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Lessons from St. Joseph: A special class for a special year

This “Year of Saint Joseph” presents us with an opportunity to draw deeper into union with Joseph. To that end, I’d like to introduce you to a six-week course about Joseph that I’ll be teaching online this summer for anybody, anywhere in the world.

LISTEN: Daniel Campbell discusses Lessons from St. Joseph course on Ave Maria Radio’s Catholic Connection (skip ahead to 16:35-34:40)

Firstly, let me mention who we are and what we do. While most people affectionately know us as the “Biblical School,” we are more than that; we are the Lay Division at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary for the Archdiocese of Denver. This makes our seminary unique; not just for the formation of future clerics, but also a division dedicated to the formation of the laity. Our mission is to put people in contact and communion with Jesus, who alone leads us to the heart of the Father in the Spirit. We do this through various offerings that study God’s call to each and every person to have a personal relationship with Him in the Church that He established with the Precious Blood of Jesus. 

Our two flagship programs are the Denver Catholic Biblical School, a four-year study of the Sacred Scriptures, and the Denver Catholic Catechetical School, a two-year study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We also offer various other programs of study – year-long “Enrichment Courses” in different topics of the faith, short courses throughout the year, lecture series throughout the liturgical seasons, and day-long workshops. Wherever you’re at in your faith, we have something for everybody! That includes my summer class on St. Joseph, in which we will dive into his life to learn everything from the narrative story and theological significance of all of the passages in Scripture involving Joseph, to why he is the Patron of the Universal Church, to his moral life and what he teaches us about virtue, to his interior life and what he teaches us about prayer, and much more. 

I invite you to join the Lay Division in learning about the man that Mary called her beloved husband and Jesus his loving foster-father. However, as we anticipate the course starting in July, and in honor of this Year of St. Joseph, I offer you the following reflection on this most important saint. Read it, pray with it and allow yourself to grow in deeper devotion to St. Joseph the Great!

A father chosen by God

In choosing to redeem us, God could have chosen any number of means of doing so, but he chose to become man and die on the cross. Yet if God is to become man, then he must have a mother to come to us in the womb of. For this is not a hero sent from beyond, but a real man of flesh and blood. True God and true man, as we say. This is thus a mother whom God had, from all of eternity, planned the creation of. A mother for whom he determined the graces that he would give her so that she could fulfill her role in salvation history as the Mother of God. And if you held the prerogative to consider how to create your own Mother, then wouldn’t she be the most holy creature ever created? This is precisely how God created his mother, the immaculately conceived perpetual virgin that was assumed into heaven.

That God created his mother to be so leads to the next thought: what kind of man would you create to be her husband? To care for her needs? To protect her virginity, this mother who will remain a virgin before, during, and forever after the conception and birth of her Son? And if you’d chosen to be born of this mother in a dark, cold cave, then what sort of man would you create to rock you to sleep? And if a wicked king were to desire to kill you, and kill all of the two year old and younger children in your neighborhood, then what sort of man would you create to protect you? To carry your life in his arms to safety in Egypt? What sort of man could dare stand before God Incarnate and the Mother of God to lead the Holy Family in prayer? 

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Just as it is obvious that Mary would be specially created by God, so it should be as obvious that St. Joseph was not an afterthought, but the man whom God had specially created for his unique role in salvation history. For of all of the ways that we may consider Joseph, of all of the things that he is the patron of, there is no greater description of his role in salvation history than spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster-father of Jesus. God gratuitously chose to redeem us and to do so by becoming man and dying on the cross. Yet the first step was to be conceived in the womb and born of a virgin who was wedded to the great Joseph.

Just as it is obvious that Mary would be specially created by God, so it should be as obvious that St. Joseph was not an afterthought, but the man whom God had specially created for his unique role in salvation history.

But why did Mary need a spouse and Jesus a foster-father to begin with? To answer, we refer to St. Thomas Aquinas that “grace perfects nature.” In other words, while Jesus and Mary are full of grace, this doesn’t negate their natural human needs – the need for a husband and father-figure to provide for material needs of food, drink, and shelter, to safeguard the child’s Messianic claims, which would’ve been dismissed were he conceived out of wedlock, or to protect the mother and child against the devil, which comes, for example, in the form of Herod and the Massacre of the Innocents. 

Furthermore, this husband and father-figure provides exalted testimony for us, as well: by cloaking Mary’s virginity, we see the virginal state honored, while through Joseph’s marriage to Mary, we likewise see matrimony honored. It was a marriage as true as any other, even if virginal, for the two spouses attained an inseparable union of souls and embraced the duties of spouses and parents by tending to one another and rearing the Christ child. Their union of souls and fulfillment of duties constitute the perfection of marriage.

Joseph is the spouse of Mary and foster-father of Jesus, which means that he is the head of the Holy Family. And as head of the Holy Family, Joseph is, therefore, the Patron of the Universal Church, the Holy Family being the prototype of the Church, itself the perpetuation of the Incarnation in time. This Patronage of the Universal Church was declared by Pope Pius IX in 1870 in his decree Quemadmodum Deus, a declaration that the Church is celebrating the 150th anniversary of with this current “Year of Saint Joseph.” 

The relevance of this for us is simple: if Joseph is the head of the Holy Family and Patron of the Universal Church, then we ought to take him as our patron, as well. And as St. Aquinas writes, “Some Saints are privileged to extend to us their patronage with particular efficacy in certain needs, but not in others; but our holy patron Saint Joseph has the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, in every undertaking.” Devotion to Joseph is as necessary today as ever, all the moreso given this year dedicated to his Patronage! 

Lessons from St. Joseph: Husband, Father, Saint

6-week online course taught live (no pre-recorded lectures!) by Daniel Campbell, Director of the Lay Division.

Class sessions are Tuesdays and Thursdays,
9:30-11:30 a.m. MDT and 6:30-8:30 p.m. MDT.

All four weekly sessions will cover the same curriculum. When registering, students will choose one day/time to be assigned to, but will have access to all four weekly class sessions. Students may attend as many sessions as they like.

Tuition is $100.

As a special promotion for the “Year of St. Joseph”, students will receive a $100 tuition credit toward enrollment in any 2021-2022 full-year Biblical School, Catechetical School, or Enrichment Course.

For more information and to register, click here!

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School supported by the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal

Daniel Campbell
Daniel Campbell
Daniel Campbell is the Director of the Lay Division at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.

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