Guardian of Virtue: Embracing St. Joseph’s Example in Catholic Marriage

12 March 2024

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

St. Joseph was a just man, a tireless worker, the upright guardian of those entrusted to his care. May he always guard, protect and enlighten families.

~ Pope St. John Paul II[1]

March 19 marks the celebration of the Solemnity of St. Joseph. Originating in the year 800 in the north of France, the feast day received the approval of Pope Sixtus IV in 1480. St. Joseph, chosen by God to be the earthly father of Jesus and the husband of the Blessed Mother Mary, is also the patron saint of our beloved country, Canada. Husbands and fathers can look to St. Joseph’s quiet life of virtue as a powerful role model. St. Joseph the Worker is the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Edmonton. As we honour this great saint’s solemnity, consider how St. Joseph’s life can serve as a role model and source of inspiration for you or your husband in your marriage and family life.

Melissa Guzik

In 2020, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church, Pope Francis offered a profound reflection on the qualities of St. Joseph. St. Joseph embodied many virtues of a beloved father, including tenderness, love, obedience, acceptance, creative courage, and a strong work ethic.[2] Despite his many wonderful characteristics, St. Joseph was often found in the shadows, quietly supporting and guiding his family.[3] Although there is much to say about St. Joseph and his qualities, we will focus on the virtues of acceptance, courage and obedience.

Acceptance, courage, and obedience are vital components of marriages. Research suggests that not embracing influence from one another can significantly increase the likelihood of divorce, with statistics showing that “when a man is not willing to share power with his partner, there is an 81 per cent chance that his marriage will self-destruct.”[4] However, accepting influence doesn’t equate to surrendering one’s autonomy. It’s about recognizing the validity of your partner’s perspective, being open to being influenced, and potentially altering your viewpoint.

This attitude communicates, “You are important, and your opinions matter to me, even if…I don’t agree with you.”[5] Such openness fosters improved communication and enhances the couple’s ability to navigate challenges together. St. Joseph exemplified these traits when he humbly accepted Mary as his wife after being guided by a dream that revealed God’s will (see Matthew 1: 18-25). His obedience and faith were evident as he trusted the angel’s message. Similarly, Mary demonstrated her willingness to listen to Joseph’s guidance, notably when they fled to Egypt (see Matthew 2: 13-15). St. Joseph’s love for Mary and Jesus is evident in the sacrifices he made for them, courageously leaving his home to journey to Egypt and ensure the safety of his family. Their mutual respect and decision-making for their family reflect a profound acceptance of each other’s influence and a commitment to fulfilling their divine calling.

A Father in the Shadows

Sometimes you might question the significance of the little things you do within your family and ponder how they contribute to the greater good of the world or society. You may engage in small acts such as eating a meal with your family and saying grace together, going to work to earn income to support your family, taking time to coach a child’s sports team, facing major struggles in your family even when you are not sure how to respond, or engaging in small activities with

Jean MacKenzie

your spouse and children. If you ever doubt the impact of your actions, remember the words of Pope Francis regarding St. Joseph: “Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”[6]

In 2021, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops published a novena for the Entrustment of Canada to St. Joseph.[7] This novena includes a short reflection and prayer for each of the qualities of St. Joseph listed at the beginning of this article. Even if you don’t have time to pray the entire novena, you could choose a specific quality of St. Joseph that you feel called to grow in, using the prayer from the novena as a way to entrust yourself to the intercession of St. Joseph. You could also take some time to reflect upon and speak to your spouse about how you could concretely make some efforts to grow in this virtue.

As the Solemnity of St. Joseph approaches, we present this heartfelt prayer from Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, Patris Corde (“With a Father’s Heart”) as another option for seeking the intercession of St. Joseph on behalf of husbands, fathers, and the men in your life. May it inspire you to recognize the remarkable role model that St. Joseph can be as a father figure in all of our lives:

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,

Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

To you God entrusted his only Son;

in you Mary placed her trust

with you Christ became man.

Blessed Joseph, to us too,

show yourself a father

and guide us in the path of life.

Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,

and defend us from every evil. Amen.[8]

May the Solemnity of St. Joseph be a time to ponder and pray about how St. Joseph’s life can serve as a role model for you or your spouse, inspiring your marriage and family.

In May we will share the second part of this article as we explore how our Blessed Mother Mary can serve as a role model for women in their roles as wives and mothers.

– Melissa Guzik and Jean MacKenzie are registered psychologists who work in private practice in Edmonton. Melissa and Jean work with Catholic couples to help them have marriages that are both fulfilling and pleasing to God. Melissa has been married since 2002 and has four children and Jean has been married since 2001 and has seven children. They are co-authors of the Catholic marriage enrichment book and workbook To Know, Love and Serve: A Path to Marital Fulfilment. For more information, see:

[1] John Paul II (1981, November 22). Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio of Pope John Paul II to the Episcopate, to the clergy and to the faithful of the whole Catholic Church on the role of the Christian family in the modern world. Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
[2] Francis (2000, December 8). Apostolic Letter Patris Corde of the Holy Father Francis on the 150th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana
[3] Ibid.
[4] Brittle, Z. (n.d.). Manage Conflict: Accepting Influence.
[5] Smyth, S. (n.d.). Accepting Influence: Find Ways to Say “Yes”.,your%20perspective%20changed%20by%20it.
[6] Francis (2000, December 8). Apostolic Letter Patris Corde of the Holy Father Francis on the 150th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana
[7] Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (2021). Novena and Act of Entrustment to Saint Joseph (Year of Saint Joseph).Concacan Inc.
[8] Francis (2000, December 8). Apostolic Letter Patris Corde of the Holy Father Francis on the 150th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana