Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

March 20, 2007

St. Joseph

The annual feast of St. Joseph on March 19 brings to mind some interesting things we know and don’t know about the foster father of Jesus.

In the genealogy of Jesus found in the opening of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus’ lineage is traced from Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish people, through the generations, including King David, all the way through Joseph, not Mary his natural mother.

Interesting because Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father. Yet, the tracing of Jesus’ family tree through Joseph and not his mother tells us two things: First, Joseph was known to be of the line of King David, a crucial element to Matthew’s Jewish audience who were awaiting the Messiah called for in the Hebrew Scriptures. Second, the evangelist and the early Church held Joseph in great esteem as Jesus’ adopted father. Jewish parents were known for accepting and treating adopted children exactly the same as their natural children.

This information may be a nice segue for students to trace their own family histories. Ask them to pinpoint how and when individual or national ancestors became Catholic.

Also, look into the history and practice of devotion to St. Joseph, which did not officially take off until the fifteenth century when Pope Sixtus IV established the annual feast. St. Teresa of Avila had a special devotion to St. Joseph and established nineteen convents under his patronage.

You might also have your students note that while Matthew tells of the angel announcing Jesus’ birth to Joseph (Mt 1:20–21), Luke’s Gospel reports the Annunciation to Mary (Lk 1:26–28) in preparation for that particular feast day on March 25.

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