4 Reasons St. Joseph is Underrated

St. Joseph seems to be regularly regarded as the historical third wheel to Mary and Jesus, making guest appearances on funeral holy cards and eternally smelling of lilies.  Bo-ring.

Indeed, Joseph may be the most underrated saint (besides Magnus of Füssen, patron saint against caterpillars).  Rather than a replaceable figure God threw into the Messianic scheme last minute, Joseph, too, was in the plans all along. Not just any man can raise the Son of God (talk about giving up your alpha-male role).  Not just any man can be entrusted with finding a spouse for me, which is no mean task.

Here are four mini-meditations on this lion of a saint (though he is embarrassed, I’m sure, to hear me call him that).

The First Viaticum: Tradition tells us St. Joseph died before Jesus’ public ministry.  Many paintings depict Christ and Mary at Joseph’s deathbed.  My favorites are ones in which Christ’s cheek is pressed against that of his foster father.  It evokes an intimacy reminiscent of Holy Communion, called, at death, Viaticum. 

The Lover: “The boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.  Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.” Luke (2:44-45)

The angst with which St. Joseph and Mary sought the young, lost Christ reflects the lover in the Song of Songs.  It reveals the depth with which Joseph loved Christ, as a father but also, in his chastity and devotion, as a kind of spouse of Christ.

“On my bed at night I sought him
whom my heart loves –
I sought him but I did not find him.

I will rise then and go about the city;
in the streets and crossings I will seek
Him whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him.

The watchmen came upon me
as they made their rounds of the city:
Have you seen him whom my heart loves?”
(Song of Songs 3:1-3)

Credit goes to musician Danielle Rose, whose song lyrics in The Finding draw this connection.

The Dreamer: As Joseph, son of Jacob, interpreted dreams for Pharaoh, St. Joseph was a man of dreams.  He heeded the message to wed Mary in spite of circumstances that must have been confusing and even disappointing at first.  He fled to Egypt with a newborn, ‘having been warned in a dream’.

St. Joseph provided for his family by putting himself at the service of the Lord Jesus, and obediently heeding the will of God the Father.  He was so good at it he could do it with his eyes closed!

The Father: “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him…” (Luke 15:20).  This line refers to the loving father who awaited his prodigal son’s return.  However, I think it must have resonated in St. Josephs heart as well.  His foster son was not a sinner.  His foster son was God.  I imagine Joseph laboring alongside Jesus in the carpentry shop, watching the young hands work on a piece of wood, wondering at the message Gabriel gave Mary.  Could this child really be the son of God?  He is so small.  So docile.  

Before the Centurion muttered, ‘Surely, this man was the Son of God,’ before Peter declared, ‘God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified,’ before Paul proclaimed, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord,’ Joseph believed.  In faith, he caught sight of Christ from a long way off.

Jane Sloan


B. Jane Sloan is a writer and high school theology teacher from Atlanta, GA. In addition to blogging for Catholic Exchange, she has been published in Our Sunday Visitor, Notre Dame Magazine and the literary journal Omnibus. Jane graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2007 with a B.A. in theology and philosophy. In 2009, she graduated with an M. Ed. from Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education. In 2009 Jane made a 500-mile pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain. She spent summer 2010 as an intern planting vegetables and baking bread at the Abbey of Regina Laudis OSB in Bethlehem, CT. In 2011 she was present among the millions at the beatification of Blessed John Paul II. She is currently working toward her M.A. in Theology. Follow her on Twitter @CE_SundayBrunch. Follow her other blog on all-natural eating at www.thesavagepalate.blogspot.com

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  • I have always though Joseph to be under-rated. In his day, he broke nearly every tradition: marrying older than tradition, taking on a pregnant wife, absorbing the ridicule of other men in Nazareth, knowing HIS firstborn Son wasn’t really His at all, and understanding that his calling by the Father was to teach the Messiah the ways of the world. That is truly a man of great humility.

  • Kristengater



    Joseph, humble, silent vase
    of splendor and abundant grace
    protector, defender of our Lord
    as a strong and flaming sword

    Joseph, most just, most pure
    what no man could ever ensure
    guardian of the holy house
    stronghold of your Holy Spouse

    Joseph, treasurer of the Heavenly King
    for Whom the angels in adoration sing
    so underestimated in the world’s eyes
    with whom you never did compromise

    Joseph, without titles behind your name
    you never sought perishable fame
    you were an honest simple worker
    envied and attacked by the evil lurker

    Joseph, example of husband and father
    you never thought of yourself, but rather
    in obedience to God, with love and humility
    you shouldered the caring responsibility

    Joseph, assist us in our daily tasks
    never forsake us nor the one who asks
    to be non-judgmental and steadfast
    to obtain those virtues of yours at last.

    Rita Biesemans March 19, 2011