Lessons Inspired by St. Joseph


St. Joseph is depicted in a window from St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kilkenny, Ireland. (CNS photo/Crosiers)


The church provides two sources of information for devotion to St. Joseph. On the one hand, basic information about his life can be found in the Bible. Gospel passages recount his genealogy, relationship with Mary, presence during the birth and presentation of Jesus, flight to Egypt, return to Nazareth, and finding of Jesus in the temple. The Bible paints the picture of a simple man, who followed the law, was obedient to the angels in his dreams and humbly served his family.

On the other hand, official church declarations have spoken explicitly about the role of St. Joseph within the church. As Catholics, we only adore God, but we offer veneration to the saints. Dulia is a theological term that describes this veneration. The Blessed Mother receives hyperdulia, which means above the angels and saints, but after her, who is the greatest saint? St. John the Baptist, St. Mary Magdalene, St. John the Apostle, or St. Francis? The church declared that St. Joseph receives protodulia, which mean first veneration, and additionally, he has been granted the title of patron of the church.

How did St. Joseph become the greatest saint? He did not convert anyone like the great missionaries. He did not suffer martyrdom as did the early Roman saints. He did not produce great works similar to the scholars of the church. What did he do? He was a simple carpenter, a husband and a foster-father.

It is true there is a hierarchy of callings, and it is also true that God desires us to accomplish great tasks for the faith. St. Joseph, however, teaches us two things about sainthood. First, do not be fooled by externals as they do not matter to God. All the awards and titles, which are important to the world, are truly insignificant.

Second, everyone is called to be a saint. You might not be a great missionary, famous scholar, or living a contemplative life. Perhaps, you just work a normal nine-to-five job and have responsibilities at home. You might think people like you are not called to be great saints, but look at the Holy Family. For most of their lives, the three holiest people in human history lived a simple life around family and work.

Clearly, God does not value what we do, but how we do it. You can only image that St. Joseph performed his ordinary duties with extraordinary love, providing all husbands and fathers with a model and patron.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.