My prayer for you as you read this book is that you will get to meet your spiritual father, St. Joseph. Or, if you’ve already met him, I pray that you will grow more deeply in love with him — a love that should rank among your devotion to the saints right after your unique love for your spiritual mother, Mary.1

You may be familiar with another book I wrote called Meet Your Mother. In that book, my goal was to introduce people to our heavenly mother, Mary, in a simple, easy-to-read way. This book is like that one in that it is a relatively simple, easy-to-read introduction to St. Joseph. However, this book will also go a bit more deeply into the theology of St. Joseph. I’ve chosen to add more theology because, quite frankly, there just aren’t a lot of resources that give answers to the important questions about St. Joseph, and answering such questions requires some research and study. What kinds of questions am I talking about? Well, for instance, it’s hard to find answers to questions about St. joseph’s “doubt,” his virginity, his age, and whether or not we can call him the “father” of Jesus in any sense. Getting such answers will help us to better understand and appreciate our spiritual father.

How do I propose to approach these questions? In other words, what’s the itinerary for this Josephite journey?

Well, we’re going to begin with the inspired revelation of St. Joseph as it is found in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. As we travel through the biblical events concerning this man who was so close to Jesus and Mary, we’ll stop to discuss the major questions and issues that arise from the biblical texts — like the ones I just mentioned. As the questions come up in our biblical journey, we’ll deal with each one of them in turn.

After the biblical treatment of St. Joseph, we’ll take a look at how the early Church understood him, the development of devotion to St. Joseph during the Middle Ages, and then proceed on to the modern period with its emphasis on papal tributes and Marian apparitions. Finally, we’ll talk about St. Joseph and you — the major forms of devotion by which you can grow closer to our great saint, leading up to the pinnacle of Josephite love: a personal consecration to our spiritual father.

Before we begin looking at St. Joseph in Sacred Scripture, I think it will first be helpful to hear some testimonies to the greatness of St. Joseph that come from various saints and popes. As you read those testimonies and journey through this book, I encourage you to keep one simple guiding principle ever in your mind and heart: Who St. Joseph was to Jesus, St. Joseph is to you. In other words, as St. Joseph was a virginal father to Jesus, the Head of the Body of Christ, so also is he a father to you, to each and every member of Christ’s Body, and to any human being who opens his or her heart to his spiritual fatherhood. Simply put, you could have the same human spiritual father that Jesus Christ had while on earth, if you allow St. Joseph into your heart as Jesus did — if you allow yourself to truly meet your spiritual father.

Chapter 1

Testimonies to St . Joseph’s Greatness

How great is St. Joseph? How powerful is his intercession? how important is it that we turn to him with our prayers? Let’s listen to some testimonies from saints, popes, and miserable me.

First, we have the testimony of the Catholic Church’s “Doctor of prayer,” St. Teresa of Avila, regarding “the glorious St. Joseph”:

“I wish I could persuade everyone to be devoted to the glorious St. joseph, for I have great experience of the blessings which he can obtain from God. I do not remember that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant. I am astonished at the great favors which God has bestowed on me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which he has delivered me, both in body and in soul. To other saints, the Lord seems to have given grace to help us in some of our necessities. But my experience is that st joseph helps us in them all; also that the Lord wishes to teach us that, as he was himself subject on earth to st. joseph, so in heaven he now does all that joseph asks. This has also been the experience of other persons whom I have advised to commend themselves to the saint. …

“I only request, for the love of God, whoever will not believe me will test the truth of what I say, for he will see by experience how great a blessing it is to recommend oneself to this glorious patriarch and to be devoted to him.”2

Now that’s one amazing testimony! I’m particularly moved by that last line, the challenge St. Teresa puts to us “to test the truth” of what she says. I affirm with this great mystic and Doctor of the Church that anyone who turns to St. Joseph will not be disappointed.

