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Magisterial Documents: Redemptoris Custos

Magisterial Documents: Redemptoris Custos

Apostolic Exhortation on the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church Pope John Paul II
15 August 1989

The full document is available on the internet.

Brief History

After the Marian Year with its many Marian documents Pope John Paul II presented a document on Saint Joseph. Jesus Christ was born into a family. Mary was given the companionship of Joseph to provide that unit recognized as the most fundamental cell of society, the family. Redemptoris Custos defines the relationships among Jesus, Mary and Joseph. For instance, the document states, "And while it is important for the Church to profess the virginal conception of Jesus, it is no less important to uphold Mary's marriage to Joseph, because juridically Joseph's fatherhood depends on it." (7) Joseph has accepted the legal responsibilities of fatherhood. He does everything that is required of that responsibility. This is what constituted the family, and in the case of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the holy family.

A quote inserted from Pope Leo XIII helps to define Joseph's role:

It is certain that the dignity of the Mother of God is so exalted that nothing could be more sublime; yet because Mary was united to Joseph by the bond of marriage, there can be no doubt but that Joseph approached as no other person ever could that eminent dignity whereby the Mother of God towers above all creatures. Since marriage is the highest degree of association and friendship, involving by its very nature a communion of goods, it follows that God, by giving Joseph to the Virgin, did not give him to her only as a companion for life, a witness of her virginity and protector of her honor: he also gave Joseph to Mary in order that he might share, through the marriage pact, in her own sublime greatness. (20)

The greatness of Mary and Joseph consists in their holiness, in the pure gift of grace they experience by dwelling with the Lord Jesus Christ. But the gift does not immune them from the daily struggles that pertain to every family. Although the Gospel relates snippets of the struggles in the Infancy Narratives, the greater part of the daily routine of marriage and family life remains hidden. As the document states, "All of the so-called "private" or "hidden" life of Jesus is entrusted to Joseph's guardianship."(8) In view of this unique entrustment of God to Joseph, Pope John Paul II again entrusts the universal Church to Joseph's protection.


28- 32
Introduction 1
I. The Gospel Portrait 2-3

II. The Guardian of the Mystery of God 4-6

The Service of Fatherhood 7-8
The Census 9
The Birth at Bethlehem 10
The Circumcision 11
Conferral of the Name 12
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple 13
The Flight into Egypt 14
Jesus' Stay in the Temple 15
The Support and Education of Jesus of Nazareth 16

III. A Just Man – A Husband 17- 21

IV. Work as an Expression of Love 22-24

V. The Primacy of the Interior Life 25-27

VI. Patron of the Church in Our Day


Origins 44 (October 30, 1989): 1-6
St Paul Editions, 1975

© This material has been compiled by M. Jean Frisk.
Copyright is reserved for The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute.
Most recently updated in 2005.

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