Lent and Easter
in the Domestic Church

Saint Joseph

Peter Fournier and Catherine Fournier

Page 48 in "Lent and Easter in the Domestic Church"

Husband of Mary
Patron of the Universal Church, Patron of Belgium, Canada, China, and Peru, of workers, fathers, the poor, craftsmen, and of a happy death
Feast day: March 19
Saint Joseph's symbols: Infant Jesus, monstrance, chalice, cross, lamb, Bible, ladder, tools, dove, lily, plane, carpenter's square

The Life of the Saint

Lent and Easter in the Domestic Church

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Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster father of our Blessed Lord, was a descendant of King David. This fulfilled the Scripture prophecy that the Messiah would come from "the house of David". Of all the men in the world throughout history, a simple village carpenter named Joseph was the one chosen to help raise the Child Jesus to adulthood. To his faithful, loving care were entrusted the childhood and youth of the Redeemer of the world. The Bible tells us that he was a just man (Mt 1:19). That means he was a good man, honest, fair, and God-loving.

After an angel told Mary that she would be the Mother of God, Saint Joseph wondered what to do. An angel appeared to him in a dream and told him not to worry, that the child was the Messiah conceived by the Holy Spirit. Joseph was to be her husband and protect the Child as He grew (Mt 1:20-21). Joseph decided to trust the angel and God. He married Mary and took her into his home.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the angel appeared to Joseph a second time, warning him that the Child was in danger (Mt 2:13). Again, Joseph obeyed the angel's message and took his family to Egypt to escape from Herod's soldiers. After a time, the Holy Family, again following the instructions of an angel, returned to their home village of Nazareth (Mt 2:20-23).

Not much else is known about Saint Joseph. But we are sure that he must have been a good and honorable man to be so favored by God. After the Mother of God herself, no one has ever been so blessed with virtues as Saint Joseph. In purity of heart, in chastity of life, in humility, patience, fortitude, gentleness, and manliness of character, he shows us the perfect model of the true Christian.

The only other story in the Bible that mentions Saint Joseph is the episode in which Jesus was missing for three days (Lk 2:4151). Finally Joseph and Mary found Him in the Temple teaching the scribes and elders. Imagine how worried Joseph must have been! God had told him to look after the Child. Saint Joseph must have felt that he had not done a very good job. When they found Him, Mary and Joseph scolded Him a little and returned home to Nazareth. Jesus returned home with Mary and Joseph and after this "was subject to them". That means he was obedient and respectful of their parental authority.

As was the custom of the time, Saint Joseph was probably older than Mary, though this, like many other details of his life, is not clear. He probably died before Jesus began his ministry in his thirties.

A model for fathers, Saint Joseph is invoked as a protector of the family. A carpenter by trade, he has been declared the patron saint of all working people, of craftsmen, and of the poor. He is the model of a perfect Christian life and the patron of a happy death. His patronage also extends over the Mystical Body of Christ, over the Christian family, the Christian school, and all individuals who appeal to his charity and powerful intercession, especially at the hour of death. He is also invoked for aid in selling homes or in finding a place to live. In 1870 Pope Pius IX declared him patron of the Universal Church.

Celebrating the Feast Day

Saint Joseph is popular and venerated in many countries around the world. His feast day is celebrated with parades, processions, feasts in the town square, and enactments of the Holy Family's searching for an inn in Bethlehem. In the Latin rite's calendar, his feast day is listed as a holy day of obligation (CIC, canon 1246), although it is not observed as such in the United States or Canada. Many customs have developed from Saint Joseph's role as the protector of the family. He has been invoked in times of famine, and then in gratitude for the end of the famine, he is offered food. Saint Joseph's bread is one such food offering. After being blessed, it is taken home and kept through the year as protection against violent storms and sudden death.

Another custom (that seems to be most popular in North America) is the invocation of Saint Joseph for aid in finding or selling a house. Since Saint Joseph is seen in the Bible searching for lodgings for the Holy Family, he is understood to be especially concerned with homes for families. A statue of Saint Joseph might be displayed prominently near the front of your house, in the living room window for example. (Directions that call for burying the statue in the front or back yard, right side up or upside down, facing the house or facing the street, seem at best disrespectful.) In your daily prayers, ask Saint Joseph's help in finding a new home or a buyer for your home. Remember, in all devotions, it is the intent that displays and develops faith, not the action. The actions or words are important only in that they correctly demonstrate our faith.

Recipe: Saint Joseph's Bread



For complete directions in bread making, refer to "Making Bread" in Family Activities.

Sprinkle yeast over water to soften. When it is softened, whisk the oil into the water.

In a large bowl, make a well in the center of the flour and salt. Pour in the yeast mixture. Stir until combined, then knead the dough, first in the bowl, then on a floured counter until it is smooth and stretchy.

Cover and allow to rise until doubled. When your finger leaves an indentation, it has risen sufficiently. Knead again, briefly, then form into loaves. You may put it in bread pans or make free-form loaves or symbolic shapes.

Allow to rise again until almost doubled. Brush the loaves with the egg yolk, and sprinkle with salt or sesame seeds.

Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes, then at 375°F for about 30 minutes more. The bread is done when it is golden brown and the loaves sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a rack.

Prayer: Saint Joseph

God our Father You chose Saint Joseph as the husband of Mary, the Mother of Your Son. May he who cared for Your Son here on earth continue to care for us from Your home in heaven especially as we search for a new home. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.