St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, Model for a Man With a Family

By Bishop Joseph N Perry

None of us likes to have our plans changed be that provoked by an accident, downsizing at work or layoff from the job, some unforeseen happening with our children or grandchildren, a spring storm or a natural disaster, sudden death of a family member.  All of these things can intrude on our lives.

St. Joseph might be called the patron saint of changed plans.  In a culture where there were strong predictions, set patterns and long established customs Joseph chose for a spouse a beautiful girl in his village and things started happening.  He awaited the birth of a mystery child and then had to take the expectant mother on an unexpected trip upon news of a government ordered census.  He witnessed the birth of Jesus then had to flee for their lives because of news of a deranged regent by the name of Herod.  He heard strange words in the temple from perfect strangers about the child’s future then had another heart wrenching experience in the same temple 12 years later with the same lost child.

As a parent Joseph may have had many more surprises not recounted in scripture. What we do know of him is that he always responded, made the necessary adjustments and took action all the while with an appropriate degree of faith and surrender to God. 

There was context for this in Jewish culture, namely, Joseph was open to hearing the word of God expressed in what can be described as an active dream-life within a lively sense by his own people that God walked with them and was concerned about them despite Roman legions marching through their streets.  Scripture presents Joseph as a just and upright man, sensitive, in tune with the Will of God.  In retrospect, chosen to protect God’s secret – the origin of God’s Son and the integrity of the child’s Mother.  Joseph must have been a special man for all this.

In this he was a worthy descendant of his ancestor King David of Israel who had to change his plans regularly to fit God’s purpose, for the promise of an everlasting dynasty.  Even more, Joseph is a son of Abraham, the great model of our heritage in faith, another man whose plans were constantly getting changed for the better by a baffling God.  Joseph was submerged in Jewish yearnings for a Messiah whose reign would be forever. He learned to hope against hope and thereby saw some interesting things take place.

Joseph doesn’t seem to have had many accolades or glory days or a Father of the year award.  Joseph simply exits the scene after doing his duty.  I find that is true with a lot of seniors if not an older generation given to duty and responsibility raising children, washing dishes, going to work till they retire or are pushed out, getting sick and dying or following hum-drum routine that carries the blessing of God.  God is found in the ordinary day-to-day rhythms of our lives.

Joseph exhibits a credible manhood, a religious disposition not unfamiliar to his times, but indeed a model for today’s Christian man who searches earnestly for the Will of God in his life and family.

The twists and turns of our lives may not be so momentous as Joseph’s but they can be equally as uplifting.  Life guarantees us its ups-and-downs. We will all have our lot of suffering in this life.  There is no escaping that.  The question is how to benefit from it personally unto our everlasting glory and happiness in heaven.  Suffering and death are part of our debt due to original sin. therefore, they are necessary for our good.

We can imitate Joseph’s uprightness and faith as we address the ways God asks us to shift gears.  Discerning God’s will is not easy. We need to think things over consistently in a spirit of religious faith.  Sometimes we have to dream. Sometimes we have to suffer. The Lord often has a better idea than we do.  Joseph found that out. So can we.


Most Reverend Joseph N Perry is Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, and Episcopal Liaison of Catholic Men Chicago Southland, and Catholic Chicago Men’s Forum