As a Baptist, I didn’t think too much about St. Joseph.
In the first place, the Scriptures said very little about him, recording nothing of his actual words, and since as a good Protestant I believed that Scripture alone was the sole infallible rule of faith, that must mean that St. Joseph wasn’t too important.
Boy was I wrong, but I didn’t know it at the time, and it was through a winding path that our Lord showed me the greatness of his foster-father.
St. Joseph wasn’t the only thing I had wrong about Jesus, but by God’s grace, I was in my early twenties when I discovered the Catholic Church and left my Southern Baptist church for the fullness of the truth in Catholicism.
I had graduated college, had just started my career, and was going to a parish in the city, when I met an older Catholic husband and father at daily Mass.
I got to know this man, Mr. K, who had five children of his own. I would watch him at Mass to see how he cared for his children, how he taught them the Faith, so that I could learn to be a good father too one day.
Mr. K took me under his wing and informally mentored me in how to be a solid Catholic man. I shared with him that I struggled with purity, and one day he gave me a holy card with St. Joseph’s picture on it.
On the back of the card was a prayer for purity that invoked St. Joseph’s intercession. Fascinated by this, I started asking St. Joseph to pray for me for purity. Mr. K explained that St. Joseph remained pure throughout his entire life, and was a powerful intercessor.
I began to learn more about the Catholic Church’s rich tradition concerning St. Joseph, and growing in appreciation for him. I read Pope St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on St. Joseph, called Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer). Turns out there was much more to this quiet saint than I had ever guessed!
In my study, I discovered an additional spiritual aid for purity: the Cord of St. Joseph. This cord is a simple rope with knots in it that you wear around your waist, under your clothes so it is unseen.
A priest blesses it, and through regular prayers and devotion to St. Joseph, God grants the wearer graces to be a man of virtue.
St. Joseph was growing in my heart and in my life, and I was seeing the fruits of it.
I believed that God was calling me to marriage, and I was blessed to meet a young Catholic woman, with whom I began a courtship.
For the first time in my life, I was trying to have a relationship God’s way, and not my own. This young woman had a devotion to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and she shared with me the full picture of how our Lord brought the Holy Family together.
I realized how much I wanted to be like St. Joseph: faithful, pure, strong, holy. He epitomized what it meant to be a godly husband and father.
Through his close relationship with our Lady and Jesus, he rose to heights of holiness that I could only dream of; yet God gave him to me as a spiritual father and patron.
It was at this time that I learned that my birthday fell on St. Joseph’s feastday, March 19th. This discovery was a secret gift that our Lord had planned for me to find out about one day, when I was ready.
The courtship I had had with the young woman did not ultimately lead to engagement, but I had learned a good deal about what kind of man I wanted to be for my future wife.
It didn’t happen right away–our Lord knew how long it would take me to be ready–but a few years later, while in the middle of the novena to St. Joseph, I met Catherine, who was to become my wife.
To my delight, as we went from friendship to courtship to engagement, she shared with me that, due to difficult situations in her own upbringing, she had taken St. Joseph as her spiritual father, where her own father had fallen short.
Throughout our relationship, she saw my devotion to St. Joseph and for her it was the mark of the man that she wanted to marry. St. Joseph came through again without me even being aware of it.
Over the centuries, the Church has revealed the full extent of St. Joseph’s greatness. This silent saint of the Bible is now recognized as the patron of countless causes, people, and places, including: husbands and fathers, the Universal Church, unborn children, immigrants, workers, employment, against doubt and hesitation, and of a happy death.
St. Joseph died in the happiest of ways, in the arms of Jesus and Mary, so he is the patron saint of a happy death and whenever I hear that someone has died, I ask St. Joseph to pray for them.
How to get to know this saint yourself, or deepen your relationship with him? Why not start with a nine-day novena to St. Joseph. The traditional date for it begins March 10th to leads to his feast day.
I guarantee you that you won’t regret it!
Editor’s note: You can easily pray the St. Joseph novena, plus many others, with the FREE smartphone app Pray: The Catholic Novena App! We highly recommend it!