Today, March 19, is the feast of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Mother and the Universal Patron of the Church. It’s a day that I look forward to each year because it usually serves as a needed respite from the discipline of Lent. The Feast of St. Joseph is what’s called a “solemnity” which means it’s one of the most important celebrations of the year, and should be celebrated accordingly. A common way to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day is by eating sweets – specifically zeppole. I usually try to give up sweets for Lent, so when March 19 rolls around it feels like I’m getting away with something when I dig into one of those big balls of fried dough filled with jelly or sweet ricotta. It’s exhilarating! But it’s also fitting, since the husband of Mary is one of the greatest men who ever lived, and a testament to the mysterious ways of God.
Joseph was a working man. The gospels tell us that he was a carpenter. He was also a descendant of King David. Despite his poverty and the life that he lived in obscurity, royal blood flowed through the veins of Joseph. Though Our Lord was not his biological son, by adopting the child Jesus as his own he would give Our Lord a share in his royal lineage. He would be the protector of the Messiah and the Mother of God. Why would God choose Joseph as the guardian of the Incarnate Son and His Mother Mary? Surely, there were men in those days who had greater means with which they could offer them protection from the powers that threatened them. But none of them were as faithful as Joseph. The fidelity of Joseph to the will of God – even in the face of enormous difficulty – made him the most fitting choice as the one to take Mary and Jesus into his home.
I love the statue of St. Joseph that we have at the Church of St. Cecilia. It depicts him with his carpentry tools – strong, silent, ready to act. We will be keeping the candles on either side of the statue lit in honor of the great saint. As we face our own challenges and difficulties these days, it would be good to visit that shrine of St. Joseph and say a prayer for our families. And then go and have a guilt-free zeppole!