St. Joseph is a well-known Saint in the Catholic Church mainly because he is the Foster Father of the Jesus, Redeemer of the world, and spouse of the co-redeemer, Mary. He never has any spoken words in Sacred Scripture, but he does have noble actions. Let us explore through Sacred Scripture, Church Tradition, and credible opinions on just how great this Saint is. A lot of these beliefs are non-dogmatic, which means you don’t have to believe them (unlike the dogmas of Our Lady) but that doesn’t mean they cannot be true. These beliefs of St. Joseph’s life are held by credible people and the Church says they are okay to believe.
Depictions of different paintings show Joseph as an old man holding the infant child of Jesus, which is certainly far from what church tradition has believed. The only reason some people would assume he was an old man was to explain why Mary was still a virgin after Jesus’ birth. This idea, however, is not at all what the Church commonly believes, though not dogmatic, it is believed he was a young man probably in his late 20’s early 30’s when the Annunciation happened.
Jason Evert, a famous Catholic speaker, says it is silly to think Joseph would be old and frail like in some art portrayals. The main reason it was silly to Jason was because Joseph had to protect the family and carry a lot of lumber and tools to be a carpenter. It just makes the most sense for Joseph to be in his prime when Christ was but a young child.
It is also not really within Church tradition that Joseph had a previous marriage, and those are Jesus’ “brothers” mentioned in scripture. St. Jerome and Scott Hahn clearly indicate that these “brothers” actually are His cousins because the Greek word used “adelphos” was the closest diction to “cousin” and means more of kinsmen than a blood brother.
Joseph most likely died before Jesus began his ministry (before the Wedding of Cana). He is the patron of a happy death because he is the first human to die in the arms of Jesus and Mary. He fulfilled the promise of guarding and protecting Jesus and Mary and providing for them until Jesus became of the appropriate age to support His mother on His own.
It is false to believe that Jesus did not look to Joseph as a father figure. Dr. Mark Miravalle said that God had to share part of His heart to Joseph to have a sense of fatherly authority toward Jesus because, out of Joseph’s humility, he would feel unworthy to command the Lord. Jesus looked to Joseph as His father in every way but biologically.
St. Teresa of Avila said that, even in Heaven, Jesus still has that sense of obedience to Joseph as a father. She states this to explain how Joseph is such a powerful intercessor under Our Lady. It might be brought up that Jesus didn’t think of Joseph as His real father and bring up the story of the finding of Jesus at the temple. Jesus says he was doing His father’s work and means His Heavenly Father in this. That does not mean he does not think of Joseph as His father as well. Not only does Mary herself say that Joseph is his father by saying, “Your father and I were looking for you,” but Joseph was such a righteous man that his will was always one with the Father’s, so Joseph’s will would be for Jesus to follow God’s will as well.
In a way, Jesus was doing the will of both of His fathers. Not only that but Jesus went home with Mary and Joseph immediately out of obedience to them.
Though it is not dogmatic like Mary’s sinlessness, it is still believed by many theologians and doctors of the church that Joseph was sinless along with Mary. He is not immaculately conceived as Mary is, but he was freed from original sin in the womb like St. John the Baptist.
The great theologian Saint Alphonsus – a doctor of the Holy Church, stated this. He even taught that Saint Joseph was confirmed in the grace, which means that he was so filled with grace that he never committed a mortal sin or a deliberate venial sin. Theologians like Francisco Suarez and Jean Gerson held this belief too.
Saint Bernard taught: “Power is given to some of the saints to help in particular necessities, but to St. Joseph power is given to help in all necessities.”
He was also believed to be ever-virgin as well which makes sense if he was also believed to be sinless and because one of his titles by the Church is “Guardian of Virgins”.
Not only Francis Suarez, St. Bernardino of Siena, Gerson, and St. Vincent Ferrer held believed Joseph was bodily assumed but St. Francis de Sales as well. Even Pope St. John XXIII says it is an acceptable belief (though, again, not dogmatic). St Francis de Sales writes in Les Vrais Entretiens Spirituels:
Surely, when Our Lord went down into Limbo, St. Joseph addressed Him in this wise: “Be pleased to remember, Lord, that when you came down from Heaven to earth I received you into my house and family, that I took you into my arms from the moment you were born. Now you are going back to Heaven, take me with you (body and soul). I received you into my family, receive me into yours; I took you in my arms; take me into yours; I looked after you and fed you and guided you during your life on earth; stretch forth your hand and lead me into life everlasting.”
There are major types (or similarities) to Joseph of Genesis in the Old Testament and of St. Joseph. Here are a few:
- Both had a father named Jacob
- Received messages from God through dreams
- Both had unexpected trips to Egypt
- Both remained virtuous in purity (Genesis’ Joseph denied sleeping with an adultress wife)
- Both had lineage of great patriarchs of Israel
There is a point in Genesis where the Pharaoh tells the people of Egypt, when the land had a great to famine, to “Go to Joseph” for the help of your needs. I feel this is an appropriate direction to take with St. Joseph for all our needs.
“I cannot call to mind that I have ever asked him at any time for anything which he has not granted; and I am filled with amazement when I consider the great favors which God hath given me through this blessed saint, the dangers from which he hath delivered me, both of body and of soul.” – St. Teresa of Avila
Also, it is written in Exodus that the people of Israel took Old Testament Joseph’s bones and buried them in the promise land which is where many theologians get the idea that Joseph’s body was taken to the promised land of Heaven.
Joseph’s Relevance Today
“I have never known anyone who was truly devoted to him and honored him by particular services who did not advance greatly in virtue, for he helps in a special way those souls who recommend themselves to him,” -St Teresa of Avila
Sister Lucia said Our Lady warned that the last battle Satan would wage war against would be on Marriage and the Family. The Family has always existed (Holy Trinity) and Marriage was where Humans began (Adam and Eve). If this is what Satan will attack then the best person to ask for our intercession, besides Our Lady, would be St. Joseph, Guardian of the Holy Family.
He is also known as the Terror of Demons for his purity and humility which demons are powerless against and greatly fear. If there are any family troubles, marital issues in your family, or your child has turned away from the faith, as the Pharaoh said in Genesis, “Go to Joseph.”
The best way is to consecrate yourself to him and give him full reign to intercede for your life. If you have already been consecrated to Mary, consecration to Joseph complements the Marian Consecration because of the close relationship between Mary and Joseph.They loved each other like no other husband and wife (under Jesus and His bride, The Church).
It can be a 9-day preparation for his feast day on May 1st, the first Wednesday of the month, Feast of the Holy Family, or any feast day with Josephite Significance. You can pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary daily along with doing these daily prayers.
Saint Joseph, father of Christ, is also your father and your lord. Ask him to help you. -St. Josemaria Escriva
NOTE: Jesus is our Lord and Joseph is our lord.
For more info and a deeper understanding of this great Saint, I recommend reading Meet Your Spiritual Father by Dr. Mark Miravalle.
St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, Pray for us!