By: Liz Flynn
While many people realize that Saint Joseph is the husband of Mary, mother of Jesus, and that he acted in the role of Jesus’ father, few people know much else about this fascinating Christian figure.
Different Accounts in the Bible
There is a lot of uncertainty about the life of Saint Joseph. The main reason for this is the different accounts of his genealogy and life in the bible. Some gospels, including the Gospel of Mark and the Pauline epistles, make no mention of Joseph at all.
The Gospels of Luke and Matthew are the first to mention Joseph as the father of Jesus and each of these accounts differ. According to Matthew, Joseph is directed by an angel to marry Mary and takes to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus where they stayed for several years. A dream prompted Joseph to take his family to Egypt to avoid the massacre of children that was taking place in Bethlehem at that time on the orders of King Herod. Following Herod’s death, an angel instructs Joseph to return to Nazareth.
Luke’s version of events differs as his account claims that Joseph and Mary already lived in Nazareth and only went to Bethlehem for a census. Jesus was born while they were there. In this account, there are no dreams, angels, massacres or a visit to Egypt.
Joseph also makes his last appearance in the bible in the Gospel of Luke when he is mentioned in the story of the ‘Passover Visit to the Temple’. This was when Jesus was 12 years of age. By the time Jesus is an adult, there is mention of his mother Mary being a widow, but no explanation of Joseph’s death.
Was Joseph a Carpenter?
Joseph is commonly known as a carpenter, yet this may not be an accurate description of his occupation. His occupation is stated in the bible as a ‘tekton’. While this is often translated as a carpenter, it is a general word that relates to the terms ‘technical’ and technology’. Therefore, in theory, Joseph may have worked with materials other than wood. However, other references in the bible support the theory that Joseph was a carpenter. For example, there are references to him making ploughs and yokes. Therefore, it is entirely possible that Joseph really was a carpenter.
Joseph: The Patron Saint
Saint Joseph is the patron saint of workers and it is this patronage that is usually associated with him. Joseph is also the patron saint of travellers, expectant mothers, fathers, families, craftsmen, engineers and house sellers. He was declared by Pope Pius IX as the protector and patron of the Catholic Church and Joseph has patronages to the sick and to a happy death. Furthermore, Saint Joseph is the patron saint of many cities and countries, including, America, Mexico, China, Canada, the Philippines, Austria, Belgium, Vietnam, Croatia, Korea and Peru.
Saint Joseph’s Day Celebrations
In America, Saint Joseph’s Day is an important event that many Italian-Americans celebrate. One of the largest celebrations of this day takes place in New Orleans. One of the traditions that take place on this day is the construction of temporary altars across the city, both in people’s homes and in churches. These are filled with food to give thanks to Saint Joseph for answering their prayers. At night, the Mardi Gras Indians hold a colorful and joyful parade.