The HLI (Human Life International) newsletter for 8 December carried a reflection on the role of St. Joseph in his protection of the Holy Family and, by extension, all families. The following is a short extract from the piece, which is written by Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro:
‘As you no doubt recall, when the Magi told Herod the Great that a king had been born, the paranoid Herod determined to destroy the infant before he could rob him of all the riches and luxuries he’d spent a lifetime amassing for himself.‘Of course, Herod didn’t dare expose his hidden plan to the three kings standing before him. Instead, he convinced them to come back once they’d found the Child King so that he too could go and worship Him.‘But as the days turned into weeks. Herod realized the kings weren’t coming back. Flying into a rage, he ordered his soldiers to hunt down and slaughter every male child up to the age of two who was living in and around Bethlehem. No exceptions. And no mercy.‘As it was then, so it is today. Thousands of Herods are pursing innocent babies and killing them just as mercilessly as the first Herod. Like their mentor, today’s Herods speak sweet-sounding words in an effort to hide their intentions. These liberal elitists talk of “reproductive health” and “quality of life” and “ending discrimination” and the like. But their hidden agenda is to kill the babies! …‘The only differences between the Herod of old and the Herods of today are in the weapons used and the number of victims. Herod used swords and spears to kill the Holy Innocents. Today’s Herods use abortion, “The Pill” and other chemical weapons. And whereas Herod killed a relatively small number of babies, today’s Herods have butchered literally hundreds of millions … with no end in sight! …’But St. Joseph, as Monsignor Barreiro points out, by taking immediate action as directed by the angel, brought Our Lady and the Christ Child to safety in Egypt.
In Irish folklore there is a lovely account of an incident that supposedly happened during the flight into Egypt, when the Holy Family took refuge along the way in a cave. A spider, to protect them, spun its web across the entrance to the cave as Herod’s soldiers were pursuing them. As the soldiers passed the cave and saw the huge web they decided that their prey was not there as no spider, they concluded, could possibly have spun such a web in so short a time. So they passed on and continued their search. And that’s why in Irish folklore it is considered to be unlucky to kill a spider, as it was supposedly due to a spider that the Holy Family was saved.