Until I read Bishop's material on the Year of St. Joseph, I didn't realize that Joseph was a patron of unmarried women. It makes perfect sense. Joseph and Mary were betrothed but hadn't started living together. He discovered that his wife was pregnant without his involvement. What was he to do? The Bible says, "Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly." (Matthew 1:19) Adultery was not only a sin, but it was also a crime, punishable by stoning. Whether the town would have actually stoned her, or just shunned her, is a matter of debate. Either way he held her life in his hands. Joseph decides to divorce her but without denouncing her as an adulteress. The whole town would have assumed that Joseph was the father of the child and that he was a deadbeat dad unwilling to raise his own child. In other words, he would bear the shame himself. It's an incredibly brave and selfless act, done to protect a woman that Joseph thinks has utterly betrayed his trust.
I just listened to a BBC report on countries in Africa experiencing epidemics of teenage pregnancy. The article treats pregnancy as a women's problem that can be solved by access to contraceptives. No where did it bring up the involvement of men and their responsibility towards women and children. The "#MeToo Movement" would never have existed if the "Me First" culture of contraceptives and Playboy and porn hadn't existed first. Joseph shows a man willing to stand up for women, to take responsibility even when it's not his problem. Every woman should be loved, cherished, and respected, regardless of the circumstances of her life. A woman should feel safe around men, knowing that they will protect her dignity; she should not be afraid of being used and discarded. A strong man protects and cares for women and children both. Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Prayer to St. Joseph
Good St. Joseph,
as you led the Holy Family, watch over our families.
Help our family and all families to know and share God’s love.
In our family relationships, may we find healing and seek to be holy.
May our fathers help us to become faithful disciples of Jesus
who share our love for Him.
As a foster father of Jesus,
watch over all who serve as spiritual fathers.
In a special way, bless our Holy Father, our Bishop, and our priests.
May they follow your humble example in their fatherly care
for the people of God, the Church.
With Mary, you raised Jesus the High Priest.
You know our need for priests.
Please raise up good and holy priests from our families
to serve the people of our diocese.
May our children and grandchildren hear and say “yes” to the call of Jesus, just as you and Mary did.
Good St. Joseph, pray for us.