Do you love St. Joseph?
I can tell you with absolute certainty that Jesus and Mary do.
Jesus loves him because St. Joseph faithfully served as his virginal father on earth. As his earthly, adoptive father, St. Joseph modeled all the virtues for his divine Son, teaching the Incarnate God how to be a man and make sacrifices. Jesus looked up to St. Joseph (see Lk 2:51-52). In fact, it was St. Joseph who saved Jesus by taking him to Egypt when Herod wanted to murder the newborn King. It is for this reason that St. Joseph is the only human person who has been given the title of “savior of the Savior.” Saint Joseph truly is the man closest to Christ. Even in eternity, Jesus perpetually shines his divine face on St. Joseph and responds to his every request and desire.
The Virgin Mary loves St. Joseph because he was her faithful, chaste, and virtuous husband. Saint Joseph treated his bride’s heart, soul, and body as a sacred shrine, set aside for the Lord and his purposes. Mary’s feminine heart always felt safe and secure in the strength, holiness, and calmness of her beloved St. Joseph. Along with his virginal bride, the first to bring the Messiah to the nations, St. Joseph is the second greatest human person in history because he, too, shared in the role of bringing Jesus to souls.
Many have often wondered, “If St. Joseph is so great, why are there no words from him recorded in the New Testament?” Perhaps the answer is found in the Old Testament wisdom literature, where we read the following: “He who has understanding spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit” (Prov 17:27). In a certain sense, the greatest statement that the inspired word of God could make about St. Joseph is the fact that God’s Son himself desired to call St. Joseph his father. What more could be said? Everything else that could be stated about the virginal father of Jesus would appear as a mere footnote in comparison.
Yet, while the New Testament doesn’t recount any of St. Joseph’s words, saints and popes throughout history have been inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak for him, and to praise the greatness of St. Joseph. In the early centuries of the Church, scholarly men such as St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, and St. John Damascene delighted in preaching about the greatness of the virginal father of Jesus. During the medieval and early modern period, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Bernardine of Siena extolled the virtues of St. Joseph and implored all Christians to turn to him in filial supplication. In more modern times, Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, St. Joseph Marello, St. Peter Julian Eymard, St. Luigi Guanella, St. Josemaria Escriva, and St. Andre Bessette have all given tremendous testimony to the importance of having a devotion to St. Joseph.
Nonetheless, I believe that within the last century and a half, Heaven has clearly called us to increase our knowledge of and devotion to St. Joseph. One only has to consider the many significant events connected with St. Joseph that have taken place in the last 150 years to recognize this movement of the Holy Spirit:
- 1868 – Blessed Jean-Joseph Lataste, OP, writes a letter to Blessed Pope Pius IX asking him to declare St. Joseph the “Universal Patron of the Church.”
- 1870 – Blessed Pope Pius IX declares St. Joseph the “Universal Patron of the Church.”
- 1871 – Founding of the Josephites by Cardinal Herbert A. Vaughan
- 1878 – Founding of the Oblates of St. Joseph by St. Joseph Marello
- 1879 – Apparitions at Knock, Ireland. Saint Joseph appears with the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John the Apostle, and Jesus (appearing as the Lamb of God).
- 1889 – Pope Leo XIII writes Quamquam Pluries, an encyclical letter on St. Joseph.
- 1904 – Saint Andre Bessette constructs an oratory dedicated to St. Joseph in Montreal, Canada. It expands, is declared a minor basilica and finally is completed in 1967. Today, it is known as St. Joseph’s Oratory and is considered by many to be the preeminent international center of devotion to St. Joseph.
- 1908 – Saint Luigi Guanella begins constructing a church dedicated to St. Joseph in Rome. It is completed and consecrated as a basilica in 1912.
- 1914 – Saint Luigi Guanella founds the Pious Union of St. Joseph for the Salvation of the Dying.
- 1917 – Apparitions at Fatima, Portugal. During the last apparition on October 13, St. Joseph appears holding the Child Jesus and blessing the world.
- 1921 – Pope Benedict XV inserts the phrase “Blessed be St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse” into the Divine Praises.
- 1947 – Spanish Discalced Carmelites found Estudios Josefinos, the first theological journal devoted to St. Joseph.
- 1950s – The alleged apparitions of Our Lady of America given to Sr. Mary Ephrem greatly emphasize a renewed devotion to St. Joseph, and St. Joseph himself speaks to the visionary about this devotion.
- 1955 – Venerable Pope Pius XII establishes the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, to be celebrated on May 1.
- 1962 – Saint Pope John XXIII inserts St. Joseph’s name into the Canon of the Mass (Eucharistic Prayer I).
- 1989 – Saint Pope John Paul II writes Redemptoris Custos, an encyclical letter on St. Joseph.
- 2013 – Pope Francis, echoing and fulfilling the intentions of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, inserts the name of St. Joseph into all Eucharistic Prayers. He also consecrates Vatican City State to St. Joseph.
The Holy Spirit is definitely seeking to bring St. Joseph to our attention. In the past, saints have often lamented that St. Joseph is the “forgotten person of the earthly trinity,” referring to the tradition of understanding the Holy Family as an icon of the Trinity in Heaven. Saint Joseph is the earthly icon of God the Father; Jesus is the true Son of God; and the Blessed Virgin Mary is the icon of the Holy Spirit. It is true that St. Joseph is well known as the patron of a happy death, since he died in the arms of Jesus and Mary, but he is much more than that. He is our spiritual father! As such, he desires to lead us to Jesus, Mary, the Church, and growth in virtue.
During a time of great famine in the Old Testament, Pharaoh instructed the Egyptians to do the following to save themselves from starving: “Ite ad Ioseph et quidquid vobis dixerit facite,” that is, “Go to Joseph and do all that he shall say to you” (Gen 41:55). The patriarch Joseph was in charge of all the granaries in Egypt, which was known at that time as the bread basket of the world. In the New Testament, we have the new patriarch Joseph (“patriarch” means “father); he was the one chosen to bring the true bread of Heaven out of Egypt and feed the entire world. Through the New Testament bread basket of the world, that is, the Catholic Church, the Holy Spirit is speaking to people today and telling them, “Ite ad Ioseph! Go to Joseph!”
The desire to lead people closer to St. Joseph is the reason I have published a new book titled St. Joseph Gems: Daily Wisdom on our Spiritual Father. Like the other books I have put together (Marian Gems: Daily Wisdom on Our Lady and Rosary Gems: Daily Wisdom on the Holy Rosary), this book offers a way of knowing more about St. Joseph by offering a daily quote about him from a saint, blessed, or pope. By coming to know more about St. Joseph, we can come to love him more and learn to turn to him more frequently in our spiritual lives.
We need St. Joseph today. I pray you come to know and love St. Joseph, your spiritual father, more and more.
Ite ad Ioseph!