Tag Archives: Joseph

Mary and Joseph: the model married couple

July 20, 2018

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Holy CoupleIf Jesus, Mary and Joseph are the Holy Family, then Mary and Joseph are the Holy Couple, and if the Holy Family serves as the model for Christian families, then Mary and Joseph serve as the model for Christian couples that are living the Sacrament of Marriage.

Before they lived together (Mt 1:18). Mary and Joseph were betrothed, a Jewish ritual ceremony in which the bride and groom dedicate themselves to each. The period of betrothal lasts approximately one year, a time when the bride and groom live apart, usually in their parent’s homes, and abstain from sexual relations. Mary and Joseph did not cohabitate before marriage, and the moral standard that they followed still applies to couples that intend to be married today. Decisions about living arrangements before marriage are not to be governed by apartment leases, home purchases, insurance coverage, work or school schedules, or concerns about compatibility, but rather by the conscious decision to reserve one’s self totally for one’s spouse, and to share the intimacy of marriage only after their commitment to love each other for life has been sealed by God in the Sacrament of Marriage and witnessed and ratified by the Christian community gathered at worship in church.

Joseph, “a righteous man”(Mt 1:19), and Mary, “favored one” (i.e., “full of grace”) (Lk 1:28). Even before they were married, Joseph already was a righteous man and Mary already was full of grace. They knew God’s laws and obeyed them, had an established pattern of upright living, practiced the virtues, prayed regularly, and had a strong desire to please God. It was their firm intention prior to marriage to set their union on the solid rock of their faith in God and their spiritual values. Every prospective bride and groom while a child, adolescent, or young adult, before dating or while dating, should spend their days making spiritual headway as devout believers and dedicated disciples, growing in wisdom, favor, and grace (see Lk 2:40), learning and obeying the Gospel, receiving the sacraments, and becoming good and holy people, so when they exchange their vows, their marriage will be anchored upon the foundation of their faith that is deep and solid and constructed over many years.

Obedient to angels. Joseph and Mary received appearances from angels. An angel told Joseph to take Mary as his wife (Mt 1:20), to take Jesus and Mary and flee to Egypt (Mt 2:13), and once harm had passed, to take Jesus and Mary and return to Israel (Mt 2:20), and in each instance, Joseph obeyed immediately without resistance or delay. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce that she would be the mother of the Son of God (Lk 1:31,35), and she replied, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). The angels were messengers of God and conveyed God’s will, and both Joseph and Mary trusted God and obeyed. Likewise a Christian couple, both before they are married and after, pay attention to God’s will, however it is conveyed, and without resistance or delay, obey promptly and completely.

[Joseph] took his wife into his home (Mt 1:24). Joseph and Mary began to live together at the angel’s bidding, and for them to establish a home, it also presumed that their betrothal had ended and that they were married within the Jewish faith. Wherever they were living, probably in Nazareth, they would have gone to the synagogue and exchanged their marriage vows before a rabbi according to the prescribed ritual in the presence of fellow Jews that were members of the local synagogue. Similarly a Catholic, when the engagement ends and before they live together, brings the marriage to a Catholic church, the couple exchanges their consent before a priest or deacon according to the Catholic form, and does so in the presence of their family, relatives, and friends who represent the local parish and the universal Church.

At home together. Mary and Joseph shared a beautiful mutual love. They were not married singles, individuals that happened to be living under the same roof, selfishly pursuing their own interests, with personal gain and fulfillment as their main objectives. Rather, Mary gave her life as a total gift to Joseph, and Joseph, in turn, gave his life as a total gift to Mary. Their love was selfless. Their approach was not, “What is in this for me?” and “What would make me happy?” but rather, “What would make my spouse happy?” They were not focused on compromise, “I get my way some of the time and you get your way some of the time,” but rather, “It is my aim to please you and promote your wellbeing all of the time.” They shared their lives completely. They communicated with each, shared their dreams and disappointments, joys and worries, ate meals together, willingly performed household tasks together, prayed together, and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company.

A home filled with love. Love is a virtue (1 Cor 13:13), it was the bond between Mary and Joseph, and it permeated their home. They were consistently kind and patient with each other. They were humble and modest; polite and respectful; supportive, positive, and encouraging; appreciative and complimentary; calm, composed, and self-controlled; able to see things from their spouse’s point of view; willing to give the benefit of the doubt; compassionate, forgiving, and reconciling; open, truthful, and honest; gentle and tender; generous and grateful; joyful, peaceful, and faithful. By practicing the virtues together, Mary and Joseph made God the center of their marriage. They had the wisdom to know that one spouse goes through the other to God. The more a spouse loves the other, the more the person loves God, and conversely, the less a person loves the other, the less the person loves God.

