Saint Joseph, the second greatest saint

By Soul Staff

(Compiled with writings from “Doorway to Heaven” by Catherine Moran, Ph.D.)   

“Joseph was the living image of his Virgin Spouse; they resembled each other like two pearls.”  St. Bernadine

“Father and Son” by Corbert Gauthier

St. Joseph in Sacred Scriptures is mentioned only by St. Luke and St. Matthew and then just briefly. He is a silent figure, never quoted, and yet he was the guardian, provider and protector of Jesus and Mary, the head of the Holy Family. Very little is known of him, but people all over the world turn to him every day for comfort, protection and help with all the details of their lives, including selling their homes, financial duress, jobs, sickness and death. 

St. Joseph is the patron of a happy death, the patron of workers, the patron of the universal Church and a model for chastity and purity, especially for young men. Husbands and fathers seek his help because he is the perfect example of a head of family.

The writings of the Church Fathers tell us a little about St. Joseph, and from there, his role and importance in the Church has expanded, largely through devotion of the faithful.

In the first century, St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote to the Christians in Ephesus, “The virginity of Mary, her giving birth, and also the death of the Lord, were hidden from the prince of this world (Satan) – three mysteries loudly proclaimed, but wrought in the silence of God.” [18, 2] He also states, “…Jesus Christ, who was of the family of David according to the flesh (Joseph’s lineage), the Son of Man and the Son of God…” [20, 2]

St. Jerome later commented on this text, “Why was Jesus not simply conceived of a virgin, but of a married woman?  In the first place so that Mary’s genealogy might be established by Joseph’s; next, so that she might not be stoned by the Jews as an adulteress; finally, so that, as a fugitive in Egypt, she might find support in the person of Joseph.”  The holy Martyr Ignatius adds a fourth reason: that this childbirth be kept hidden from the devil.

In his Dialogue with Trypho, St. Justin emphasized that while Jesus was regarded as Joseph’s son, in reality He is the Son of God, to counter the Gnostics who preached the heresy that Jesus was the natural son of St. Joseph. 

It is a pious belief that St. Joseph was sanctified before his birth. This is not a new concept because we read of the sanctification of St. John the Baptist before his birth in the Gospel of Luke. This was also preached at the Council of Constance.

St. Joseph’s great esteem in heaven

St. Joseph’s glory in heaven is great!  One day Our Lord appeared to St. Margaret of Cortona, telling her how pleased He was with her devotion to St. Joseph, His foster father who was most dear to Him.  Our Lord expressed a wish that she show some daily special act of homage to St. Joseph.

St. Gertrude the Great, rapt in ecstasy, beheld heaven open and there she saw St. Joseph seated on his throne.  Every time his name was pronounced, the saints reverently bent their heads in deep respect. Mary many times referred to St. Joseph as her dear spouse when talking about him to St. Gertrude. She also referred to him as her dear spouse when speaking about him to St.  Bridget of Sweden.

Devotion to St. Joseph dates back to the early Church in the hearts of the faithful. In the East he was honored and cherished from Apostolic times. The Coptic Church in Egypt kept a feast for him even before the time of St. Athanasius, who lived in the fourth century. St. Joseph was honored in Syria and Persia. The Syrian calendar marked the seventh Sunday before Christmas as the feast of the Revelation to Joseph, Spouse of Blessed Virgin Mary. The ancient hymns of the Greek Church pay honor to St. Joseph. 

In the Latin Church, early churches were built as shrines to honor and house the relics of the martyrs. Other than the garments of St. Joseph, there are no other relics of his. A relic of a piece of the mantle of St. Joseph, the very mantle that probably enveloped the Infant Jesus when held in Joseph’s arms is kept in the tabernacle of the ancient Church of St. Anastasia, built around the year 300. The tabernacle also holds a relic of the true Cross and a relic of the veil of the Blessed Virgin.

An “Ancient Prayer to Saint Joseph”

One of the favorite prayers to St. Joseph dates back more than nine centuries. According to tradition, the prayer “was found in the 50th year of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In 1505, it was sent from the pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle. Whoever shall read this prayer or hear it or keep it about themselves shall never die a sudden death or be drowned, nor shall poison take effect on them—neither shall they fall into the hands of the enemy or be burned in any fire or be overpowered in battle. Say for nine mornings for anything you desire. It has never been known to fail, provided that the request is for one’s spiritual benefit or for those whom we are praying for.”

O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me all spiritual blessings through your divine Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus, so that, having engaged here below you heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage.

O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath.  St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for me.

After the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph is the most beloved and efficacious saint in heaven. He is honored throughout the whole month of March and his feast day is March 19.

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