Looking across the Vision of Knock our eyes fall first on St Joseph. He was described by the witnesses as having a grayish beard, with his hands joined, and his head inclined respectfully in the direction of Mary.
(Source for witness accounts: Catherine Rynne. Knock 1879-1979. Veritas Publications, 1979).
Directly descended from Abraham through David, Joseph was husband of Mary; of her was born Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-17). Joseph’s joined hands in the Vision are a sign of covenant – ‘Joseph bore within himself the entire heritage of the Old Covenant, and was also brought into the beginning of the New and Eternal Covenant in Jesus Christ’ (St John Paul II. Redemptoris Custos – Guardian of the Redeemer 32). Joseph’s joined hands also signify the covenant of love which is marriage, his marriage to Mary (Gaudium et Spes 48).
As the Holy Family of Nazareth is proposed as the model for all Christian families, so Joseph is the model for husbands and fathers (Redemptoris Custos), especially vital in these times of confusion about fatherhood. Joseph always exercised his responsibility for Mary, his wife, and Jesus, his son, as a humble service (Matthew 20:24-28).
At the time of the Annunciation Mary was betrothed to Joseph, which meant they were legally husband and wife, but would not live together until the marriage ceremony was completed sometime later. Joseph was ‘a just man’, a man of honour and integrity, so when faced with the dilemma that Mary was expecting a baby he resolved to send her away privately to spare her shame. However, when told by an angel that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and that he was to be named Jesus, the one who would ‘save his people from their sins’, Joseph obeyed, taking home Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:18-25).
Joseph always gave immediate obedience to the word of God; no hardship or inconvenience would deter him. He brought Mary to Bethlehem for the census, and cared for her at the birth of Jesus. When the life of the infant Jesus was threatened by King Herod, Joseph immediately took Mary and her child to safety in Egypt, and remained there until it was safe to return.
Joseph fulfilled the responsibilities of a Jewish father to his son: conferring the name, circumcision, ‘redemption’ (Presentation in the Temple), instruction in Torah, the Law of Moses (so thorough that Jesus at age twelve astounded the teachers in the Temple with his understanding and answers) and teaching his son a trade, as carpenter.
‘Joseph was the lawful and natural guardian, head and defender of the Holy Family’, so that it was fitting that he was declared Patron of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1870. Joseph is also a model for honest and responsible work, which was specially honoured by Pope Pius XII in 1955 by instituting the Feast of St Joseph the Worker on May 1st.
Heavenly Father we thank you for St Joseph and his integrity as a ‘just man’. We pray that husbands will be inspired by the example of Joseph to love and care for their wives, always. We pray that Christian fathers will look to Joseph as a loving model to protect, teach, form and guide their children to know, love and serve Jesus. We pray that children will honour and obey their parents as Jesus honoured Joseph and Mary. May St Joseph, guardian of the Church, protect and guide the World Meeting of Families 2018.
Blessed St Joseph, take us under your protection.
By your fatherly love for the Child Jesus and the bond of charity which united you to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God,
dispel the evil of falsehood and sin, assist us from heaven in our struggle with the powers of darkness, and just as once you saved the Child Jesus from mortal danger, so now defend God’s Holy Church from the snares of her enemies and from all adversity.
Following your example and strengthened by your help, may we live a holy life, die a happy death, & attain to everlasting happiness in Heaven. Amen.
Pope Leo XIII, Quamquam Pluries, and quoted by Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical on St Joseph, Redemptoris Custos 31.