Archbishop Neary Homily Honors Saint Joseph

Presented at Conclusion of Triduum at International Eucharistic and Marian Shrine, Knock

Elderly Wonderful Role Models
Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam

Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam preached this homily at the conclusion of the Triduum in honor of Saint Joseph during Mass at the International Eucharistic and Marian Shrine, Knock, Co Mayo, on March 21, 2021.

Pope Francis on Friday, March 19, 2021, released a video for the Irish faithful to mark the elevation of the National Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock to the status of International Marian and Eucharistic Shrine.


  • ‘Scripture does not recount a single word of his; silent and humble, he always stands aside letting Mary and Jesus go ahead of him … In Joseph, we see an ideal combination of inner strength and gentleness of character.’ – Archbishop Neary 

Fatherhood makes humanity different

For many in our society, today fatherhood has become quite problematic.  As a result, it may be difficult to present God as a Father to those who have no experience of a father or to those who have had sad experiences of their father.  The first experiences of a young child are of extreme dependency and vulnerability.  Children require stability, attention, and love.  In many ways, it is actually fatherhood that makes humanity different from most species.  In other species, it is the females who look after the young, while a few weeks after birth many males don’t even recognize their young.  Particularly tragic then is the loss of fatherhood as a growing concern in our culture.  Many children are growing up without a meaningful relationship with their fathers.

Joseph: at the service of the entire plan of salvation

There is a great necessity today to recover the sense of fatherhood.  In his apostolic letter on Saint Joseph entitled “With a Father’s Heart”, Pope Francis focuses on Fatherhood by taking the example of Saint Joseph.  As we read the story of the infancy of Jesus in Saint Matthew’s and Saint Luke’s Gospel, we see the way in which Saint Joseph is presented as a man of creative courage.  We can only imagine the confusion and questions in Saint Joseph’s mind when he learned that Mary was expecting a baby.  But just as with his namesake in the Old Testament, God spoke to Joseph in a dream and allayed his fears “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”. (Matthew 1:20).  Quoting Saint John Chrysostom, Pope Francis says that Joseph “placed himself at the service of the entire plan of salvation”.  Scripture does not recount a single word of his; silent and humble, he always stands aside letting Mary and Jesus go ahead of him.

Joseph: a responsible citizen, husband, and father

Joseph was a man of civic responsibility.  Of the line of David, he traveled with Mary to Bethlehem to register in the census a distance of about 80 miles.  We can only imagine the anxiety for himself and Mary who was due to give birth to Jesus.  The visit of the Magi and the Shepherds to adore the newborn baby must have impressed upon Joseph the special significance of this baby.  When God speaks to Joseph again in a dream alerting him to the schemes of Herod, Joseph undertook the lengthy journey to Egypt in order to ensure the safety of Jesus. On the death of Herod Joseph is again directed in a dream to take the child and his mother and “go to the land of Israel”.

Joseph: icon of God’s Fatherhood

On the return journey Joseph again in a dream received a further message from God informing him that Herod’s son, Archelaus, was ruling in Judea, so Joseph brought Mary and Jesus to Galilee and they settled in Nazareth.  In their home, we can imagine the way that Joseph holds Jesus’ hand as he took his first faltering steps.  We know the way that fathers like to bring their sons along to their workplace and Jesus would have enjoyed observing the way that Joseph was going about his work as a carpenter, meeting the locals who came to avail of the skills of the local handyman.  In Joseph Jesus would have experienced the protective and tender love of God the Father.

Joseph: at peace with God

We all know people who are totally reliable, reluctant to be in the limelight, and yet will always be available to lend a listening ear or supportive shoulder.  The goodness, gentleness, and generosity of these people are frequently overlooked in a very competitive culture.  They bring calm to situations that could be explosive.  Because they are at peace with God they frequently provide new insights into situations that could otherwise be complex and complicated.

Joseph: respectful, protective, supportive

In Joseph, we see an ideal combination of inner strength and gentleness of character.  In a world where women are subjected to violence, we see in Joseph somebody who is respectful, protective, and supportive in his role as the legal father of Jesus and the husband of Mary.  At times events in life may leave us annoyed, angry, frustrated, and rebellious.  In his relationship with God, Joseph readjusts his plans to coincide with the broader picture of the salvation that God is bringing about.

Joseph: Patron of the Catholic Church

Not surprisingly Pope Pius IX declared Joseph as the Patron of the Catholic Church.  As a Church, we are living through challenging times as we cope with confusion, division, and the absence of hope among many people.  Yet there is much genuine goodness as people appreciate role models and search for God.   As one who lived through confusing events, coped with uncertainty, listened, and responded to the promptings of the Lord, Joseph, though silent speaks very significantly to our world today.

Joseph: Protector of the Church

There are not many apparitions of Joseph.  Two of them occur in Marian Shrines, one in Knock, the other in Fatima.  The great protestant theologian Karl Barth, acknowledging his devotion to Saint Joseph, stated: “He took care of the child Jesus and he takes care of the Church today”.