faithfamilyMy dad, who died before my children were born, always prayed to St. Joseph. I want my children to know their grandpa. Can St. Joseph help me to do this?

Your dad has given your children a wonderful legacy in his devotion to St. Joseph! You are the connecting link in that transmission of faith. The Gospels give us very little historical data about Joseph, but the few lines we are given are very telling. Joseph was a tender, compassionate man with a forgiving heart who, when hearing the news of Mary’s unexpected pregnancy, plans to quietly release her from the betrothal, protecting her from public disgrace.

As happens often in our lives, God has other plans and sends an angel to let Joseph know the identity of the child now growing in Mary’s womb, and that the marriage should proceed. After Jesus’ birth, an angel instructs Joseph to flee to Egypt with his little, threatened family. When they later return to Nazareth, Joseph would have instructed his young son in both the ways of work (the outer life) and the ways of his Jewish faith (the inner life).

Questions for Christ

may be sent to her at Catholic Herald Parenting, P.O. Box 070913, Milwaukee, 53207-0913 or by e-mail.

Tradition holds that by the time Jesus begins his public ministry, Joseph has died. The earthly window of time Joseph had with Jesus was very short, but because of his faithfulness in serving the Divine Plan, Joseph has been granted an eternity of heavenly bliss with his son and saintly influence over the lives of all of us. I’m sure at times you are saddened that your dad did not live to see his grandchildren, and yet his heavenly influence on their lives is very much a part of our Catholic belief in the communion of saints. Pray to your dad and to St. Joseph to watch over your children: to guide and protect them in seeking and fulfilling their part in God’s plan.

At Christmas time Joseph comes into the limelight in depictions of the Nativity, but help your children to seek out St. Joseph all year long in religious art in your parish church or other local churches. Statues often portray him holding his toddler son, or teaching the young boy carpentry skills. There are some poignant, but not common, depictions of the death of Joseph: the adolescent or young adult Jesus, and a distraught, loving wife, Mary, keep vigil at Joseph’s bedside.

It is our Catholic tradition to pray to St. Joseph to protect our families and we also consider him to be the patron of all workers.

We know from the Scriptures that Joseph was a craftsman or woodworker, and it is surmised that he persevered in his trade until his death. In these harsh economic times, every family knows someone who is without work. Pray to St. Joseph for those seeking God’s will for them as they struggle to find meaningful work and support for their families.

The church celebrates St. Joseph’s feast day on March 19. People of Italian or Sicilian descent spread a special “St. Joseph’s Bread” table to honor him for once having saved the starving people of Sicily. On this feast day, bring out pictures of your dad; tell stories of his work in the world, and of who he was as husband and father. Read the Scripture passages telling Joseph’s story. Pray for those who are without jobs, and take food to your local food pantry to help those struggling to feed their families.

Your dad will be delighted that you are helping his grandchildren to come to know him, and his favorite saint. Your dad and St. Joseph will intercede for your family, asking God to shower them with abundant blessings.

(Christ is a consultant in ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The married mother of four young adult children, she gives talks and workshops, leads retreats and is a spiritual director. Christ self-publishes materials for parishes, and is the author of “Journeying with Mark,” “Journeying with Luke” and “Journeying with Matthew.” Published by Paulist Press, the books are intended to be used by families in the car on the way to Mass.)