Thursday, March 19, 2015

St Joseph the Worker

March 19 is the date that the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St Joseph the Worker, the earthly father of Jesus.

Eaton Rapids Joe was named after this saint and I don't want the day to pass without commenting, however briefly.

We know from Scripture that he did not have "relations" with Mary before it became apparent that she was pregnant. Four options were available to him:
  • He could publicly denounce her.  She would have been stoned as an adulterer...the fine distinctions between adultery and fornicating were often overlooked.
  • He could quietly break off the engagement
  • He could marry her and then quietly divorce her after the birth of her child (his original plan)
  • He could marry her and and publicly accept the child as his own, enduring whatever wisecracks that came his way.  This is the course of action that he took after being advised by an angel in a dream.
In another dream,  the Holy Family was told to flee Bethlehem as Herod's men are coming to kill the all of the baby boys.

Joseph,  Mary and Jesus traveled to Egypt for an unspecified amount of time until it was safe to return.  Joseph left behind his business, his customers and his family.  He restarted his life in a foreign country to save the life of a child that he knew was not his biological son.  I feel a special connection with Joseph the Worker since I am a parent-by-adoption.

When Jesus was twelve he was presented in the Temple.  Due to some logistical hiccups, Joseph (and Mary) had to leave the safety and convenience of their caravan on the trip back home and burn up three days looking for Jesus.

Scripture tells us that Jesus had "brothers".  Some scholars claim that the Bible meant "cousins".  Other scholars speculate that Joseph was an older widower and that he married Mary to manage his house and his children by his previous wife.  This second speculation is sometimes pointed to as support for the traditional belief that Mary remained a virgin even after her marriage to Joseph.

Joseph's occupation and wealth is also open to speculation.  Large pieces of wood were scarce and valuable.  Craftsmen who worked with wood were not "rough day laborers."  They were pretty high up the social hierarchy.  The sacrifices made in the Temple suggest that the Holy family was not wealthy.  It has been suggested that perhaps Joseph was a potter, a trade that he could have plied in Egypt (clay is cheap) more easily than a carpenter could have.

Joseph the worker deserves consideration for the fact that he was a worker.  He did what needed to be done.  He opened his house to Mary and Jesus when it ran against the mores of the time and, probably, against his own personal feelings.  He suborned his feelings to what was right.

Very little is written of him in Scripture.  But that is the measure of a man:  What others say or write cannot be the totality of our legacy.  Our legacy is what is left behind in the hearts of those we touch, live and work among.


  1. He is an enigma. But thankfully he did the right thing. That he worked just tells us that workers do have a place in heaven.

  2. He is an enigma. But thankfully he did the right thing. That he worked just tells us that workers do have a place in heaven.