The Mother of Jesus, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is called Patroness of the Unborn. This is due especially to her apparitions near modern-day Mexico City in 1531, and the image imprinted on St. Juan Diego’s tilma verifying them, which ended human sacrifice and the worship of pagan gods. The beautiful Lady of Guadalupe claimed a culture for her Son as history reports, and nearly 9 million natives converted to Christianity within a decade, marking the greatest evangelization event in Church history.
As the Diocese of La Crosse celebrates the Year of St. Joseph (May 1, 2020–May 1, 2021), it is a good time to spotlight Mary’s virginal spouse, Joseph of Nazareth, and to consider the part he plays in obliterating the sacrifice of innocents that plagues our world today: abortion. As head of the Holy Family and Patron of the Universal Church, it is fitting to invoke St. Joseph as Patron of the Unborn.
St. Joseph was entrusted with the guardianship of God’s only begotten Son. If a jewel worth $150 million was transported from a vault to a museum for display, imagine the level of security it would be given. When the Heavenly Father sent His most precious gift to humanity, the Incarnate Word made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the protection fell to St. Joseph. He was charged with protecting Jesus, even while He was “being knit together” (Ps 139:13) in the sanctuary of Mary’s womb.
Joseph of Nazareth, who saved Jesus from the cruelty of Herod, is shown to us in this moment as a great supporter of the cause of the defense of human life, from the first moment of conception to natural death. In this place, therefore, we wish to commend human life to Divine Providence and to St. Joseph, especially the life of children not yet born, in our homeland and throughout the world.
– St. John Paul II Homily at the Shrine of St. Joseph Kalisz, Poland, June 4, 1997
Imagine St. Joseph, the solicitous husband looking for ways to ease Mary’s burden as she grew great with child, ready to sacrifice for her and the treasure she carried. Recall the Nativity scene—would not Joseph have been the first to hold the tiny Savior after His mother? Envision Joseph pacing the stable with the Christ child in his arms, allowing Mary some much-needed rest, especially in those first days and months postpartum. Jesus needed a mother and a strong protector and provider. Joseph of Nazareth was the man.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to call St. Joseph Patron of the Unborn is his vital intervention in rescuing the Savior of mankind from Herod’s wrath. When an edict was established that every male child 2 years and younger be slain, it was St. Joseph who woke from sleep as soon as the angel warned: “Rise, take the Child and His mother, flee to Egypt and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” (Mt 2:13) Humble Joseph trusted heaven more than his own judgment. He was obedient to God’s message and faithfully protected the two greatest treasures ever to walk on earth, Jesus and Mary.
Chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation describes a “Woman, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars,” (Rv. 12:1) who was “with Child.” The dragon positioned itself, ready to devour her child. While this is rightly interpreted by Scripture scholars as the New Eve delivering the Messiah, it might be broadly applied to modern-day Eves tempted by the lies of Satan to end the infant life within them. Abortion is above all else a spiritual war against life.
Abortion involves not only women, nor a mother and the child of her womb, but also the father. Although a father’s legal right to protect his unborn son or daughter is stripped away under current law, men are part of the equation and must be factored in the solution. St. Joseph models authentic fatherhood and protection of the unborn, infants and children. He shares with Our Lady and Jesus—the One foretold—the living dynamic of the family of Nazareth. Let us make a place for him at the table of the pro-life movement. Let us invoke his powerful intercession and paternal care over all children, for as Mary is mother of all the living under the New Covenant, Joseph steps into the role of father of all the children of Mary. St. Joseph, Patron of the Unborn. Pray for us.
CLARE RUFF Director of Outreach and Events for
Hosea Initiative, a pro-life nonprofit.
Published January/February 2021 Catholic Life Issue