Spirit Matters: St. Joseph still at work modeling life and love

On March 19, the Catholic Church celebrates a somewhat forgotten figure in scripture.

We don’t know many particulars about St. Joseph, the young Jesus of Nazareth’s “dad.”

But in the gospel of Matthew, we are told “he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose [Mary] to shame, [who] decided to divorce her quietly” after discovering she was pregnant while she was betrothed to him.

“Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.’ ” – Matthew 1:20

From that moment on, Joseph took Mary and Jesus under his care and protected, provided for, nurtured and guided the son of God, even fleeing to Egypt when Jesus was a newborn to avoid King Herod’s massacre. When Jesus was 12 years old and missing from the caravan, Mary and Joseph found him teaching in the temple after three days, and they were left perplexed when he told them he “must be in his father’s house.”

After this scene, we hear no more about Joseph. But he surely had an immense influence on his prodigy, as they lived out their daily, humble life in Nazareth.

Joseph was a carpenter, and in popular films, he is depicted as modeling the trade to Jesus. From Joseph, we can presume Jesus learned a good work ethic as well as what it meant to be a “righteous man.”

The Catholic Church honors Joseph as the patron saint of the universal church, families, fathers, expectant mothers, travelers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers and working people.

He often is turned to for intercession in praying for a graceful death, and some turn to him for prayers in finding a good spouse.

I am one of those people.

In my younger adult years, part of my faith practice was to ask St. Joseph to pray for me to find a decent man, one who modeled the same character he did with his beloved Mary.

As the years went on, and I found myself immersed in my career as a reporter, I had long since forgotten about those prayers, although Joseph always remained quietly in the background of my soul.

So it should come as no surprise that eventually the Holy Spirit led me to the man I will marry next week, at the age of 50, in the church where we first laid eyes on one another in 2010. (I have written about our love story before in this space.)

This week, Scott and I were driving from Utica to Ottawa, and he brought up St. Joseph in conversation. We had never discussed him before. Scott spoke of how someone told him recently to seek Joseph’s guidance in being a good husband. I smirked to myself, and told him of my prayers from long ago for St. Joseph’s help in finding a good husband.

Seems like one final way of the Holy Spirit putting the stamp of approval on our partnership before the big day.

Oh, one more thing.

My fiancé happens to be a carpenter, too.

Funny how these things happen.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines experiences common to the human spirit. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at jzblue33@yahoo.com to share how you engage your spirit in your life and community.