Since the beginning of Christianity, St Joseph has occupied a very special place within the Catholic saint. St Irenaeus of Lyon in his treatise Adversus haereses states that just as he lovingly cared for Mary and devoted himself with commitment to the education of Jesus Christ, he also guards and protects his mystical body, the Church, of which Mary is a figure and model. They also exalted his figure, from the brief gospel passages referred to him, other Fathers of the Church such as St John Chrysostome, Saint Jerome and St Augustine.
From the thirteenth century onwards, the Franciscans took the saint as a model of fidelity, humility, poverty and obedience and in the xvi, St Teresa of Avila, in the Book of Life, strongly recommends devotion to him, with a very personal witness of his goodness. It is no wonder, then, that Pope Pius IX declared him patron saint of the Universal Church and that a few years later, in 1889, his successor Leo XIII dedicated his encyclical Quamquam pluries to him. There, with regard to the time when he wrote, marked by social conflicts, attacks on the Church and the rise of secularism that left aside the expression of the religious, recommends entrusting himself to the Carpenter of Nazareth:
“He imposes himself among all for his august dignity, for by divine disposition he was custodian and, in the belief of men, father of the Son of God. Where the Word of God was followed to submit to Joseph, obey him, and give him that honor and reverence that children owe to their own parents. Of this double dignity, the obligation that nature puts at the head of families was followed, so that Joseph, at the time, was the legitimate and natural custodian, head and defender of the Holy Family. And throughout his life he fully fulfilled those positions and those responsibilities. He devoted himself with great love and daily request to protect his wife and the Divine Child; regularly, through his work he got what was necessary for feeding and dressing both; he cared for the Child of death when he was threatened by the jealousy of a monarch, and found him a refuge; in the miseries of the journey and in the bitterness of exile was always the companionship, help and support of Our Lady and Jesus. Now, Joseph’s divine home, with the authority of a father, contained within himself the barely nascent Church.”
He then proposes to humanity that parents, people of noble origin, the rich and also workers and craftsmen take as a model the exemplary male:
“For Joseph, of royal blood, united in marriage to the greatest and most holy of women, considered the father of the Son of God, spent his life working, and gained with the fatigue of the craftsman the necessary support for his family. It is, then, true that the condition of the humblest has nothing to be shameful in itself, and the work of the worker is not only not dishonorable, but, if he carries virtue together, it can be singularly ennobled. Joseph, content with his few possessions, passed the trials that accompany such a sparse fortune, magnanimity, imitating his Son, who having taken the form of servant, being the Lord of life, submitted himself of his own free will to the dispossessment and loss of everything.”