March 19 is the feast of Saint Joseph. Many Catholics ask for his prayers as the patron of fathers and workers, but did you know that the foster father of Christ is known by another, way more metal title? One you can invoke in times of intense spiritual trouble?
Why is this saint, who is so silent in scripture, invoked against our most powerful enemy? He’s almost eclipsed by his wife and Son, and is most often talked about in the context of silly Catholic jokes (if anything went wrong in the Of Nazareth household, it was all Joseph’s fault!) so why would he be called the Terror of Demons? The answer lies in his holy life and attributes.
Saint Joseph is the model of humility
If pride is the root of all sin, then humility is the root of all virtues. Quiet Joseph was absolutely humble. He didn’t see Mary’s pregnancy as an insult worthy of retribution, and because he “did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matt 1:19). Then, when the angel comes to tell him that the child Mary is carrying is the promised Messiah, Joseph is the first man in the scriptures to follow the angel’s words unquestioningly. In contrast, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, doubted God’s word in his pride, as if he had a right to understanding God’s reasoning. But Joseph obeys instantly, as soon as he wakes up the next morning. He’s not afraid of people talking, as they inevitably will. He’s not afraid of his own lack of understanding of God’s will. He’s humble enough to simply do what he is asked.
This humility is the core reason why Joseph is the terror of demons.
Saint Joseph lived a life of chastity and prudence
Because Joseph is humble, he is chaste. He knew that he wasn’t supposed to have relations with his wife, and he made his will submit to his humble heart to love her chastely. His humility also made him hard-working and prudent, and he fulfilled his duties as a carpenter and father quietly and well. He didn’t try to be a king or tell all his neighbors that his son was the Messiah so that they would respect or fear him. He didn’t put on airs, nor did he shirk his duties just because his Son was the almighty God.
His humility also kept him from Satan’s false humility of self-loathing, scruples, and perfectionism. He didn’t become despondent and fall into despair because he’d never be a worthy father for his Son. He also didn’t let scruples get in the way of the work he was given, as so many well-meaning Christians do. Joseph just did what he was supposed to do. And demons hate that.
Saint Joseph teaches us the reality of demonic attacks
See, many people have the wrong ideas about demonic attack. We think it’s all apparitions and nightmares, people frothing at the mouth and levitating while solemn priests chant Latin phrases and flick holy water around. Those things happen, obviously, but they are rare. True demonic attacks happen every single day, to every single person, in incredibly personal and subtle ways. The ancient tempter has had millennia to practice his craft on us, and he knows that it’s actually counterproductive to go after us with the showy stuff when his gentle way is so much more effective. He’s not going to go after your physical body with his diabolic manifestations when he can saunter casually into your mind through the doors of temptation.
The devil is going to tell you to be spiteful and angry at someone who has hurt you because they deserve it. He’ll tell you that if someone else has sinned, they deserve as much punishment as you can throw at them. He’ll tell you to be proud when people give you honors, and hold yourself above your neighbors because you’re more special and important than they are. He’s going to tell you to be unchaste, especially in ways that “don’t hurt anyone,” like masturbation or using pornography. He’ll tell you to be lazy at your work because it doesn’t matter much anyway. Or he might flip around and tell you that you have to be perfect at your work, and if you’re not, people will talk, and they’ll hate you, and you’ll ruin everything if you don’t do everything perfectly. Most of all, he’ll tell you that you deserve to know everything. He’s been feeding us that lie since the garden when he tempted our first parents to eat the fruit because it would give them the knowledge and power that they deserved. All these tricks of Satan are meant to deceive us into following him. All these tricks are beaten by Saint Joseph.
Saint Joseph refused to give the devil the time of day
Read back. When Joseph was tempted to have revenge, he chose mercy. When he was tempted to pride, he chose humility. When he was tempted to unchastity, he chose continence. When tempted to laziness, he chose fortitude. When tempted to perfectionism, he chose to accept his own humanity. When tempted to think that he deserved to know God’s plan, he chose silent acceptance. Imagine how terrified the devil must have been every time that Joseph refused to give him the time of day? Every trick that the devil pulled on Joseph, Joseph countered perfectly. And he can help us to do that, too.
The next time that you feel tempted, in these or in any other ways, Ite Ad Joseph! Go to Joseph! God trusted this humble man with the care of Christ and Our Lady, and he can be trusted to care for us, too. He is a powerful intercessor and a powerful role model for all of us. The man who taught Christ to walk, to pray, and to work can teach us how to walk with God, to pray authentically, and to work well. And if we can do all these things, we’ll be the terrors of demons, too.
Saint Joseph, terror of demons, pray for us!