In the litany of St. Joseph, we say, “St. Joseph, Head of the Holy Family, pray for us.” There is more hidden behind this invocation than meets the eye. We know, of course, that Mary is the Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ. We know that the Saviour was not conceived of a human father. Yet the Church has never tired insisting on the fatherhood of St. Joseph in the Holy Family. It is crucially important to understand that there are two levels to fatherhood. There is the physical level of providing for the conception of a human body. In this sense, Christ did not have a human father. But a father is not only to cooperate with his wife in generating a child. He is also to cooperate with her in rearing the offspring which his spouse brings into the world. From all eternity, Joseph was destined to be the spouse of the Blessed Virgin. They were truly married. Joseph was Mary’s husband, and she was his wife.
Marriage is the most intimate of all unions between two human beings. It imparts a community of gifts between those joined together in matrimony. Consequently, in giving Joseph the Blessed Virgin as his spouse, God appointed him to be not only her life’s companion, but also the witness of her virginity, the protector of her honour. No, by reason of his conjugal tie to Mary, he participated in her sublime dignity.
We cannot exaggerate the importance of seeing St. Joseph as the true spouse of Mary. Under God, he was to share in her unique role as Mother of the Word made flesh who dwelt among us. St. Luke tells us that, on returning to Nazareth after Mary and Joseph found the young Christ in the temple, “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace before God and men (Luke 2:52)”. What are we being told? We are being told that the Christ child constantly manifested greater wisdom as he grew in age. In God’s mysterious providence, both Mary and Joseph contributed to this manifestation of greater wisdom in Jesus.