St. Joseph: Engenderer and Mentor of the Son of God as Man

Feast of St. Joseph, March 20, 2017:

The central importance of St. Joseph was not realized until the 16th c. when St. Teresa of Avila brought it to focus. The second has been St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer. Both saints came to this through intimate experiences with the Christ. This is the basis of what the Church understands by the “development of doctrine.” As the Person of Christ is more personally experienced, the consciousness of the believer grows.

The ontological importance of St. Joseph (on two levels)


 By the supernatural faith of obedience to the divine command to take Our Lady as wife, he entered into engendering the God-man:

That is, as Mary became “cause” [Mother of God] of the humanity of the Creator by her free act of faith (“fiat”), so Joseph entered into the same causality by a similar act of faith in taking Mary as spouse. Read carefully:

There is a strict parallel between the “annunciation” in Matthew’s text and the one in Luke. The divine messenger introduces Joseph to the mystery of Mary’s motherhood. While remaining a virgin, she who by law is his “spouse” has become a mother through the power of the Holy Spirit. And when the Son in Mary’s womb comes into the world, he must receive the name Jesus. This was a name known among the Israelites and sometimes given to their sons. In this case, however, it is the Son who, in accordance with the divine promise, will bring to perfect fulfillment the meaning of the name Jesus-Yehos ua’ – which means “God saves.”

Joseph is visited by the messenger as “Mary’s spouse,” as the one who in due time must give this name to the Son to be born of the Virgin of Nazareth who is married to him. It is to Joseph, then, that the messenger turns, entrusting to him the responsibilities of an earthly father with regard to Mary’s Son.

“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (cf. Mt 1:24). He took her in all the mystery of her motherhood. He took her together with the Son who had come into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way he showed a readiness of will like Mary’s with regard to what God asked of him through the angel.[1]



  1. When, soon after the Annunciation, Mary went to the house of Zechariah to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth, even as she offered her greeting she heard the words of Elizabeth, who was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk 1:41). Besides offering a salutation which recalled that of the angel at the Annunciation, Elizabeth also said: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45). These words were the guiding thought of the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, in which I sought to deepen the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which stated the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully preserved her union with her Son even to the cross,”(5) “preceding”(6) all those who follow Christ by faith.

Now at the beginning of this pilgrimage, the faith of Mary meets the faith of Joseph. If Elizabeth said of the Redeemer’s Mother, “blessed is she who believed,” in a certain sense this blessedness can be referred to Joseph as well, since he responded positively to the word of God when it was communicated to him at the decisive moment. While it is true that Joseph did not respond to the angel’s “announcement” in the same way as Mary, he “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife.” What he did is the clearest “obedience of faith” (cf. Rom 1:5; 16:26; 2 Cor 10:5-6).

One can say that what Joseph did united him in an altogether special way to the faith of Mary. He accepted as truth coming from God the very thing that she had already accepted at the Annunciation. The Council teaches: “‘The obedience of faith’ must be given to God as he reveals himself. By this obedience of faith man freely commits himself entirely to God, making ‘the full submission of his intellect and will to God who reveals,’ and willingly assenting to the revelation given by him.”(7) This statement, which touches the very essence of faith, is perfectly applicable to Joseph of Nazareth.

               2) Hebrews 5, 8: “Son, though he was he learned obedience frm what he suffered.”

               Jesus Christ has a created human will. Chalcedon teaches that Jesus Christ is One Person with Two natures: divine (uncreated) and human (created). Therefore , He has a created human will that He must determine in Himself just like you. That created human will was laden down with all the sin of all men of all time: He takes on the guilt of all the self-seeking, vanity, laziness, impurity, attachment to things, impoverity, etc.2 Cor. 5 , 21: “He made Him to be sin who knew nothing of sin.”  Christ turns all the self-seeking sin that He freely takes on, and turns it into obedience – to death, on the Cross.  This means that He lives out Who He is as pure and total relation to the Father by turning the acquire rebelliousness of our sin into obedience. That is, He had to learn obedience.

               And He learned it at the side of Joseph in the carpentry at Nazareth. He had to go through the apprenticeship of carpentry to learn how to subject his created human will to the Joseph’s authority and expertise. That is, the Creator of the world had to be told: No, you don’t do it that way. You do it this way. As 100% man (He is 100 % God), He must learn to be a carpenter.  And for that , He must learn obedience through His human will that is not annulled by the presence of the divine will.  The  two wills are not in parallel, but “one” in that the same divine “I” lives out His divinity through each.