Other Doctors of the Church point to St. Joseph’s greatness. For example, St. Francis de Sales highlights his almost unsurpassed holiness: “Although it is true that Mary possessed every virtue in a higher degree than is attainable by any other pure creature, yet it is quite certain that the glorious St. Joseph was the being that approached most nearly to that perfection.”3

Also, so many popes have happily thrown in their own sublime praise of the “Just Man” of the New Testament. Blessed Pius IX declared him the “Patron of the Universal Church,”4 which is a title above and beyond that given to any other saint in history, except for Mary. Leo XIII confirms of St. Joseph that “there is no doubt he approached nearer than any other to that superabundant dignity of hers.”5 Pius XI even speaks of his “all-powerful intercession” (through his relationship to Jesus and Mary) as the true Head of the Holy Family:

“As St. Joseph was truly the head or the master of that house [Nazareth], his intercession cannot be but all-powerful. For what could Jesus and Mary refuse to St. Joseph, as he was entirely devoted to them all his life, and to whom they truly owed the means of their earthly existence?”6

The papal superlatives go on and on. (Indulge me as I mention a few more.) Saint John XXIII declared St. Joseph the Patron of the Second Vatican Council and inserted his name into the Roman Canon of the Mass.7 And more recently, St. John Paul II confirmed the unique sanctity and dignity of St. Joseph in his Apostolic Letter Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer), where he identifies him as “the Just Man,” a “perfection of charity” that leads to a harmonious blending of contemplation and action:

“In Joseph, the apparent tension between the active and the contemplative life finds an ideal harmony that is only possible for those who possess the perfection of charity.”8 Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has wasted no time in giving historic honor to St. Joseph. In one of his first acts as Holy Father, he decreed that the name of St. Joseph was to be inserted after the reference to the Virgin Mary in all four of the main Eucharistic Prayers.9 Pope Francis’s strong personal love for St. Joseph is likewise indicated by the saint’s presence on his papal coat of arms in the form of a vine.10

Farther, it’s significant that the Pope turns to St. Joseph frequently throughout his day and entrusts various intentions to him. He takes the saint’s role as Patron of the Universal Church to heart and puts him to work. How does he do it?  On May 1, 2014, the Vatican Insider reported that Pope Francis had placed a statuette of St. Joseph outside the door of his room in St. Martha’s House where he presently resides. The Holy Father routinely places special petitions that he entrusts to St. Joseph, written on small scraps of paper, under the statuette. As the Swiss guards in attendance confirmed:

“Francis has a great devotion for St. Joseph and even keeps a statuette of the saint in a marble-topped dark wooden chest of drawers just outside his room (Room 201) in St. Martha’s House. The Pope slips prayer requests he has written under the pedestal and the pieces of paper grow in number — “the Holy Father really makes the saint work.”11

Even the Mother of God offers testimony to the holiness of her husband and how it’s imperative for the human family, in our present situation, to show proper honor to this greatest male saint. For example, during the Marian apparitions at Fatima when 70,000 people witnessed the historic “solar miracle” on October 13, 1917, St. Joseph appeared with the Child Jesus and blessed the world as a sign of the importance of devotion to St. Joseph for the “Triumph of the Immaculate Heart,” promised by Our Lady of Fatima.12 Also, during the more recently reported revelations of Our Lady of America (revelations strongly supported by Cardinal Raymond Burke and worthy of our consideration as well), the Blessed Virgin refers to the holiness of St. Joseph as the fruit of his constant awareness of the indwelling Trinity. At the same apparition, St. Joseph himself speaks of his unique God-given privileges of grace and calls for a new devotion to his “Pure Heart” as well as to his “Fatherhood.”13

Lastly, and by far the least impressively, I want to offer my own humble testimony of gratitude to the magnificently powerful intercession of St. Joseph. At the greatest times and also the most trying times of my life, St. Joseph has been there as the “Mirror of Patience,” the “Terror of Demons,” and the “Glory of Home Life,” making up for my failings through his most generous and powerful intercession. From guiding my doctoral dissertation, to finding our family home, to assisting in so many times of domestic need, St. Joseph has always, always been there. For me, he is not only the holiest human after his wife but also an all-enduring, never tiring, forever-loving spiritual father and friend. For this, I could never offer him proper thanks and praise.