Saint Joseph, Head of the Holy Family

When I joined the Catholic Church in 2007, I discovered I shared a special day with one of the Church’s greatest saints. March 19th is my birthday and also the Feast Day of Saint Joseph, Jesus’ foster father here on earth. I’ve felt a special connection with St. Joseph ever since. This year, thanks to a friend who lent me Father Donald Calloway’s book, I completed a consecration to St. Joseph. Today, to honour this great man, I’d like to share more about his life and why I admire him so much.

St. Joseph, Head of the Holy Family, pray for us.

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Saint Joseph in the Bible

When I first began reflecting on Saint Joseph’s life, one thing that struck me is that he says nothing. Oh, I’m sure he actually did talk to Jesus and Mary and those around him, but none of his words are recorded in Scripture. Instead, St. Joseph is a man whose actions speak louder than words:

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the Angel of the Lord commanded him…

Three times, an angel of God appeared to St. Joseph in a dream and told him what to do. Take Mary as your wife. Flee to Egypt. Return to Israel. Each time, St. Joseph got up from bed and did what God commanded. He could have ignored the dreams or even just procrastinated on doing what he was told. Instead, he believed what God had revealed to him and he acted on it instantly.

I’ve often wished God would just come to me in a dream and tell me what to do next. As Father Donald Calloway says, Saint Joseph listened to God even in his sleep. Too often, I fail to listen to God even when I’m awake. Although God doesn’t appear to me in my dreams, I can cultivate a spirit of obedience, a spirit that is willing to listen to God and follow His instructions as best as I can.

Let us allow ourselves to be filled with St. Joseph’s silence! In a world that is often too noisy, that encourages neither recollection nor listening to God’s voice, we are in such deep need of it. ~ Pope Benedict XVI

Jesus Chose a Family

As I’ve prepared for my consecration to St. Joseph over the last few months, it’s been inspiring to reflect on the fact that Jesus chose to be part of a family here on earth. In this age, when the family is under attack in so many ways, the little Holy Family living in Nazareth can be our model. Jesus grew up with a mom and a dad. He spent thirty years with them and only three years in public ministry. What might those hidden thirty years with Mary and St. Joseph have been like?

When the Holy Family is celebrated in society, we will again know the sanctity of motherhood, the heroism of fatherhood, and the blessing of children. ~ Father Donald Calloway

Saint Joseph was a layman, a normal guy, a carpenter. Mary was a house wife. Yet these two, in their ordinary vocations of marriage and parenthood, have changed the entire course of the world. Without them and their extraordinary obedience to God, we’d all be lost. We wouldn’t have the New Testament, the amazing culmination of God’s salvation plan, the hope for eternal life. Within the narrow sphere of the family, God wrote the most important chapters of history.

Icon of St. Joseph commissioned by Fr. Donald Calloway for his book, Consecration to St. Joseph

Several of St. Joseph’s titles relate to his role in the family. He is known as the Spouse of the Mother of God, Foster-Father of the Son of God, Head of the Holy Family, Glory of Domestic Life, and Pillar of Families. One of my favourites is “Glory of Domestic Life.” I mean, domestic life is pretty humdrum. I’ve often bewailed the fact that I wash the floor and five minutes later the kids have tracked footprints across it. Or as soon as I’ve done a load of laundry or a load of dishes, there’s another load waiting to be washed. That’s the life of a mom—or a dad. And St. Joseph is our model. So next time I’m grumbling about doing the same chores over and over again, I’ll try to ask the Glory of Domestic Life to pray for me.

The Saints Loved St. Joseph

As I’ve researched many saints over the last few years for my kids saint books, a few things have struck me about their lives. While the saints each have their own way of serving God and their own struggles and personalities, they have a few things in common. All of the saints I’ve researched have gone to Mass and received communion as frequently as they could. They’ve gone to frequent confession and spent time every day in prayer. And they’ve all had a deep devotion to Mary.

As I read through Consecration to St. Joseph, I loved all the saint quotes about Saint Joseph that Father Donald Calloway shared. Many of them were by saints I recognized. For example, St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote a consecration to St. Joseph. St. Theresa of Avila attributed a healing in her life to St. Joseph. St. Bridget of Sweden was a mystic who received insight into St. Joseph’s life. St. Andre Bessette told those who came to him seeking a miracle to go to St. Joseph, and he built an oratory in honour of St. Joseph. St. Francis de Sales, St. Albert the Great, St. Bonaventure, St. Gertrude the Great, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Pope St. John Paul II and many other popes and saints have shared their reflections on St. Joseph.

I prayed to St. Joseph to watch over me. From my childhood, my devotion to him was mingled with my love for the Blessed Virgin. Every day I received teh prayer, “Oh Saint Joseph, father and protector of virgins.” It seemed to me that I was well protected and completely sheltered from every danger. ~ St. Therese of Lisieux

As I’ve grown in my faith, and explored the teachings of the Catholic Church more deeply since my conversion, I’ve found the lives of the saints helpful. It’s like I’m standing on their shoulders or they are lifting me up to Jesus. If they trust in St. Joseph, if they have seen great miracles from his intercession in their lives, if they have benefited spiritually from trusting him, then why wouldn’t I?

Go to Joseph with extreme confidence, because I do not remember having asked anything from St. Joseph, without having obtained it readily. ~ St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Live Like St. Joseph

So how can we live like St. Joseph in our modern-day lives?

First, go to God in prayer. St. Joseph didn’t have an easy life. He faced some big decisions and had the very important job of keeping the Son of God safe. (No pressure there!) Yes, God did appear to St. Joseph in dreams to guide him, but the Bible also tells us that St. Joseph thought and prayed about what to do before God gave him the answers.

St. Joseph’s response to Mary’s pregnancy is a model for us. Our spiritual father teaches us how to be just and reverent in the face of all sorts of events. He teaches us to give God his due even if it requires us to be willing to sacrifice everything we love. Our spiritual father teachers us that we should not act hastily or harshly when we encounter perplexing situations. We are to take everything to prayer, and wait on the Lord for guidance and light. If we are loving, faithful, reverent and just, God will reveal everything to us and make us abundantly fruitful. ~ Father Donald Calloway

Second, St. Joseph was a good citizen. He and Mary went to Bethlehem to fulfill their civic duty when the emperor ordered a census to be taken. Similarly, we should also fulfill our civic duties. We should participate in local politics, elections, and census-taking. We should write to our government representatives about matters that concern us, especially matters that affect our families.

Third, St. Joseph followed the news. Yes, an angel appeared to him in Egypt and told him that it was safe to go back to Israel, but he also knew that King Herod’s son was ruling in his place. As he debated what to do, whether it was safe to take his family back to Bethlehem because of this, the angel appeared to him a fourth time, and St. Joseph took his little family to Nazareth. As parents, we should also be aware of the news and how it affects our families.

Fourth, love Mary and Jesus. Try to imagine the depth of Saint Joseph’s love for his wife and his Son. What mom or dad isn’t happy to have someone love their children just as much as they do? We’ll never love Mary as much as St. Joseph did, but we can try. And we can adore Jesus as often as we can, in adoration and in the Mass.

Year of St. Joseph

On December 8, 2020, Pope Francis declared a “Year of St. Joseph.” This declaration was made on the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph being recognized as the Patron of the Universal Church. He is not the foster father of Jesus and the spiritual father of each one of us, he is also the father of the whole Church. This year is the perfect time to reflect on St. Joseph’s life with Jesus in Nazareth, seek to imitate his life, and to ask for his intercession in our own lives.

In a new Apostolic Letter entitled Patris corde(“With a Father’s Heart”), Pope Francis describes Saint Joseph as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows. ~ Vatican News

St. Joseph is also the Patron Saint of Canada and of children, expectant mothers, families, fathers, house hunters, married couples, carpenters and cabinetmakers, educators, immigrants, and against doubt and hesitation, and more. Whatever your need, you can ask St. Joseph!

Some saints are privileged to extend to us their patronage with particular efficacy in certain needs, but not in others; but our holy patron St. Joseph has the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, in every undertaking. ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

For more about St. Joseph…

Love St. Joseph a lot. Love him with all your soul, because he, together with Jesus, is the person who has most loved our Blessed Lady and been closest to God. He is the person who has most loved God, after our Mother. He deserves your affection, and it will do you good to get to know him, because he is the Master of the interior life, and has great power before the Lord and before the Mother of God. ~ St. Josemaria Escriva

Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual FatherI highly recommend Consecration to St. Joseph: the Wonders of Our Spiritual Father by Father Donald Calloway. Half of the book is the preparation for consecration and the other half of the book is on the Wonders of Our Spiritual Father. If you aren’t ready to do a consecration, you can read the second half as a devotional or meditation. If you chose to do the consecration, you’ll read the meditation for each day and then one of the Wonders.

The Silent Knight: A History of St. Joseph as Depicted in Art by Elizabeth LevThe Silent Knight: A History of St. Joseph as Depicted in Art presents a neat history of devotion to St. Joseph through artwork, from early Christian times until today. This book is more historical overview than art appreciation, but I really enjoyed seeing how the theology of St. Joseph developed throughout church history.

Read Pope Francis’ apostolic letter Patris Corde, about St. Joseph.

Father Louis Lallemant, a Jesuit priest who served in North American in the early 1600s with the North American martyrs, wrote a powerful novena to St. Joseph.

Find a statue or image of Saint Joseph that draws you. Find a simple prayer to St. Joseph (such as this one) and ask him for help in your life.

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.

Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage,
and defend us from every evil.  Amen.

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