Of course, we’re talking about St. Joseph! Husband of Mary, foster father of Jesus Christ, completely silent in the Gospels. He doesn’t even really get many mentions in the Gospels, and yet he’s arguably the most important player in the life of Jesus next to Our Blessed Mother. He is, without a doubt, the most hidden of the saints. So how do we even know anything about him or who he really is? Fr. Maurice Meschler, S.J. is here to help with his book The Truth About Saint Joseph. Here are some facts about St. Joseph that may not be easily recognizable.
St. Joseph had a personality!
Mind blown! Right? Except we know that he must have had a personality because he is a real person. It can be hard to get a grip on the personality of someone whose own words we don’t have but a lot of his personality can be surmised from what others say about him. The Gospel of Matthew calls him a just man meaning that he was perfect and holy. Imagine that for a second: he was born into Original Sin and still was perfect and holy. That means that every ounce of his being was turned over to God in humility and love.
Fr. Meschler writes of him, “No office was like to his; no holiness, excepting that of the Mother of God, was comparable to his. At least as regards the saints of the Old Law, he must have surpassed them all in holiness. He is the last link of the Old Law, immediately connecting with the person of the Redeemer. In Saint Joseph the holiness of all his ancestors, who in the designs of God were to cooperate in the accomplishment of the Incarnation, must have reached its culmination and perfection. Like Abraham, Joseph was a man of faith and obedience; like Jacob, a man of patience; like Joseph of Egypt, a man of purity; like David, a man according to God’s own heart; like Solomon, a man of wisdom…His treasures of virtues are, so to speak, those of the lonely wilderness, in which only the heart of God and the eye of the omniscient Son could take pleasure here below.”
St. Joseph definitely died
But we really don’t have any details on this. We don’t know exactly when or where he passed from this life into the next nor what caused his death. We can surmise that he died before Jesus started his public ministry but only through the fact that he was never mentioned at important events in Jesus’s public ministry that he definitely would’ve been had he been alive– like the Wedding at Cana and the Crucifixion. Likewise, we don’t know what caused St. Joseph’s death whether it be sickness or natural causes. But Fr. Meschler writes beautifully on the death of the pure and holy Joseph:
“God really and personally made himself Saint Jospeh’s debtor. And so it behooved our divine Master to repay his debt of gratitude by an unceasing inpouring of graces, and preeminently the grace of an increase of love, which is the best and most perfect of all gifts. In this manner our saint’s heart became an abyss of love, the adoration and the craving, surging flood of which the frail form of his body and delicate web of his life could not long resist. This child, his own God, really drew out and exhausted our saint’s vigor of life by the impelling force of love. The more the charming childlikeness and amiability of our Lord’s youth merged into the meekness, calm earnestness, and majesty of his manhood, the more did the love of our saint retreat into his innermost soul and with surer insistence undermine his life until, yielding to its irresistible power and importunity, his body lost all resistance and collapsed, while his soul followed the triumphant upward impulse of its love and winged its flight from earth.”
Why St. Joseph is our model for the interior life
“According to his vocation, then, Saint Joseph is essentially a shadow, which, like an ordinary shadow, passing noiselessly over the earth and covering everything it meets, conceals his son, Jesus, and even the marvels of his spouse, Mary, her virginity and divine motherhood. The saint throws himself heart and soul into this unique vocation of placing the mantel of obscurity over everything and during his whole life does not deny this vocation, even by a single word. He wishes to be hidden and to remain so,” Fr. Meschler writes. He’s telling us that St. Joseph, to fulfill his mission to Jesus, had to remain hidden. However, though this exterior life is unobtrusive, this, in turn, informs his interior life, and this is why St. Joseph is our model in this. It doesn’t matter what our exterior life asks from us, rather, it matters how our interior life integrates all of it.
Fr. Meschler wraps it up: “Therefore, to sum up, the inner life consists above all in purity of heart and freedom from whatever can render us spiritually repulsive and displeasing to God; hence the avoidance of all deliberate and voluntary sin with the accompanying care of and attention to our interior life. Further, the inner life consists in the diligent effort to transform our exterior works into virtue, supernatural virtue, and meritorious activity in God’s sight by means of a supernatural motive and good intention. Finally, it consists in the practice of the most intimate union with God by prayer at definitely appointed times and by docility to God’s inspirations. Such is, practically, the interior life, and such, too, must have been Saint Joseph’s interior life.”
St. Joseph did have an active life, too, and so should we
We aren’t solitary creatures. We were not made to be in solitude. We were made to be in community with each other! Because of this, then, we all have an active life that must be rightly ordered for the glory of God. St. Joseph also had an active life and he is our model in this aspect, as well. He had to live in communion with the Holy Family and with his neighbors with whom he bought, sold, and traded. Just generally, St. Joseph was in contact with a lot of people and his reputation was never diminished, which means he lived with all of these various people well.
“According to the fundamental principles of perfection and sanctity, exterior activity should come forth from the abundance of the interior spirit; it is supposed to be the overflow of one’s love for God and for men. It expects man in his external works to give rather than to receive…This is indeed an important lesson that Saint Joseph teaches us here. We are all bound to lead the active life; to lead it properly, we must all labor, and labor in a correct manner,” Fr. Meschler tells us.
We should all develop a devotion to St. Joseph
Without question, we are indebted to St. Joseph. He raised our Savior, he kept himself hidden so that the work of God might be accomplished, he leads us in our interior and exterior lives. And so much more. He’s the archetypal “strong, silent type”, but he shows us of what true strength consists and what true silence means. Everything St. Joseph did and continues to do from heaven is in service and love of God and us. Should we not, then, show him proper respect? Fr. Meschler points out different ways to cultivate devotion to St. Joseph such as the chaplet of Joys and Sorrows of Saint Joseph, different feast days honoring him, observing every Wednesday as a day of honor for him, and remembering him for the entire month of March.
Fr. Meschler concludes his book by convincing us why we should kindle devotion to St. Joseph: “First, he deserves our veneration because he is so worthy of it and is so great a saint. How close his relationship to us and how much we owe to him!…Secondly, Saint Joseph deserves our veneration because he is so amiable a saint…How amiable a saint he is through his calling, and especially through his virtues, summed up in his fatherliness, his purity, fidelity, constancy, unselfishness, humility, wisdom, and love…In the third place, the saint deserves our trustful affection because he is such a practical and resourceful saint, as though specially fashioned to be our helper in difficulty and trial…Finally, Saint Joseph is not only a practical saint but seems especially fashioned by God for our modern times. He is, we might say, the modern saint.”
St. Joseph truly is the greatest of the saints, next to only Mary, and truly shows us a supreme way of life and of loving Our Lord and Savior. May we follow in his footsteps, look to him for guidance, and foster devotion to him as the Christ Child certainly did. For more on St. Joseph, pick up a copy of Fr. Maurice Meschler, S.J.’s book The Truth About Saint Joseph: Encountering the Most Hidden of Saints.