I don’t usually involve myself in the historical St. Joseph debates and leave that to J over at TheRadTrad who has done far more research than I could. However, I wanted to take a moment to rant about the nonsensical Life and Glories of St. Joseph which has entranced many a Catholic with its bizarre hodgepodge of sentimentality and neoscholasticism to the point of parody. Here, I wish to dissect a few of the claims made by the screed.
1. “Most eminent among the saints”: The author continually states, as if there can be no room for question, that “Joseph was, next to Mary, the most eminent among the saints”. I have cause to wonder how well read the author is, considering there is a very specific saint who he seems to have missed….
2. Joseph sanctified in the womb: This carries over from the last point. There are only three people whose conceptions are celebrated by any part of the church. Josephite devotionalists may be sad to learn that the carpenter from Nazareth is not one of them. If Joseph’s sanctification were a part of tradition, then surely this would have been notable enough to be reflected in the practices of the Church in the early centuries.
3. Joseph freed from concupiscence: Another point along the same lines drives to the greatest rebuttal of this poorly thought out apocryphal text.
Death is the natural penalty for our concupiscence. If Joseph was freed from this then there was no cause for him to die. Remember that the Theotokos – who had no concupiscence by the admission of all the Western, Greek, and Oriental churches (who only disagree on the exactitude of the minute details) – did not have to die if she so wished. She was free from the penalty of death and did not have to undergo it; but she wished to see her son and depart from her existence on earth. God granted her that wish and she underwent her dormition.
It is unknown to me whether St. John the Baptist – presanctified as he was – was also immune to this concupiscence. If he was freed from it through his sanctification, then he would not have been subject to a “natural” death. If his sanctification gave him a bounty of grace to combat an existent concupiscence then he would still have been bound to die of decomposition as we all do. I will leave someone with more knowledge on this point to clarify if they so wish, but the circumstances of the Baptist’s death makes it all a rather moot point.
So, if Joseph was freed of his concupiscence, and for added value let’s also assume he was young, virginal, and still full of vigor… why does he die right before Jesus departs on his public ministry? Why does he thoughtlessly leave his adopted son behind before he goes on his ministry and his wife behind shortly before she will undergo the most trying and painful time of her life? Was it too much to ask that he hold off for at least a few years?
Just as the “Jesus” invented by the Infancy Gospel of Thomas is an evil brat, the “Joseph” invented in Life and Glories is a Mary Sue and a thoughtless unsupportive jerk who abandons his family for a make-believe “holiness” (no wonder some trads who don’t understand the responsibilities and intricacies of marriage are so drawn to it!)
There are also other points like Joseph’s never-written-of assumption into heaven, the claim he was a young virgin, and the “symbolism” of the Holy Family as types of the Trinity (a nearly blasphemous assertion, in my opinion), but I will leave those to J when he gets around to them.
Those who sweep aside works such as the Protoevangelium of James and the Coptic Gospel of Joseph the Carpenter as “apocryphal” lose all credibility when they seek to replace it with a false and even more apocryphal work invented over 1800 years after the fact.
Is it too much to assume that St. Joseph was a holy and somewhat average old man who was called upon by God to bear witness to and play a part in extraordinary things he never could have foreseen? Is that not enough?