Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Saint Joseph the Worker

Saint Joseph (Hebrew יוֹסֵף, "Yosef"; Greek: Ἰωσήφ) is a figure in the Gospels, the husband of the Virgin Mary and the earthly father of Jesus Christ (in distinction to God the Father, his "heavenly father").

The earliest Christian records, the Pauline epistles make no reference to Jesus' father, and nor does the Gospel of Mark, the first of the Gospels. The first appearance of Joseph is therefore in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, one of which trace Joseph's lineage back to King David. The two lists give differing genealogies: Matthew says that Joseph's father was called Jacob[Mt. 1:16]. Some scholars reconcile the genealogies by viewing the lineage presented in Luke to be from Mary's side.

Matthew and Luke are also the only Gospels to include the infancy narratives, and again they differ. In Luke, Joseph lives in Nazareth and travels to Bethlehem in compliance with the requirements of a Roman census. Subsequently, Jesus was born there. In Matthew, Joseph was in Bethlehem, the city of David, where Jesus is born, and then moves to Nazareth with his family after the death of Herod. Matthew is the only Gospel to include the narrative of the Massacre of the Innocents and the Flight into Egypt: following the nativity, Joseph stays in Bethlehem for an unspecified period (perhaps two years) until forced by Herod to take refuge in Egypt; on the death of Herod he brings his family back to Palestine, and settles in Nazareth. After this point there is no further mention of Joseph by name, although the story of Jesus in the Temple, in Jesus' 12th year, includes a reference to "both his parents". Christian tradition represents Mary as a widow during the adult ministry of her son.[Jn. 19:26-27] The gospels describe Joseph as a "tekton" (τέκτων); traditionally the word has been taken to mean "carpenter", though the Greek term evokes an artisan with wood in general, or an artisan in iron or stone. Very little other information on Joseph is given in the Gospels, in which he never speaks.

Joseph is venerated as a saint in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran faiths. In Catholic and other traditions, Joseph is the patron saint of workers and has several feast days. He was also declared to be the patron saint and protector of the Catholic Church by Pope Pius IX in 1870, and is the patron of several countries and regions. With the growth of Mariology, the theological field of Josephology has also grown and since the 1950s centres for studying it have been formed.

The epistles of Paul, from roughly 51-58 AD, are the oldest Christian writings. These mention Jesus' mother (without naming her), but never refer to his father. The oldest gospel, that of Mark, also does not name Joseph. He first appears in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, both from the decade or so following 70 CE. Luke names Joseph's father as Eli, but Matthew names him as Jacob, in keeping with that gospel's depiction of Jesus as a second Moses. This theme is developed further in the infancy narratives, which, like the genealogies, have the function of establishing Jesus as the promised Messiah, the descendant of David, born in Bethlehem. Like the genealogies the infancy narratives appear only in Matthew and Luke, and take different approaches to reconciling the requirement that the Messiah be born in Bethlehem with the tradition that Jesus came from Nazareth. In Matthew, Joseph, already living in Bethlehem, obeys the direction of an angel to marry Mary and then to flee to Egypt to escape the massacre of the children of Bethlehem planned by Herod the Great, the tyrant who rules Judea. Once Herod has died, the angel tells him to return to Galilee instead of to Bethlehem, and so Joseph takes his wife and the child to Nazareth and settles there. Thus in Matthew, the infant Jesus, like Moses, is in peril from a cruel king, like Moses he has a (fore)father named Joseph who goes down to Egypt, like the Old Testament Joseph this Joseph has a father named Jacob, and both Josephs receive important dreams foretelling their future. In Luke, Joseph already lives in Nazareth, and Jesus is born in Bethlehem because Joseph and Mary have to travel there to be counted in a census. Luke's account makes no mention of angels and dreams, the Massacre of the Innocents, or of a visit to Egypt.

The last time Joseph appears in person in any Gospel is the story of the Passover visit to the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus is 12 years old, found only in Luke. Like the infancy narratives the story is didactic, emphasising Jesus' awareness of his coming mission: here Jesus speaks to his parents (both of them) of "my father," meaning God, but they fail to understand.

None of the Gospels mentions Joseph as present at any event during Jesus' adult ministry. The synoptic Gospels, however, share a scene in which the people of Nazareth, Jesus' hometown, doubt Jesus' status as a prophet because they know his family. In Mark, the first Gospel to be written (about 70 AD), they call Jesus "Mary's son" instead of naming his father. In the next Gospel, Matthew, the townspeople call Jesus "the carpenter's son," again without naming his father, and again he has a brother named Joseph; only in Luke is he named "the son of Joseph," and Luke makes no mention of any brothers. In Luke the tone is positive, whereas in Mark and Matthew it is disparaging. This incident does not appear at all in John, but in a parallel story the disbelieving Jews refer to "Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know".

Joseph is not mentioned as being present at the Wedding at Cana at the beginning of Jesus' mission, nor at the Passion at the end. If he had been present at the Crucifixion, he would under Jewish custom have been expected to take charge of Jesus' body, but this role is instead performed by Joseph of Arimathea. Nor would Jesus have entrusted his mother to John's care had her husband been alive

May 1 Feast Days

* St. Peregrine Laziosi
* St. Marculf
* St. Andeolus
* St. Augustus Schoffler
* St. Aceolus
* St. Acius
* St. Aldebrandus
* St. Amator
* St. Arigius
* St. Asaph
* St. Benedict of Szkalka
* St. Bertha of Kent
* St. Bertha of Val d'Or
* St. Brieuc
* St. Buriana
* St. Ultan
* St. Theodard
* St. Ceallach
* St. Cominus
* St. Evermarus
* St. Grata
* St. Isidora
* St. John-Louis Bonnard
* St. Orentius
* St. Orentius and Patientia
* St. Panacea
* St. Isidora the Simple
* St. Riccardo Pampuri

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