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St Joseph, Patron Saint of Fathers

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Saint Joseph is a protector of the Augustinian order. Early in the fifth century, Saint Augustine addresses the issue of how Saint Joseph can be said to be the ‘father’ of Jesus, since God is the father of Christ Jesus, the Incarnate Logos, and Saint Joseph never had any conjugal relations with the Theotokos, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“On account of that faithful marriage both of them deserved to be called the parents of Christ. Not merely was [Mary] called his mother, but as the spouse of Christ’s mother, [Joseph] was called his father, for he was both of these by his mind, not by the flesh. Though he was [Jesus Christ’s] father only by his mind and she was his mother also by the flesh, they were both parents of his humble condition, not of his lofty condition, of his infirmity, not of his divinity.” (Augustine, “Marriage and Desire” I. 11.12. Translated by Roland J. Teske, S.J. The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century. Volume I/24: Answer to the Pelagians, II, 37. Edited by John E. Rotelle, O.S.A. Hyde Park, New York: New City Press, 1998. Many volumes from this contemporary edition in English of The Works of St. Augustine are available via the Past Masters database.)

In a signed article, “Marriage” (from Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, edited by Allan D. Fitzgerald, O.S.A., available via Falvey’s Digital Library), David G. Hunter states: “Augustine’s initial response to Pelagian critics of his views on marriage is found in the first book of De Nuptiis Et Concupiscentia, addressed to Count Valerius (ca. 418).” De Nuptiis Et Concupiscentia, “Marriage and Desire,” book one by St. Augustine is the work quoted above.

Around the time of the writing of this work, Augustine’s doctrine of grace was vindicated. The Catholic Church affirmed against the perfectionism of Pelagianism that human will is ineffective in doing good, including in marriage, unless first perfected by God’s gracious gift of participation in the divine life of the holy Trinity. A preeminent father of the church and one of the four great doctors of the Latin, i.e., Western, church, the sobriquet of Saint Augustine, the spiritual father of the Augustinian order, is doctor of grace.


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Last Modified: June 21, 2015