Saint Joseph The Worker

Although St. Joseph throughout much of western art was illustrated as a sleepy old man, he got some vigor and no little muscle in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During the late medieval period no artist wanted to portray St. Joseph as a virile young man, lest questions be raised concerning the virginity of Mary. By the late 1500s this issue was laid to rest with Catholics defending her perpetual Virginity as did Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli. With the perpetual virginity clarified, Joseph became a bit younger, gaining in strength so much so that Pope Pius IX named him patron of the Universal Church in 1870. In 1955 Pius XII changed the commemoration to St. Joseph the Worker, transferring it to May 1, the traditional May day celebrations held by the Communists. Joseph has no recorded words in the scripture but if we hold the maxim true that actions speak louder than words, he was a man to whom we should pay some attention. Like Mary, he was attentive to the word of God and responded to God. In Luke we see Mary’s yes as portrayed in the angelic visitation and her response. Matthew gives a greater insight into Joseph, a man who likewise responded to God’s action, even thought that action may seem a little confusing. Joseph responded to God’s call throughout the centuries. If a strong young man would have been a confusing portrayal of the spouse of Mary, Joseph was portrayed as a sleepy old man. Later on, as the father personifying the Catholic worker, loving spouse, and defender of his foster son, Joseph dropped a few years and looked a lot younger. However St. Joseph is portrayed, his response has always been the same. Like that of Mary, his yes to God continues to serve as model for us today.

May 1st, 2017