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ST. JOSEPH: PATRON OF HIDDEN LIFE (Part I)

Devotion to St. Joseph is one of the choicest graces that God can give to a soul, for it is tantamount to revealing the entire treasury of our Lord’s graces. When God wishes to raise a soul to greater heights, he unites it to St. Joseph by giving it a strong love for the good saint. (St. Peter Julian Eymard)


Calbayog City: In this year, the Church in the Philippines gladly celebrates two important events: the 500th anniversary of the coming of Christianity to the Philippines and the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. The former is peculiarly for the Philippine Church while the latter is for the entire Catholic Church in the world. Indeed, there are many things to write about the former given that it has been woven into the fabric of our local history, but the latter is also of great significance for it concerns a very important figure in salvation history, St. Joseph, the Spouse of Mary and the foster father of our Lord Jesus. Thus, it is but right that we give due credit to this “extraordinary figure” – St. Joseph – who is so dear and close to our own human experience.

In his apostolic letter, Patris Corde, Pope Francis decreed that this liturgical year be dedicated to St. Joseph.[1] Writing in the midst of this crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, he invites the Church to “discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble.”[2] Heedful of his invitation in this year of St. Joseph, I propose that we pay particular attention to the hidden life of Joseph as evinced in the Annunciation, in the hidden life of Jesus and in Jesus’ public ministry. We hope that his life of concealment will shed some light into our experiences today.[3]




Joseph, a ‘Hidden Saint’


Little is written about St. Joseph in the Scriptures and even in the apocryphal texts.[4] For this reason, St. Joseph is called a “hidden saint.” In fact, Joseph appeared only at least five times in the gospels: Genealogy of Jesus (cf. Mt 1:1-17; Lk 3:23-38), Annunciation to Joseph (cf. Mt 1:18-25); Birth of Jesus (cf. Lk 2:1-20); Flight to and Return from Egypt (cf. Mt 2:13-15, 19-23); Finding of Jesus in the Temple (cf. Lk 2:41–52).[5] A few traces of him can also be found in the apocryphal writings such as in Proto-evangelium of James, Infancy Gospel of Thomas, Syriac Infancy Gospel, Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, and the Gospel of Nativity of Mary. In these apocryphal texts, we can find some details of Joseph’s life which have been left out of the Bible. Say for instance, the Proto-evangelium of James records Joseph’s life before he knew Mary. Here, Joseph is depicted as a widower, an elderly and a father of grown sons.[6] Given these minute available resources that we have of St. Joseph, this makes the life of St. Joseph a quite complicated subject. However, we believe that, despite this scarce information that we have of him, these are already enough data in order for us to know the virtues of his ‘hidden’ life as a saint. For this reason, now we will try to explore the significance of the hidden life of Joseph. (To be continued...)

[1] Through the decree Quemadmodum Deus dated December 8, 1870, Pope Pius IX declared that St. Joseph be invoked as the “Patron of the Universal Church.” See Sacred Congregation of Rites, Quemadmodum Deus (08 December 1870), https://osjusa.org/st-joseph/magisterium/quemadmodum-deus/ (accessed: 12 April 2021). [2] See Pope Francis, Apostolic Letter on the 150th Anniversary of the Proclamation of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church Patris Corde (08 December 2020), http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco-lettera-ap_20201208_patris-corde.html (accessed: 12 April 2021). [3] For us, Calabrians, we can learn many things from St. Joseph given that it is part of our spirit to search for concealment. Hence, our Constitutions ask us not “to put ourselves in the limelight, to aspire to accomplish great and magnificent things in the eyes of the world, to draw the attention and influence of people on us and our activities…” Poor Servants of the Divine Providence (PSDP) Congregation, Constitutions and Directory (Bangalore: Ish Kripa Delegation, 2010), no. 17a. [4] See Wyatt North, The Life and Prayers of Saint Joseph (Washington: Wyatt North Publishing, 2012), 9-11. [5] All biblical passages are taken from: New American Bible: St. Joseph Personal Size Edition (Makati City: St. Paul’s Publication, 2004). [6] See Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans publishing, 2003), 48.

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