               This obedience of Christ is prefigured in the obedience of Abraham who is told to kill his dearly beloved and first born son, Isaac. This is the prefigurement of the meaning of faith. Christ is the prototype by His obedience to death on the Cross. He as formed into this in the workshop of Joseph.

May we understand that obedience to the will of God in the ordinary life is precisely the divine way of sanctity in the world – and we learn it next to Joseph who is next to Our Lady.


     As Jesus is 100% God, He is also 100% man. He is fully God and fully man. The reality is that Christ is one Person with two complete natures: divine and human, They are ontologically distinct as uncreated and created but one, not in parallel, because the one Person of Christ, being divine, assumed the created human nature into His divine Person.

   The point that must be made is the need to form and develop the human nature. The human nature needs the affirmation of another. Joseph is the key to the development of Jesus Christ as man.

    I add the pertinent psychological findings on the formation of persons:

 “The source of the feeling of self-worth is always another person – the ‘significant other’ – who can either give or withhold it. The process whereby a person receives his or her feeling of self-worth from the ‘significant other’ is for every human being a bonum fundamentale. In a very special relationship with the significant other, the person is seen and experienced by the other as good, worthwhile and lovable. The pleasure of the approving and loving other is perceived in such a manner that the person literally feels this through his or her entire being.[2][3]
Persons Related to by Affirmation: “can be said to have received the gift of themselves. They feel worthwhile, significant and lovable. They possess themselves as man or woman. They know who they are. They are certain of their identity. They love themselves unselfishly. They are open to all that is good and find joy in the same. They are able to affirm all of creation, and as affirmers of all beings are capable o f making others happy and joyful, too. They are largely other-directed. They find joy in being and doing for others. The find joy in their love relationship with their Creator. They can share and give of themselves, be a true friend to others, and feel at ease with persons of both sexes. They are capable of finding happiness in marinate of the freely chosen celibate state of life. They are free from psycho-pathological factors which hamper one’s free will and are therefore sully responsible – morally and legally – for their actions.”[4]
 Unaffirmed Persons: “can be said to have been born only once; their second or psychological birth never took place (or, since it is a protracted process, was never complete). They were not made to know and feel their own goodness, worth and identity. They have been thrown back upon themselves by denial on the part of significant others in their life. They are like prisoners – locked in, lonely, and self-centered – waiting fort someone to come and open the door of their prison, waiting to be opened to their own goodness and that of others. No measure of success in business, profession or otherwise can adequately compensate for their feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, uncertainty and insecurity. Both the married life and the celibate life accentuate the fundamental loneliness of these persons and their inability to relate to others as equals. Their spiritual life suffers as time goes on, and their basically joyless way of life changes more and more to a state of depression until death seems the only way out.
                “Most importantly, unaffirmed persons have only one concern and need: to become affirmed, to be loved for who they are and not for what they do. They are literally driven to find someone who truly, unequivocally loves them. This is in marked contrast to affirmed individuals who look for someone with whom they can share their love, who can give love as well as receive, who can wait and are not hurried, driven, or compelled to find someone who will love them. If affirmation by a significant other is not forthcoming, many unaffirmed persons wells use their talents, intelligence and energy to try to convince themselves and the world in a variety of ways that they are worthwhile, important and significant, even though they don’t feel that they are. The most common ways of doing this are by the acquisition, display and use of material goods, wealth, power, fame, honor, status symbols, or sex.”[5]
St. Joseph is the “significant other” as father in the formation of Christ as man. The divine does not compensate the human, but fulfills it. The development of Jesus Christ as man needed the masculine affirmation in social relationships and the expertise in professional work as carpenter. God had to learn to live as man socially and professionally through the human love, mentoring and instruction of Joseph.

[1] John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos, Apostolic Exhortation, August 15, 1989.

[2] Note that John Paul II, writing to Teresa Heydel, remarked: “Everyone… lives, above all, for love. The ability to love authentically, not great intellectual capacity, constitutes the deepest part of a personality. It is no accident that the greatest commandment is to love. Authentic love leads us outside ourselves to affirming others.”  A month later, he wrote: “After many experiences and a lot of thinking, I am convinced that the (objective) starting point of love is the realization that I am needed by another. The person who objectively needs me most is also, for me, objectively, the person I most need. This is a fragment of life’s deep logic… The great achievement is always to see values that others don’t see and to affirm them. The even greater achievement is to bring out of people the values that would perish without us. IN the same way, we bring our values out in ourselves” (G. Weigel, “Witness to Hope” Cliffside Books [1999] 101-102].

[3] C. Baars, “I Will Give Them a New Heart” St Pauls (2008) 12.

[4] Ibid 190.

[5] Ibid 190-191.


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