“Come with me,” the petite nun said to our group of East Indian families from Canada on our first night in the Holy Land in March 2018. “I will take you to my convent. It is built over the tomb of the ‘just man’ and the house where Jesus grew up with Joseph and Mary.”
Too late to attend Mass at Annunciation Basilica, one of our “St. Joseph-like” Dads had tracked down a 7:00 p.m. Mass at a Missionaries of the Poor Chapel – just steps away from the Basilica and our hotel. And that is where we met the lovely sister who was overjoyed that we had chosen to bring our young children on pilgrimage to a strife-torn part of the world.
We looked at each other in awe and astonishment. To be invited to the hallowed ground on which the Holy Family of Nazareth had possibly lived was akin to being offered a rare and precious jewel. Could this really be happening to us, right after we landed in Israel?
As we stood around her in the well-preserved ruins below the convent, Sister went on to explain the archaeological discoveries surrounding the excavation and the building of the Sisters of Nazareth Convent in 1900 right on the site known among Nazarenes as containing the “tomb of the just man. St. Joseph.” It was a profound moment for me. I felt the fatherly love of St. Joseph envelop me in that sacred space, so soon after the loss of my own husband as well as my father.
St. Joseph, Chaste Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Today, with great joy, the Church celebrates St. Joseph. Chaste Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Foster Father and Protector of our Lord Jesus Christ. More than anyone else in the scriptures, St. Joseph’s actions spoke louder than words. In today’s gospel selections, Joseph is silent. He said no clever or wise words in scripture, in fact, no recorded words at all.
In today’s first gospel selection from Matthew 1, one can easily imagine the torment and confusion of this devout first-century Jew on discovering that his betrothed is already with child. Like Abraham who “would inherit the world, through the righteousness that comes from faith,” Joseph is called to supreme trust in a perilous situation. Would he trust the words of Mary? And an angelic dream regarding her supernatural conception? Or, would he act based on the clear evidence and the law of his people? Joseph chose the former. As one novena reflection puts it, “while it added to Joseph’s royal dignity, it was also the occasion of poverty, patience, exile, obscurity, confusion and wonderment.”
Where Jesus Belongs
In the alternative Gospel reading from Luke, we have the 12-year-old Jesus whose whereabouts are unknown for 3 days after the annual family visit to the Jerusalem temple. Joseph and Mary head back to Jerusalem in search of their youngster. They find Him holding court in the temple among the scribes and elders. In the midst of this trial, both parents are reminded of where Jesus truly belonged – in His Heavenly Father’s house.
With the recent year of 2021 devoted to St. Joseph, this strong silent saint and Terror of Demons, has rightly become a beacon of hope for the modern family, especially for fatherless families which currently constitute 23.6 percent of the American population. May the intercession of St. Joseph bring hope and healing to your family life, as it has mine.