The Third Joyful Mystery: Joseph at the Birth of Jesus
As we reflect on the third mystery, the Nativity, during this year of Saint Joseph, I would like to invite you to reflect with me on the role played by Joseph as a father.
It is hard to appreciate how he feels upon learning that his fiancée is with child! It is also hard to imagine the exhilaration he experiences upon realizing that he, from among all the men who ever lived or ever will live, is chosen by God for this purpose. It is equally difficult to appreciate how he feels when he discovers that the Eternal Father, God, chooses him not only to be the spouse of the Mother of God, but also to be the teacher, guardian, and foster father of God’s Only Begotten Son. Like Mary, who exclaims, “My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord...” he must rejoice in saying, “Who am I that God chooses me to protect His Son, to protect the Holy Family? Who am I that the Father trusts me to teach Jesus how to walk, work, play, talk and pray?” My whole being shouts in Joy to God the Father, “Who am I to be so blessed by You? Thank You, Dear Lord and Father!”
It is beyond imagining to comprehend how Joseph feels when he learns that this Baby will save his people from their sins. Being a devout Jew, he must make the connection: This Baby, whose name is to be Jesus, will be the Messiah the Jews longed for down through the centuries. Becoming the foster father of the Messiah is astounding to Joseph. However, he does know that the Messiah was prophesied to come from the tribe of Judah, and he knows that he is from that tribe. But, like Mary, he accepts God’s role for him with ready obedience and places all his trust in Him.
Joseph could not foresee the birth of the baby in a stable. He envisions the birth taking place in a bed in his home in Nazareth with an experienced midwife in attendance. When he finally realizes that his wife will give birth on the road in Bethlehem, he hopes, even then, for a room in an inn with a woman, the innkeeper’s wife, in attendance. But, to his anxious surprise, he finds himself in a stable alone with his wife as Mary is giving birth. But this Joseph, we must all know, is a man who knows what to do in demanding situations. He and Mary manage.
What a joy to see this beautiful Infant blink open His eyes and exercise His lungs for the first time. Wow! And then, imagine his astonishment when the stillness of midnight is suddenly broken by the joyful, reverent, boisterous arrival of shepherds bowing before the babe and sharing the wonder of heavenly choirs of angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest.” This is all so much more than humble, manly, loving Joseph could have dreamed of even in his wildest imaginings.
Next happens the most stunningly beautiful and unexpected spectacle of all: royalty from faraway lands arrive with a grand entourage. Upon entering the stable their regal heads bow before the smiling Babe in the Creche. Then, to top this stunning night off with one last, big, unexpected event, each king offers the infant a precious gift: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.
Joseph could not foresee a sojourn in Egypt to save the Baby’s life. Just when he and Mary think they are taking their Baby home to Nazareth, an angel informs Joseph in a dream that he must take the Child and His Mother and flee to Egypt to escape the murderous King Herod. We can only imagine the challenges they face fleeing to Egypt. What do they eat? Do they find water? Where do they sleep? They have enough funds for the trip home to Nazareth, but do they have enough for a stay in Egypt?
By the time the little family returns to Bethlehem, Joseph has done a lot of dreaming about how he will raise his son in his carpenter’s shop. First, he will whittle some little objects for the baby to hold and then something to teethe on. Then he will make a little stool for the boy to sit on followed by some steps to enable the growing boy to reach higher places. As the boy watches him work and asks, “What is that, and what’s it for?” Joseph will teach Him the names and uses of tools. When Jesus is old enough, Joseph will teach Him to use the tools, and Jesus will be able to make some toys for Himself, slowly learning the trade. Eventually, Jesus will enter His father’s trade as a carpenter.
Today most fathers do not work in their own shops at home where children can play and ask questions and learn. Many fathers work long hours and spend several hours commuting each day. Some work away from home during the week, and some live apart from their children because because their marriage has fallen apart.
To follow Joseph’s example, fathers must make time intentionally for the kinds of interactions Joseph and Jesus would have had in the home and in the carpenter shop. They need to participate in family prayer when they can and take their families to Mass regularly. Children need to experience their fathers’ faith by seeing and hearing them pray at home and in church.
