By Bob Castello
The numbers just don’t seem to add up when it comes to Joseph, the patron of St. Joseph’s Catholic School.
Joseph is never heard from in any of the gospels, he’s rarely mentioned — there’s no reference to Joseph at all in the Gospel of Mark — and yet, there are two feast days in his honor.
“There are zero quotes from him in the gospel,” said Karl Orbon, theology department chair at St. Joseph’s, “so you don’t get anything he ever said. We get very little of what he did, but what’s there is really, really important. He never does anything that’s sort of idle. There’s never a lost opportunity.”
Joseph does things that would be considered out of the ordinary, and he does so without hesitation, Orbon said.
He takes Mary as his wife. When he’s told to move his foster child, Jesus, to avoid a massacre of children under the direction of Herod, Joseph leads Mary and Jesus to Egypt. When he’s told to leave Egypt and move to Nazareth, he does that.
“Within what we do have as a record of Joseph, you see that he’s constantly seeking God’s will and then doing that even when it’s a huge struggle,” Orbon said. “You get a very minimal list of things that he did, but it’s like every single one of them is greater than the next.”
All along, Joseph is an unsung hero.
“Joseph’s role is never for it to be about Joseph,” said Orbon. “His role is to be the guy in the background, pointing to Jesus and Mary and making things right for them. He gives us that example of, it’s not about getting credit, it’s not about getting accolades, it’s about doing the right thing, making sure things happen that need to happen and that you’re faithful to what God’s calling you to do.”
The significance of Joseph is reflected in the two feast days celebrated in his honor: March 19, the principal Feast of St. Joseph; and May 1, added later to remember Joseph the Worker.
“There’s the person who shows the dignity of work,” Orbon said. “The long stretch that we don’t really see explained in the gospels, he was probably just working and providing for the Holy Family. You get the idea of dignity and that doing the humble day-to-day tasks does nothing to diminish our dignity.
“And then March 19, which focuses on his role in the Holy Family. Again, it’s a backseat role. When your family is Mary and Jesus, it’s not about you, and that’s pretty clear. What we can presume from what we do know and then filling in the gaps, he must have been a person of extraordinary God-given grace or he couldn’t have been faithful to the extraordinary tasks God called him to do.”
Joseph’s role within the Holy Family was a primary reason the school was named in his honor.
“A lot of our students came from St. Mary’s, at least to start with,” said Louis Beck, one of the school’s founders. “That was going to be our primary feeder school, along with Our Lady of the Rosary, but St. Mary’s had a good name, and we said, ‘Well, the next step is St. Joseph.’ Since he was such a good protector and provider and our school was going to need a protector and provider, we said, ‘Let’s just call it St. Joseph’s High School.’ ”
Barbara McGrath, Director of Admissions and another of the school’s founders, said that once the school name was established, the first newsletter mailed out to supporters, donors and families was called “Protector and Provider.”
The initial handbook, published in 1994, included the following explanation:
“St. Joseph was chosen as the Patron of this School because God chose him as the Protector and Provider of Jesus and Mary. By our faith and confidence in Jesus our Savior, we are assured that St. Joseph’s High School and its students will be protected and its needs provided.”
Orbon said Joseph is a tremendous role model for high school students.
“Our high schoolers don’t necessarily know what their ultimate vocation will be,” he said. “They might have interests, they might have plans, but they don’t ultimately know what’s going to happen.
“Again, it can be tempting to look past today — ‘Someday I’m going to do great things’ — but part of that is to wait for God to tell you what’s next, listen, think, pray, be faithful, and when that calling is there, as best as we can, step up and live it.”
Likewise, Joseph serves as an excellent role model for fathers.
“As a dad, I can’t imagine what that felt like not knowing the next step,” Orbon said. “As fathers, we want to know that we’ve got the knowledge and control to take care of our kids, and if we’re honest, we don’t have either one of those things as fully as we’d like.
“When we look at what St. Joseph is a model of, it’s pretty everyday stuff, like doing your job, loving your family and doing the best you can to help them and take care of them. Ultimately in his case, not by his doing, it leads to the redemption of the world.”