Mary conceived (Lk 1:31,35). God blessed Mary and Joseph with a miraculous conception. Even though the circumstances at the beginning of their marriage were awkward, and the child in the womb might have been considered a hardship or an inconvenience, Mary and Joseph embraced the new life, safeguarded it, remained unwavering in their love for each other, brought the child to full term, and were overjoyed at his birth. A Christian couple eagerly anticipates the prospect of having children, and if God blesses them with a miraculous pregnancy, even if not under ideal circumstances, the couple welcomes the new life, protects it from all harm, and does everything possible to insure the child’s birth.

[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son (Lk 2:7). When Jesus was born Mary instantly shifted into service mode when she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. Married love is generous. Mary and Joseph’s marriage did not revolve around themselves, their pursuits, careers, hobbies, and standard of living. They knew that a child would require time, attention, and sacrifice, and they gladly dedicated themselves to the care of the child that God had entrusted to them. A Christian married couple is not only loving and generous with each other, but eager to share their ever-increasing love with their children.

Traveling partners. Mary and Joseph made one journey after another together. During their early years they traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Bethlehem to Jerusalem, Israel to Egypt, Egypt to Judea, and Judea back to Nazareth. After they settled in Nazareth they made an annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover. In addition to the long journeys, they made many short trips, to the synagogue, the markets, and friends’ homes. The journey may have been to obey a government order, fulfill a spiritual duty, or for safety and security. Some were made at an easy pace, others made hastily and under great duress. No matter the situation, Mary and Joseph were inseparable, step by step, helping each other along the way, sharing each other’s burdens. Their marriage journey continued for many years and they were ever-faithful. A Christian wife and husband are traveling companions for life, helping each other wherever they may go, particularly when travel conditions are most difficult.

Synagogue and Temple. It was Mary and Joseph’s custom to go to the synagogue on the sabbath day (implied in Lk 4:16), and each year they went to the Temple in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover (Lk 2:41). They were a church-going couple and worship was the centerpiece of their week. They attended sabbath after sabbath and faithfully obeyed God’s commandment (Ex 20:8-11; Dt 5:12-15). In the same way, a Christian marriage is in a spiritual partnership, and in addition to a wife and husband’s daily prayers together at home, they go to church every weekend, and their week revolves around the celebration of the Mass. It is their shared opportunity to give God praise and thanks for their blessings, to be nourished by Word and Sacrament, and to give and receive support from the other members of the community.

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Special Prayers and Blessing for Fathers

June 14, 2018

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Jesus and Joseph

Special Intercessions. After the Creed, the Universal Prayer, that is, the Prayer of the Faithful or Bidding Prayers, are offered. Typically, this series of intentions begins with a petition for the needs of the Church, for public authorities and the salvation of the whole world, for those burdened by any kind of difficulty, and for the local community. In any particular celebration, these intentions may be concerned more closely with the particular occasion (see No. 70, General Instruction of the Roman Missal). Father’s Day is such an occasion.

Father’s Day Intercessions. The Book of Blessings offers three intercessions for Father’s Day (No. 1732, page 648). They can be adapted or modified as desired. These prayers can be used at Mass, at home when the family is gathered together, such as at the dinner table, or by an individual praying alone. These intercessions are suggestions. Parishes, families, and individuals are encouraged to write or offer other petitions that prayerfully express their hopes, concerns, and appreciation for their fathers.

First Intercession. For our fathers, who have given us life and love, that we may show them respect and love, we pray to the Lord.

Second Intercession. For fathers who have lost a child through death, that their faith may give them hope, and their family and friends support and console them, we pray to the Lord.

Third Intercession. For fathers who have died, that God may bring them into the joy of his kingdom, we pray to the Lord.

Special Blessing. The Book of Blessings also offers a blessing prayer that can be offered at the end of Mass or at other liturgical services (No. 1733, page 648). It can also be used by a family at home, and it can be modified from plural to singular for one father.

Father’s Day Blessing Prayer. God our Father, in your wisdom and love you made all things. Bless these men, that they may be strengthened as Christian fathers. Let the example of their faith and love shine forth. Grant that we, their sons and daughters, may honor them always with a spirit of profound respect. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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The journey to Bethlehem from the carpenter’s perspective

December 24, 2012

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KABUL, Afghanistan - International Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and civilians celebrated Christmas Eve with a non-denominational candlelight service, Christmas carols. Photo/isafmedia.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

International Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and civilians celebrated Christmas Eve in Kabul, Afghanistan, with a non-denominational candlelight service and Christmas carols. Photo/isafmedia. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Joseph’s wooden staff left a trail of small, evenly spaced circles in the dusty road. So many miles they’d traveled on the road to Bethlehem. Though he was a strong man accustomed to hard work, Joseph could feel the long days of travel in his back and feet. He glanced at his wife riding on the plodding donkey and saw that she was near exhaustion.

“Not far now,” he said softly. Mary smiled and gently caressed her abdomen.

