March 19 – Chrysanthus and Daria; Joseph the Husband of Mary

Chrysanthus and Daria (d. 283/284) were a nobleman’s son and daughter-in-law, respectively. Having read the Gospels (and Acts—he read quickly), Chrysanthus sought out the priest Carpophorus, and was catechized and baptized. This angered his father, who tried to get his son to deconvert, going so far as locking him in a room with “shameless girls.” (I’ve seen ads for a video with that title but I’ve never watched it.) Chrysanthus however “gained the victory over himself” and remained a virgin. Seeing this didn’t work, his father forced him into a marriage with Daria, a virgin priestess of Diana, who as such was religiously dedicated to maintaining her virginity. (One begins to think dad wasn’t the fastest chariot in the hippodrome.) Sure enough the kids talked it over and agreed to live as brother and sister, and Daria even decided to become a Christian. Chrysanthus: 2. Dad: 0.

In due time they were nabbed by the authorities and tortured. Their torturer, Claudius, was so impressed by their fortitude that he became a Christian himself, and he and his entire family were done in in various ways. Eventually C & D were thrown into a deep pit, which was then filled with stones. Later a church was built on the site (the drainage was good), and when pagans discovered Christians praying in a cave nearby (the church was closed for renovations, perhaps), they covered the entrance, with the results you would expect. Chrysanthus and Daria are commemorated in the west on 25 October.

Joseph, the Husband of Mary (d. before 30), as we know from St. Luke’s gospel (chapter 2), went to Bethlehem for the tax thing because he was “of the house and lineage of David” (and not for the food as has been sometimes reported) (which is not to say they don’t have some mighty good food there). He was both just and compassionate—when he learned Mary was pregnant, he decided to quietly divorce her, rather than make a spectacle that would surely have led to her execution. He was a carpenter—when our Lord visited Nazareth, the people said of him, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” (or “carpenterovich”).

He had great faith—he believed the angel about Jesus’ divine parentage, and when the same angel told him to head out for Egypt, he grabbed Mary and Jesus and hit the camel path. Tradition tells us that James, the brother of Jesus, went on this trip, and he is often depicted leading the donkey carrying Mary and Jesus. “Say what?” I hear you cry. “I thought Jesus was her firstborn son.” You are so right. The church teaches that the siblings of our Lord in the Gospels are Joseph’s children from his first marriage. (Time travel can’t be entirely ruled out, but in this case I’m going to go out on a limb and say nay. Plus the church also teaches Mary’s perpetual virginity.)

According to ancient sources (and the “Cherry Tree Carol,” which may not be an independent witness), Joseph was old when he married the blessed Virgin. The story goes like this: The priest Zachariah was told to choose a husband for Mary from among the widowers of the city, so he gathered all their staffs (staves?) and took them into the temple. When Joseph’s staff budded with flowers (or a dove flew out of it; pick your source), he was chosen. Some say this was to fool the Devil, who knew the Messiah would be born of a virgin. At the time of this writing, however, the Devil did not answer our request for an interview.

After the incident in which Jesus argued with the Rabbis while his parents frantically searched the overhead bins, Joseph drops out of the narrative entirely, and is thus believed to have died not long after. He is the patron saint of the Church Universal, as well as carpenters, fathers, and social justice.