St. Joseph through Mary’s eyes

There are two people who could best provide a description of St. Joseph: Jesus, who always called him “dad” and experienced human fatherhood in his arms, and Mary, who called him “my husband Joseph.”

Mary does not mention Joseph explicitly in Scripture. She only refers to him after Jesus was lost and was found in the Temple: “Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” 

Joseph is always mentioned in the third person, which can lead us to perceive him more as a character in a chronicle than a living person, with feelings and experiences. But for Mary, Joseph was much more than what is written in the Gospels – he was her husband, Jesus’ adoptive father, the man who experienced with her the events of family life. She knew Joseph’s heart and feelings. She knew how he prayed, suffered, had fun, and even what his favorite meal was and the unique ways in which he treated her.

The Gospel tells us that Mary was a contemplative woman who would ponder things in her heart, constantly seeking to understand the deeper meaning of events (cf. Lk 2:19; 2,5,10). Mary’s perspective was based on God’s centeredness in her heart.

I picture Mary at home in Nazareth attentively looking at Joseph as he plays with the child Jesus, as he works hard in the woodshop or as he prays in the synagogue. Mary’s gaze was probably full of appreciation and gratitude for the man who accepted her, defended her, protected her and accompanied her in the upheavals they experienced together. 

She saw how Joseph was sorrowful, afflicted, humanly devastated and suffering in silence when he discovered that his betrothed was pregnant. She saw the peaceful look in his face as he told her what the Angel said to him in a dream. Mary silently saw the restlessness with which her young husband looked for an inn as his wife was about to give birth. Mary witnessed the fear and affliction in Joseph’s face when he realized that someone was out to kill the son he was entrusted to protect as a father. Needless to say, she also observed his frightened expression after hearing that their son would be a sign of contradiction and that she would be pierced with a sword. Likewise, she contemplated Joseph’s distress after losing their son in the crowd. Mary spent many days and many hours looking at Joseph, her husband, pondering in her heart the mystery of his soul. But none of her words about Joseph are recorded in the Gospels.

Thus, in order to discover the story of Joseph, as told by Mary, we must turn to her contemplative and quiet heart, which tells us about Joseph’s soul through the events they lived together. Mary was able to understand deeply the goodness and suffering of her betrothed, who had embraced her with respect and love, knowing that for him this involved the end of the life he had dreamed of – a married life with children, like everyone else’s. In silence, she saw him accept with faith the God’s plan, by marrying a most pure wife and welcoming a divine adoptive child.

When a wife is asked to describe her husband, it’s not unusual for her to respond: “My husband? He’s a good man.” Perhaps Mary’s response wouldn’t have been very different: “My husband Joseph? He’s a good man.” This response may seem too simplistic and short, because we think Joseph should be described with more sophisticated adjectives: “holy, extraordinary, exceptional…” Yet Mary’s response, after contemplating Joseph for so long, would highlight what perhaps defines him best: his goodness. Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Lk 18:19). Mary experienced the goodness in Joseph’s heart through his embrace, his eyes, his words, his care, his natural tenderness towards her and the child. She could rightly say, “My husband is the best man in the world.” While this might seem like a very ordinary way of defining him, Mary’s words would fully echo God’s goodness present in the heart of a pure and sincere man. They lived a married life in the highest expression: in a most pure mutual self-gift, faithful to God’s plan.

If asked to elaborate, Mary would probably say that Joseph was a good father. During her pregnancy, at Jesus’ birth, at the Temple, and in the ordinary events and upheavals in life, Joseph was always present to his wife and child, with that constant and provident presence that denotes a true fatherhood. This is precisely how Jesus defines his heavenly Father when he says, “He who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone” (Jn 8:29). Jesus says that he and his Father are one. In his humanity, Jesus learned that being a father implies being always present for one’s children, protecting them and letting them know they are never alone in life. “With a father’s heart: that is how Joseph loved Jesus” – thus Pope Francis begins his Apostolic Letter “With a Father’s Heart,” written for the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph’s declaration as Patron of the Universal Church. Jesus learned and experienced from Joseph what the heart feels when the word “father” is said.

Fatherhood creates a connection in which the child identifies with the father based on the time spent together and on the example that the father provides for the child and the child tries to imitate. The father achieves this connection through hard work and the attention and the time he dedicates to his child.

