Joseph, says the Holy Scripture, was a just man; he was innocent and pure, as became the husband of Mary; he was gentle and tender, as one worthy to be named the father of Jesus; he was prudent and a lover of silence, as became the master of the holy house; above all, he was faithful and obedient to Divine calls.
When he learnt that Mary bore within her womb the Lord of Heaven, he feared to take her as his wife; but an angel bade him fear not, and all doubts vanished. When Herod sought the life of the Divine Infant, an angel told Joseph in a dream to fly with the Child and His Mother into Egypt. Joseph at once arose and obeyed. This sudden and unexpected flight must have exposed Joseph to many inconveniences and sufferings in so long a journey with a little babe and a tender virgin, the greater part of the way being through deserts, and among strangers; yet he alleges no excuses.
St. Chrysostom observes that God treats thus all his servants, sending them frequent trials to clear their hearts from the rust of self-love, but intermixing seasons of consolation. “Joseph,” says he, “is anxious on seeing the Virgin with child; an angel removes that fear; he rejoices at the Child’s birth, but a great fear succeeds; the furious king seeks to destroy the Child, and the whole city is in an uproar to take away His life. This is followed by another joy, the adoration of the Magi; a new sorrow then arises; he is ordered to fly into a foreign unknown country, without help or acquaintance.”
St. Joseph being a strict observer of the Mosaic law, in conformity to its direction annually repaired to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Our Saviour, now in the twelfth year of his age, accompanied his parents thither; having performed the usual ceremonies of the feast, they were returning with many of their neighbors and acquaintance towards Galilee; and never doubting but that Jesus was with some of the company, they travelled on for a whole day’s journey before they discovered that He was not with them. But when night came on, and they could hear no tidings of Him among their kindred and acquaintance, they, in the deepest affliction, returned with the utmost speed to Jerusalem. After an anxious search of three days they found Him in the temple, discoursing with the learned doctors of the law, and asking them such questions as raised the admiration of all that heard Him.
We cannot doubt that he had the happiness of Jesus and Mary attending at his death, praying by him, assisting and comforting him in his last moments. Whence he is particularly invoked for the great grace of a happy death, and the spiritual presence of Jesus in that hour.
Illustration and text from Pictorial Lives of the Saints With Reflections for Every Day in the Year (New York: Benziger Bros., 1922).