The word tzadik in Hebrew refers to one who is just. More than being faithful to the Mosaic Law, a tzadik is someone who truly desires to please God; he does not merely follow the commandments because he is obliged to do so, rather he lives the commandments with love. In a word, a tzadik is thoroughly holy.
St. Joseph was a tzadik. The foster-father of Our Lord and the husband of Our Lady, holds a special place in our devotional life as Catholics. He serves as a model for us as a father, the protector and provider for the Holy Family; as a worker, teaching us the value of an honest day’s work; as a spouse, inspiring in us the virtues of generosity and chastity in marriage; and also a model of piety, showing us the importance of prayer (remember how open and obedient St. Joseph was to the angel who spoke to him!).
It could be said that the late Bishop Peter Cule of Yugoslavia was also a tzadik. Bishop Cule’s great suffering over many years for the faith in a communist prison left his body and speech impaired. At the Second Vatican Council, the aged Bishop Cule struggled through a speech advocating the addition of St. Joseph’s name to the Roman Canon (more commonly known as the first Eucharistic Prayer). At this time, the words of the Roman Canon (still in Latin) had not changed in over a thousand years. But, before Bishop Cule could finish his speech a cardinal who wanted to move the agenda along rudely cut him off. Pope John XXIII knew that Bishop Cule struggled with his speech and was aghast that the elderly bishop was treated indecently. Three days later, Pope John XXIII decreed that St. Joseph’s name be added to the Roman Canon.
Recently, Pope Francis decreed that St. Joseph’s name be included in all Eucharistic Prayers used at Mass. The Eucharistic Prayer is the central prayer of the Mass where the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Only one of the four Eucharistic Prayers is used at a given Mass; though, all of them commemorate the memory of the saints. So now after the Blessed Mother’s name we will always hear: “with blessed Joseph, her spouse.” This is significant because it highlights how important St. Joseph is to the life of the Church. We know that St. Joseph contributes not only by his example, but like all the saints and angels in Heaven, he actively intercedes for us daily. So with St. Joseph’s example, prayers and intercession may each of us strive to become a tzadik!
Full disclosure: a version of this entry first appeared this weekend in the various bulletins of the Billerica parishes of St. Andrew, St. Mary, and St. Theresa of Lisieux