“Oh Lord, lead us the place where this baby is to be born,” Joseph prayed silently.

The sun would soon set, and the trees and rocks cast shadows across the deserted road. Finally, they could see the outskirts of Bethlehem. When they reached the first small houses, Joseph stopped a woman carrying a jar of water and asked for a drink for Mary. The woman smiled kindly.

“Have you come for the census?”  she inquired.

“Yes,” Joseph replied. “Do you know of an inn nearby where my wife could rest?”

“It’s nearly your time, isn’t it dear?” the woman asked kindly.

Mary nodded.

“I fear most of the inns around here are full,” she said. But you might try Jacob’s. He’s got a nice big place. Follow this road until you reach a small grove of cedars. Go to the right and you will find it.”

Joseph thanked the woman and led the donkey down the road.

As daylight faded, they reached the place the woman had told them about. Warm light and the smell of dinner beckoned from the windows. Before Joseph could knock, a neat, rather portly man opened the broad wooden door.

“Yes?” the innkeeper asked.

“Sir, I wondered if you might have a room for the night,” Joseph asked with fatigue in his voice.

Cradling his chin in his left hand, the innkeeper studied the tired travelers. Joseph’s cloak was worn, and the donkey thin and bedraggled. Mary looked as if she were ready to give birth at any moment.

“I could take them in out of charity,” he thought, “because they certainly can’t pay enough. But I don’t want to deal with childbirth tonight.”

“Yes, well, I would like to offer you a room,” the innkeeper said to Joseph. “I have one left and the price is two denarii.”

Joseph’s face fell. “Sir, we can’t afford that. Please, my wife must rest.”

The innkeeper hesitated, and then crossed his arms. “I’m sorry, I have expenses.”

“Thank you,” Joseph said patiently as he turned to leave. After a bit, Mary said to him: “Don’t worry, Joseph. That wasn’t the place for us. When I close my eyes, I can sense a simple and peaceful spot where He will be born.”

As they continued into the city they came to another inn, more modest than the last.  A group of travelers waited at the door.

“Are there any rooms here?” Joseph asked one of them.

In an agitated voice the man replied, “The innkeeper has one room left and he wants to get his price. I’ve got my wife and two girls, and I don’t know where we’ll go if we don’t get it.”

Before Joseph could get the innkeeper’s attention,  another couple put a bag of coins in the man’s hand.

“Please sir—” he started.

The innkeeper eyed Joseph with irritation. “You people come for the census and expect to be treated like royalty. You may be of royal David’s line, but you’re no better than anyone else. I have no more rooms, so you’ll have to keep looking.”

“Sir, I just want to know if you could recommend another inn. My wife is—“

“Continue on this road to the edge of the city,” the innkeeper snapped, “and you will find another place. Good luck and good riddance.” He turned and entered the inn, slamming the door behind him.

Joseph sighed and wondered how much longer Mary could travel before they would have to stop … somewhere. Dejected, he told her the bad news. Mary touched his arm and said, “God will provide, Joseph, and He will not be one minute late.”

He marveled at her faith as he coaxed the donkey onto the road. Mary was so young, barely reaching his shoulder, yet there was a grace and maturity about her. And she was to give birth to the Holy One of Israel—with his help.  Joseph didn’t fully understand how this could be happening to him.

They passed through the darkening city and into the surrounding hills. At last they came to the place the other innkeeper had mentioned. Located at the base of a large hill, this inn was small and poor. Mary shifted her weight on the donkey, in obvious discomfort. “Our King will arrive soon, Joseph. Won’t it be wonderful to see Him?”

“Yes, yes it will,” Joseph said, the worry lines on his face giving way to a gentle smile. Joseph knocked on the door and a tall, thin man answered. He looked at Joseph and Mary on the donkey and said in a tired voice, “I’m sorry but we don’t have room for you tonight.”

Then the man’s wife came to the door and said, “David, look, she’s going to have a baby. Couldn’t we find a place for them?”

The innkeeper thought for a moment and said, “You could stay in our stable. It would be warm and dry, and I just filled it with fresh hay. It’s humble, but it would be peaceful.”

Joseph thought indignantly, “So it’s come to this. What kind of provider brings his wife and child to stay in a stable? What must she think of me…?” He glanced tentatively at Mary.

She calmly asked the innkeepers: “Are there many animals in your stable?

“Ma’am, an ox, a donkey, a ewe and her lamb, along with the dog and cat. But don’t worry. They’re all as gentle as can be.”

Mary turned to Joseph and said, “This is the place, I am quite sure. Our King has chosen a humble birth.”

The innkeeper led them to a cave where they could feel the animals’ warm breath. The innkeeper helped Joseph make a fire and a bed for Mary. He promised to bring water, clean cloths and food.

After the innkeeper left, Joseph looked around at how God had provided for them. Then kneeling on the hard ground, he said a silent prayer of thanks.

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