Mary saw Joseph’s fortitude in spirit and maturity when, with a broken heart, he decided to leave in secret as to not put her to shame. He must have been a strong man, both physically and morally, in order to bear the demands that taking care of Mary and the child entailed: the mysterious pregnancy, the unexpected travels and their harshness, poverty, attacks from those in power, hard work, migration to an unknown land… Mary knew she could count on him, a man of deep integrity, a responsible, strong man. Perhaps she would have described Joseph as such.

While it’s true that Mary never said Joseph was a “good man,” a “good father,” a “strong man of deep integrity,” the Gospel story tells us that Mary felt cared for, understood, protected, defended, accompanied, sustained in life by Joseph, because of who he was; and that Jesus, his son, was the type of man that he was, precisely because of his fatherly presence, his example and the qualities Jesus learned from him.

In the aforementioned letter, Pope Francis reminds us that “our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history.” Thus “each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”

Joseph lived the mystery of his wife Mary and the mystery of his son Jesus without seeing wonders or witnessing miracles, praises and crowds. He lived in the presence of God, incarnate in his son, fulfilling his duties as a husband and father. This was his indispensable service to the work of salvation. St. Paul VI says that Joseph “made a total gift of himself, his life and his work, by making his human vocation of domestic love a total sacrifice of self, a sacrifice of his heart and of his full capability to love at the service the Messiah born under his care” (Homily, March 19, 1966). His vocation was “domestic love,” that is, the vocation of loving the child who played and grew under his paternal gaze with his whole self.

Referring to the book The Shadow of the Father by Jan Dobraczyński, Pope Francis says that the author “uses the evocative image of a shadow to define Joseph. In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” A shadow is not something that usually catches our attention – it’s simply something we enjoy. Rarely do we lift up our eyes to see where a pleasant shadow is coming from. But when a child lifts up his eyes, he notices that the shadow comes from his father.

Many of us love St. Joseph very much and have great devotion to him. Perhaps what the Gospel refers to when it describes Joseph as a just man (Mt 1:19) is precisely his humility, which defines him as a good man, an excellent husband and a wonderful father. St. Joseph is our brother, who, in the ordinary and everyday life, shows us the purity, beauty and holiness of fatherhood and married life in God’s plan. 

COMING UP: Colorado Catholic Conference 2021 Legislative Recap

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On June 8, the First Regular Session of the 73rd General Assembly adjourned. Over 600 bills were introduced this session. Policy primarily focused on transportation, agriculture, healthcare, fiscal policy, and the state budget. However, the legislature also considered and passed many bills that could impact the Catholic Church in Colorado.  

Some bills that were passed will uphold Catholic social teaching and protect the poor and vulnerable of our society while others pose potentially harmful consequences to the Catholic Church, its affiliated organizations, and Colorado citizens who wish to practice their well-founded convictions. There were also many bills that were considered by the legislature that did not pass, including two bills that would have upheld the sanctity of life and two that would have expanded education opportunity for K-12 students.  

The Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC), as the united voice of the four Colorado bishops, advocated for Catholic values at the Capitol and ensured that the Church’s voice was heard in the shaping of policy.  

Below is a recap of the CCC’s 19 priority bills from the 2021 legislative session. For a full list of the legislation the Conference worked on, please visit:  

For regular updates and other information, please sign-up for the CCC legislative network here.  

Six bills the CCC supported that were either passed or enacted

Note: Passed means the bill was approved by both chambers of the legislature and is pending the governor’s signature as of June 9, 2021. Enacted means the bill was signed by the governor and became law.  

HB 21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters – Passed  
If enacted, counties where either 2,000 adults or 2.5% of the adult population primarily speak a language other than English will be required to provide a ballot in that language. 

HB 21-1075 Replace The Term Illegal Alien – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1075, the term “illegal alien” was replaced with the term “worker without authorization” as it relates to public contracts for services.  

SB 21-027 Emergency Supplies for Colorado Babies and Families – Passed  
If enacted, the state government will allocate much-needed funding for nonprofit organizations to provide diapers and other childcare necessities to families in need, including Catholic Charities.  

SB 21-077 Remove Lawful Presence Verification Credentialing – Enacted    
With the enactment of SB 77, verification of lawful presence will no longer be required for any applicant for a license, certificate, or registration, particularly in the job fields of education and childcare.  

SB 21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes – Passed  
If enacted, SB 146 will establish practices that ease the transition back into society for formerly incarcerated persons.  

SB 21-158 Increase Medical Providers for Senior Citizens – Passed  
If enacted, SB 158 will allocate more funding for senior citizen care, which is currently understaffed and underfunded.  

