19 March 2009

St Joseph, Husband of Mary

Bartolomé Estebán Murillo, The Two Trinities (1675-82)

Something I’ve come to avert to only within the last couple of years is that the Church honours St Joseph today as the Husband of Mary.

I was blessed to have been born the son of a carpenter whose names were John Joseph, known to his own family and friends as ‘John’ and to my mother and her family as ‘Joe’, because someone had, unusually, shortened ‘John’ to ‘Joe’.

I never cease to thank God for the fact that my Dad was, first of all, a loving and responsible husband and, as such, a loving and responsible father.

Some of my married friends, especially those in Worldwide Marriage Encounter, are probably tired of hearing me remind them that their first vocation is to be spouses and, as such, parents.

When I was in kindergarten, and maybe even before that, I learned that St Joseph was the foster-father of Jesus. More recently I've heard him described as the legal father of Jesus, as he gave Jesus his name, and by that assumed that responsibility.

Yet, with all the titles we have for Mary, we’ve none that echoes the greatest title that the Church gives ot St Joseph on his solemnity today, 'Husband of Mary'.

And if we accept Lex orandi lex credendi, 'the law of prayer is the law of faith', the Church implies by the very title of today's feast that the primary vocation of every married person is to be a spouse, not a parent. It asks us to honour St Joseph first of all as the husband of Mary, rather than as the foster-father or legal father of Jesus, though, of course, it doesn't downplay the importance of that in any way.

No comments: