Most people recognize St. Joseph for his role in the Christmas story, as the husband of the Virgin Mary as well as the foster father of Jesus. Some people also associate him with his carpentry skills, and may picture him holding wood-working tools. The Bible does not mention much about St. Joseph, but in knowing that God chose him to be such an important figure in the lives of both Mary and Jesus, we can only imagine what an extraordinary and holy man he must have been.
St. Joseph’s lineage is noted in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, stating that he descended from King David, known as the greatest king of Israel. He was betrothed to the Virgin Mary but had not yet begun living with her when he discovered that she was with child. Unsure of what to do when faced with this information, St. Joseph wanted to quietly divorce her so as not to expose her to shame. However, he was visited by an angel in a dream who told him not to be afraid to take Mary into his home, for the child within her womb was the Son of God. Because St. Joseph was a man of great faith, he believed what was told to him in the dream, and took Mary into his home as his wife.
When it came time for Joseph and Mary to register for the census, they had to travel to Bethlehem, where Joseph’s family was from. It was during this journey that Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus. St. Joseph received another message from an angel in a dream after Jesus was born, telling him to take his family and flee to Egypt in order to escape the persecution which was about to happen. By listening to this message and trusting in God, Jesus’ life was spared, for King Herod had issued a decree that all baby boys were to be slain in an attempt to do away with the newborn king he had heard about, who he knew would be competition to him. When it was safe to return home, St. Joseph brought his family back to Nazareth, where he and Mary raised Jesus.
Little is known about the life of St. Joseph during Jesus’ childhood. He is mentioned in the story recounted in the Gospel of Luke in which Jesus was thought to be lost. Joseph and Mary searched for three days for Jesus, and found him in the Temple with the elders. The worry expressed by Joseph shows that he had great love for Jesus. Also, at times in the Gospels, people from the community where the Holy Family lived would ask “Is this not the son of Joseph?” This question shows us that St. Joseph treated Jesus as his son while raising him, teaching him and loving him as a father would. The dedication to his family and willingness to listen to the will of God that St. Joseph demonstrated by his life have made him a model for all fathers.
St. Joseph does not appear during Jesus’ public ministry, nor is he mentioned during the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion and death. Due to this, it is believed that St. Joseph died prior to these events. As a result, he is the patron of the dying, since it is assumed that St. Joseph died a happy death, surrounded by Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
The Patronage of St. Joseph
St. Joseph is the patron saint of carpenters, the dying, fathers, house hunters, married people, single people, travellers, the universal church, and workers.
St. Joseph in Art
St. Joseph is depicted in art as both a young man and an older man. His age at the time of his marriage to the Virgin Mary is unknown, so some tradition suggests that he was a young man, around Mary’s age, while others suggest he was older than her (which is why he died before Jesus’ public ministry). He is often shown with Jesus, either as a baby or a young boy. Many images show St. Joseph carrying carpentry tools as a symbol of his trade, as well as lilies, which signify his purity.
Medals of St. Joseph
Religious Medals of St. Joseph typically feature him with the Child Jesus. Often he is shown with a lily the symbol of his purity. St. Joseph medals ar worn as a sacramental, a reminder of his fidelity to the plan of God and a source of encouragement and hope for fathers and other people.
St. Joseph Prayers
Ancient Prayer to St. Joseph (written circa 1st century)
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 from your Divine Son
all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord;
so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power
I may offer my Thanksgiving and Homage
to the most Loving of Fathers.
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 us.
Prayer to St. Joseph for the Unemployed
O Saint Joseph, we pray to you for those who are out of work, for those who want to earn their living or support their families.
You who are the patron of workers; grant that unemployment may vanish from our ranks; that all those who are ready to work may put their strength and abilities in serving their fellowmen and earn a just salary.
You are the patron of families; do not let those who have children to support and raise lack the necessary means. Have pity on our brothers and sisters held down in unemployment and poverty because of sickness or social disorders. Help our political leaders and captains of industry find new and just solutions. May each and every one have the joy of contributing, according to his abilities, to the common prosperity by an honorable livelihood. Grant that we may all share together in the abundant goods God has given us and that we may help underprivileged countries. Amen.
Prayer for Holy Purity
Guardian of virgins, and holy father Joseph, to whose faithful custody Christ Jesus, innocence itself, and Mary, virgin of virgins, were committed; I pray and beseech thee, by these dear pledges, Jesus and Mary, that, being preserved from all uncleanness, I may with spotless mind, pure heart, and chaste body, ever serve Jesus and Mary most chastely all the days of my life. Amen
Prayer to St. Joseph for a Safe Journey
O blessed St. Joseph, who didst accompany Jesus and Mary in all their journeys, and who hast therefore merited to be called the patron of all travelers, accompany us in this journey that we are about to undertake. Be our guide and our protector; watch over us; preserve us from all accidents and dangers to soul and body; support us in our fatigue, and aid us to sanctify it by offering it to God. Make us ever mindful that we are strangers, sojourners here below; that heaven is our true home; and help us to persevere on the straight road that leads thereunto. We beseech thee especially to protect and aid us in the last great voyage from time to eternity, so that, under thy guidance, we may reach the realm of happiness and glory, there to repose eternally with thee in the company of Jesus and Mary. Amen