Eight bills the CCC opposed that were passed 

HB 21-1072 Equal Access Services For Out-of-home Placements – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1072, Colorado law now prohibits organizations that receive state funding for placing children with adoptive or foster parents from discriminating on, among other things, the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or marital status. This new law will likely to be impacted by the imminent Fulton v. City of Philadelphia U.S. Supreme Court decision. 

HB 21-1108 Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1108, “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” are now recognized as protected classes in Colorado nondiscrimination code. This may have serious religious liberty implications for individuals and organizations that wish to practice their well-founded convictions on marriage and human sexuality. 

SB21-006 Human Remains Natural Reduction Soil – Enacted 
With the enactment of SB 006, human remains can now be converted to soil using a container that accelerates the process of biological decomposition, also known as “natural reduction.” 

SB 21-009 Reproductive Health Care Program – Passed 
If enacted, SB 009 will create a taxpayer funded state program to increase access to contraceptives.  

SB 21-016 Protecting Preventive Health Care Coverage – Passed 
If enacted, the definition of “family planning services” and “family planning-related services” will not be clearly defined in law and could potentially include abortion. Furthermore, SB 16 removes the requirement that a provider obtain parental consent before providing family planning services to a minor.  

SB 21-025 Family Planning Services for Eligible Individuals– Passed 
If enacted, SB 025 low-income women to be given state-funded contraception, “preventing, delaying, or planning pregnancy” services, which includes cessation services and sterilization services.  

SB 21-142 Health Care Access in Cases of Rape or Incest– Enacted  
The enactment of SB 142 removes the requirement that, if public funds are being used, a physician must perform an abortion at a hospital, and instead allows for abortions to be performed by any “licensed provider.”   

SB21-193 Protection of Pregnant People in Perinatal Period– Passed 
If enacted, SB 193 will eliminate an important protection in Colorado law for a preborn and viable baby when a woman is on life support.  

Five bills the CCC supported that failed  

HB21-1017 Protect Human Life at Conception – Failed 
HB 1017 would have prohibited terminating the life of an unborn child and made it a violation a class 1 felony.  

HB 21-1080 Nonpublic Education and COVID-19 Relief Act – Failed 
HB 1080 would have established a private school and home-based education income tax credit for families who either enroll their child in private school or educate their child at home, thereby expanding education opportunities for families during and after the pandemic.  

HB 21-1183 Induced Termination of Pregnancy State Registrar – Failed 
HB 1183 would have required health-care providers that perform abortions to report specified information concerning the women who obtain the procedure to the state registrar of vital statistics, thereby increasing transparency in the abortion industry.   

HB 21-1191 Prohibit Discrimination COVID-19 Vaccine Status– Failed  
HB 1191 would have prevented individuals from being coerced to take the COVID-19 vaccine by either the state or by employers.  

HB 21-1210 Modifications to Qualified State Tuition Programs – Failed 
HB 1210 would have allowed families to use some of their private 529 savings account funds for private K-12 school tuition for their children, including at Catholic schools.   

One bill the CCC opposed that failed 

SB 21-031 Limits on Governmental Responses to Protests– Failed 
SB 031 would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to protect innocent lives when protests turn violent.  

Two bills the CCC was in an “Amend” position that passed  

SB 21-073 Civil Action Statute of Limitations Sexual Assault – Enacted  
With the enactment of SB 073, the statute of limitations on bringing a civil claim based on sexual misconduct will be removed as of January 1, 2022. Under this law, victims of sexual abuse can pursue a civil cause of action if the statute of limitations has not expired, the abuse happened in Colorado, and the abuse could be considered a felony or Class 1 misdemeanor if it was a criminal case. 

SB 21-088 Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act– Passed  
If enacted, SB 88 will allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue public and private institutions for abuse that occurred between 1960-2022. Victims would have three years to bring a historical claim, starting from January 1, 2022. Claims brought during this window would be capped at $387,000 for public institutions and at $500,000 for private institutions, with the ability of a judge to double the damages depending on how the private institution handled the situation. Despite unanswered constitutional concerns regarding SB 88, the Colorado Catholic dioceses will also continue to offer opportunities for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to receive support in a non-litigious setting.   

While the legislature has adjourned the 2021 legislative session, there is still the possibility that they will reconvene later this year. To stay up-to-date on Colorado legislative issues and their impact on the Catholic Church in Colorado, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network HERE.