St. Joseph, the Unsung Hero

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

A few years ago, as Christmas approached, someone mentioned to me that it was a shame that there aren’t more Christmas cards depicting St. Joseph with the Baby Jesus. Since that comment, I’ve paid more attention to Christmas pictures, and while there are many of the Madonna and Child, and lots with the Holy Family, it’s true that pictures of Jesus and Joseph are pretty rare.
There are good reasons for the more common Christmas pictures, but it’s good not to lose sight of the significant role St. Joseph played in the Christmas narrative. He is indeed, the “unsung hero” of the Christmas story. It was Joseph who accepted Mary as his “betrothed,” despite her mysterious pregnancy. It was Joseph who accompanied Mary to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. It was Joseph who protected Mary and the Christ Child while they were homeless in Bethlehem. And it was Joseph who led the Holy Family to Egypt as they fled the barbaric rampage of the evil King Herod.
Although the Gospels have no record of Joseph saying anything during these traumatic events, his role in the story of salvation was profound and shouldn’t be overlooked.
St. John Paul said this: “St. Joseph is great in the spirit. He is great in faith, not because he uttered any words of his own, but above all because he heard the words of the Living God. He listened in silence. And he became a witness of the Divine Mystery. The Word of the Living God fell deeply into the soul of that man, that upright man.”
Because St. Joseph was indeed an “upright man . . . great in the spirit, great in faith,” he is an example for us. From him we learn to listen attentively to the Word of God and to discern God’s will in the events of everyday life; we learn to put others first, even if it means sacrificing our own plans and dreams; we learn the value of having a deep, personal relationship with God, and trusting him, even when, especially when, the future is hidden from sight.
Dear St. Joseph, thank you for generously sharing in the drama of our salvation, and thank you for the lessons you teach us still.
Something to think about: When you gaze upon the Nativity scene this year, take a moment to look at St. Joseph, and remember that the story wouldn’t have been possible without him.