Fathers need to demonstrate their love and care for their children and their mother as Joseph did when his wife’s reputation was in jeopardy and his Baby’s life was threatened. They need to provide safe shelter in peaceful neighborhoods. They need to provide adequate income and teach children that families must spend with care the money ‘Daddy’ brings home. Within the home fathers need to model respect by complimenting the mother and children on the tasks they perform and using traditional forms of etiquette like “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” and “I’m sorry,” and best of all, “I love you.” They need to teach their sons to open and hold doors for girls and women, and girls need to learn to accept these gestures graciously, followed by a “thank you.” And, of course, they should require obedience from children.
Today, we see many children growing up without spending much time with a father or a father figure. Therefore, fathers must plan for quality time with them: time to play, time to help with homework, time to talk about the day’s activities and time to perfect diverse types of skills. Some fathers make appointments to have lunch with each growing child and each teen once a month: a time to make the child or teen feel special, a time to catch up and a time to dream about the future.
Like the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph accepted God’s vocation and trusted that the future was securely in God’s hands. Let us pray that all fathers and mothers will embrace their vocations in the family with joy and place all their trust in God. May St. Joseph intercede for all fathers and mothers.
Just as Mary said, “all generations will call me blessed,” Joseph too is called ‘blessed’ by many generations because he is an amazing saint and model for fathers for all ages.
“Go to Joseph with extreme confidence because I do not remember having asked anything from St. Joseph, without having obtained it readily.” St. Padre Pio
Take time as a family to play a board game together to celebrate a special day for Father’s Day.
Have a family meeting and appreciate your father. As a family, take time to talk about what touched you most about your father as you were growing up.
Parents can share with their children how they prepared themselves as they were expecting the birth of their child. What preparations did you do? How did it feel? What amazed you?
As family help each other to do cooking, cleaning, gardening, or outdoor maintenance without being asked.
Let us pray for St. Joseph to intercede for all families. This week make a special effort to pray the third Joyful Mystery, the Birth of Jesus, together as a family. At the end of the Rosary, say the following prayer.
Prayer of Parents for Children
(Parents extend their right hands over the children and pray this prayer)
You know how deeply and warmly we love our children.
We ask St. Joseph to help us care for and protect them.
We pledge our time, talent, and treasure to help our children grow strong and faithful in loving and serving You.
Help us to remember that we are never alone in fulfilling our responsibility as parents.
Through the intercession of St. Joseph make us the parents you want us to be.
Help us to be worthy role models and blessings for our children.
Help us to make our home a haven and a heaven for our children and others.
Please open our hearts as a family to work, talk, play, and pray together.
Thank you for the gift of parenthood!
Prayer of Children for Parents
Thank You for giving us loving, kind, and caring parents. Thank You for the life they gave us with Your help.
Thank You, Lord, to our grandparents for the wisdom, love, faith, and care they show us.
Give our parents and grandparents long lives and keep them happy, healthy, and holy.
Bless them with success as they strive to provide for us.
Help us fill their lives with happiness and joy. Help us to be our best for You, Lord, our family, and others by always giving life, love, and care to all we meet.
With Your help, Lord, we can make our home a haven and a heaven for our parents and others.
Please open our hearts and minds to work, share, play and pray together as a family.
Thank You for making us the best family we can be today, tomorrow, and always! Amen!
This October, the Month of the Rosary, “Go to Joseph.” Grow in the faith with your family. Global Prayer Campaign filled with videos, eBooks, podcasts, prayers, reflections, social posts, everything you need for a rich, faith-filled month.
About Father Pinto Paul, C.S.C.
Father Pinto Paul C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1999, worked with tribal populations in northeast India as a missionary for ten years. In 2010 he came to the US for further studies. While working as a campus minister at Stonehill College, he assisted pastors in local parishes, led seminars and workshops for teachers and students in the US and earned a master’s degree in Educational Administration from Boston College and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Lesley University, Cambridge. He is currently working as the International Director of the Boston-based Holy Cross Family Ministries with missions in 17 countries.