb. We also know from Scripture (Matthew 1: 1-25) that he was a compassionate, caring man. When he discovered that Mary was pregnant, rather than expose her (which would have likely gotten her stoned to death), he decided to send her away quietly so as not to shame her. Of course, we know that he was visited by the angel Gabriel who gave him the whole story and directed him not to worry about taking Mary as his wife. We also can glean from Holy Scripture that Joseph loved Jesus. His concern for His safety is evident in Matthew 2: 13-23 when he took Mary and Jesus to Egypt to protect Jesus’ life. He stayed there without question until God told him it was safe to return. And there was the time Jesus was in the Temple (Luke 2:48) and Joseph and Mary searched frantically for Him for three days. Lastly, Joseph treated Jesus as his own son because we read in Luke 4:22 that the people of Nazareth said of Jesus, “Is this not the son of Joseph?” Tradition says that Joseph most likely died before Jesus began His ministry and that both Jesus and Mary were with him when he died. How comforting it must have been for Joseph to have the two people he loved the most in the world – one the mother of God and his beloved wife, the other God himself and his Son – by his side during that time.

When I think about Saint Joseph, I imagine an incredibly quiet, strong man who would do anything for his family. It must have been stressful being the foster father of Jesus though. I imagine he thought things like, “What if Jesus gets hurt on my watch?” Or, “What if I let God the Father down in taking care of Jesus and Mary?” “How do I ensure their safety?” Oh, the thoughts that must have gone through his mind! And then I start thinking about my own family. When meditating on Holy Scripture or reading about a saint, I think about who is most like the person I’m reading about in my own family. Saint Joseph reminds me of my maternal grandfather. He was an amazing person. He was a quiet man who took great care of his family (including a sick wife), fought for his country, and was generous to a fault. He also prayed often, especially in his exceptionally large vegetable garden and as he would pull weeds, daily I might add, he prayed many Hail Mary’s. He did what he had to do without complaint. I never spoke to my grandfather about this, but often wondered if he tried to imitate Saint Joseph in his own life because it sure seemed that way to me.

Italy holds Father’s Day on the Feast of Saint Joseph, 
March 19th. That’s a great day to celebrate Father’s Day! Much better, I think, than in June. And what better way to honor the foster father of our Lord than with a celebration of fatherhood and by participating in a feast. There are celebrations honoring Saint Joseph called Saint Joseph’s Table. Saint Joseph’s Table originated in Sicily and things like fava beans, breadcrumbs (symbolizing sawdust, because Joseph was a carpenter), and a ton of delicious Italian foods are present with all proceeds collected going directly to the poor.

Saint Joseph deserves to be honored because not only did he watch over the Son of man, but he also watches over His Church. Yes, Saint Joseph is the patron saint of the Universal Church proclaimed in 1870 by Blessed Pope Pius IX. Pope Leo the XIII in
Quamquam Pluries (1889) wrote, “Joseph was the guardian, the administrator and legitimate and natural defender of the divine household of which he was the head. It was thus natural and very worthy of Saint Joseph that, as he supported in another era all the needs of the Family of Nazareth which he wrapped in his holy protection, he now covers with his heavenly patronage and defends the Church of Jesus Christ.” Perhaps that is why, given all that is going on in our world and the Church today, Pope Francis has proclaimed this the year of Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph, being powerful and a defender of the family, is just what we need today. He should be one we all look to as an advocate and protector, especially those of us who are fathers. He should be the one that men in particular look to for guidance in how to be men and how to be a father. There is no one better suited for that than Saint Joseph. Any way you look at it, Saint Joseph was an amazing person, a terrific husband, a wonderful father, and someone all men should aspire to be. During March (the month of Saint Joseph) and this year of Saint Joseph, let us pray to him and ask him to protect the Church and our families. Pray to him for our fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, and nephews.

I found this beautiful prayer in one of my prayer books and wanted to share it with you. It’s one that can be said before receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. It’s an old prayer that helps us to prepare ourselves to receive Jesus worthily. I like the old prayers because they make me think about myself and what I’m doing in my life. They also remind me of the life that is to come and help me to remember that I must strive always for that life with God. Happy Feast of Saint Joseph and may he bless us all.

Happy and blessed art thou, O Joseph to whom it was given not only to see and to hear that God Whom many kings desired to see and saw not, to hear, and heard not; but also to bear Him in thine arms, to embrace Him, to clothe Him, and to guard and defend Him.

V. Pray for us, O blessed Joseph.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

O God, vouchsafe, we beseech Thee, that as blessed Joseph was found worthy to handle with his hands, and bear within his arms, Thine only-begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary, so may we be fit, by cleanness of heart and innocence of works, worthily to receive the most sacred Body and Blood of Thy Son, now in this present, and deserve to attain an everlasting reward in the world to come. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.