A Closer Look at St. Joseph

I often think about St. Joseph — what he looked like, how his voice sounded. Was he a large, powerfully built man? Was he outgoing or more reserved? How did people feel when they were with him?

This much I believe is true: Joseph must have possessed a soul so beautiful that God chose him to be the foster father of Jesus and husband of Mary. Think about that for a moment. God, Creator of all things, looked at Joseph among all men and regarded him so highly, that God trusted him to be the provider and protector of the Holy Family.

What did God see when he looked at Joseph? I picture him to look like the statues and paintings we have in our churches, but I think that God saw past his physical appearance, to a man of prayer and humility who believed he could serve God best with his skills as a carpenter. I would imagine that God saw beyond the ordinary to a man with an extraordinary capacity for trust and faith. A man so skilled at listening, he heard the messages of angels and acted on them.

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When told by an angel to take Mary and Jesus and leave Bethlehem immediately because of the danger, “Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt” (Matthew 2:14). His obedience and total faith in God are remarkable, leaving whatever comfort and security the family had to travel to a distant and strange land.

Imagine Joseph speaking this urgent news to Mary. I think that in this latest upheaval of their lives, Mary remembered that Joseph was the man God had chosen to care for and protect her and Jesus. She must have felt safe and trusted that somehow they would be alright. Imagine them leaving most of their belongings behind, packing what they could in haste and setting out along unknown roads toward an unknown future. By Joseph’s obedience, we have a sense of how deeply he trusted the care and providence of God.

Though he knew that Jesus was the son of God, Joseph assumed the role of father, raising Jesus as his son in his culture and faith and passing on his trade as a carpenter. When he worked with the wooden timbers and boards, did Joseph know of the unimaginable death Jesus would suffer on the same wood that provided their livelihood?

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Whenever our lives are disrupted or in turmoil we can turn to Joseph.  He understands the pain, suffering, and dangers that we face because he experienced them in his own life. As St. Teresa of Avila has said, “Would that I could persuade all men to be devoted to this glorious St. Joseph, for I know by long experience what blessings he can obtain for us from God.”

I daily turn with confidence to St. Joseph for his guidance and protection. The Litany of St. Joseph is a prayer that lists the many titles given to this powerful saint, like “Watchful defender of Christ,” “Joseph most valiant,”  “Model of workman,”  “Pillar of families,” and “Protector of Holy Church.” I read the list and imagine how St. Joseph fulfilled each of these roles. One of my favorites is “Terror of Demons,” which St. Joseph must have been to protect the holy family during all of its travails. Whatever your need or intention may be, take it to St. Joseph and ask for his help. St. Joseph, Head of the Holy Family, Terror of Demons, pray for us.

You can find more prayers and information about St. Joseph in books like “Favorite Prayers to St. Joseph.” It contains a collection of prayers, including the Litany of St. Joseph, as well as brief commentaries by various saints who had a devotion to St. Joseph.

Originally published March 14, 2017.