St. Joseph: His Increasing Importance in Our Times

St. Joseph and the Infant Christ, Giovanni Battista Gaulli (1670-85).

In his Apostolic Letter Le Voci of March 19, 1961, the “Pope of St. Joseph,” St. John XXIII, invoked that saint as the Patron of the Second Vatican Council. Shortly after the beginning of that Council, he inserted the name of St. Joseph into the Roman Canon (the only one existing at that time). With the addition of other Eucharistic Prayers after that Council, many had expressed their desire to see his name included in these as well. To fulfill these requests, on May 1, 2013—the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker—the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued an official decree, placing the name of St. Joseph after that of Mary in Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV. The decree and an article about St. Joseph by the Prefect, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, was published in the June 26 English edition of the L’Osservatore Romano, pp. 8-9.

Thus, St. Joseph is publicly recognized in every Mass.

Lex orandi, lex credendi—the law of prayer is the law of belief. The Church expresses its faith in the way it worships and prays. By this insertion of St. Joseph’s name in all the Eucharistic Prayers of the Mass, the Church’s central form of worshiping God, the Church is acknowledging its growing understanding of the part St. Joseph played in salvation history and his place in the life of the Church, especially today.

As an amateur Josephologist, I have been trying to promote a better appreciation of him through writing and speaking for at least 25 years. I firmly believe that this third millennium is the millennium of St. Joseph. The first millennium, through the ecumenical councils, focused on Christ, while the second millennium developed a better appreciation of Our Lady. It is time for the third person of the Earthly Trinity to have his rightful place in the devotion of the Church. His light must be put on a prominent lamp stand in the Church.

I was very impressed by what the Cardinal Prefect stated in his L’Osservatore Romano article, “May he help us follow in his footsteps.” It related directly to a certain interest of mine in regards to St. Joseph. The subject of St. Joseph automatically brought me especially into the analysis of fatherhood in our day. From my readings, I came to the following conclusion.

We can understand St. Joseph’s role in today’s society by appreciating the contribution he made to the sacred humanity of Christ, and thus, to the mystery of the Incarnation. Studies show the urgency of the role of the father in the manly growth of boys. There is evidence of serious consequences when that is lacking. So Joseph’s responsibility was to support Jesus in developing a sound male identity according to natural law. Mary could give Jesus his physical body, but not his manly identity. That had to come through St. Joseph.

A confirmation of this is apparent in the Cardinal Prefect’s statement: “To him (Joseph) is due the honor and glory of raising Jesus, namely, of feeding and teaching him, leading him on the paths of life, so that he might learn to be a man, learn to work like a man, to love as a man with the heart of a man, so that he might fit into a real history and tradition, that of the chosen and beloved People of God; in order to teach him to pray the prayer of the People as a man” (emphasis added).

Pope John Paul II made a similar reference in his Apostolic Exhortation on St. Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer: “… that equally pure and selfless love required for his vocation to safeguard and develop the humanity of Jesus …” (par. 27).

Fr. Dominic De Dominico, OP, when presenting the necessity of the marriage of Joseph and Mary, in his book True Devotion to St. Joseph and the Church, (St. Gabriel Press, New Hope, KY, p. 9) explains it this way: “Since, without marriage, the child tends to remain with the mother only, the idea of father is a weak one in the child’s mind, and even can be a cause of bitterness and sorrow. This, in turn, makes it very difficult to approach God as father. Moreover, in this situation … boys have no role model at all, and, so, have no idea of what it means to be a man. It was necessary then that Jesus be received into a marriage, not only that he might receive the benefits of having both parents to care for him, but also that he might give the strongest witness to family life in the Divine Plan” (emphasis added).

Pope Benedict XVI (when still Cardinal) addressed this common social fact in his book The God of Jesus Christ (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, p. 29) when he said, “The crisis of fatherhood that we are experiencing today is a basic aspect of the crisis that threatens mankind as a whole.” He elucidates this in the first volume of his study Jesus of Nazareth (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, p. 136) where he analyzes the Our Father: “It is true, of course, that contemporary men and women have difficulty experiencing the great consolation of the word father immediately, since the experience of the father is, in many cases, either completely absent, or it is obscured by inadequate examples of fatherhood.”

Scripture describes Joseph as a just man, a holy man. He fulfilled God’s will as manifested in his life. Since his was a unique family, he required exceptional domestic prudence to direct his family towards its earthly and heavenly goals. In a certain sense, St. Joseph was the Icon of God the Father in the life of the Most Holy Family. By obeying St. Joseph (Lk 2:51), Jesus was fulfilling the will of God the Father. These are among the required things that St. Joseph has to offer us for the renewal of human life today, individually and socially.

The importance of St. Joseph in our time was brought out significantly by an incident in my Enfield, Connecticut parish in 1996. A distraught mother prayed before the icon of Our Lady of Connecticut, asking her help because of her teenage daughter’s moral failure. “What are we to do about the faith and morals of our children?” she pleaded. A thought passed her mind, but it did not seem relevant to her prayer. She prayed the same thing the next day. This time the idea was clear: she was to have her father donate his beautiful statue of St. Joseph to the parish church. It was enshrined there and became the site of many healings. By this action, it is obvious that this inspired answer to prayer was meant, not just for one person’s need, but that it had a community dimension. She was saying, “Go to Joseph!” (Gn 41:55)—as the pharaoh directed the Egyptians in their need. The Latin adage says, “Mater habet curam!”—Mother has the remedy. Through this incident, Our Lady presented St. Joseph as the remedy for the plight of our youth today. This naturally concerns all of family life.

Referring to St. Joseph’s appearance during the miracle at Fatima, Fr. Dominic states: “St. Joseph is the very remedy for the errors that Our Lady said would spread throughout the world, and, indeed, has been” (op.cit.p. xvi). She had warned that certain lifestyles displeasing to God would be accepted by humanity. Besides Fatima, Our Lady has introduced St. Joseph in other of her recent apparitions, such as Akita, Japan, and of Our Lady of America (encouraged by Cardinal Raymond Burke in his May 31, 2007 letter to the members of the USCCB). She thus indicates a union in their mission with their Son to convert and sanctify mankind for a true Christian life by means of their Triune Hearts.

In his Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer), Section VI: Patron of the Church Today, Pope John Paul II stresses that, “This patronage must be invoked as ever necessary for the Church, not only as a defense against all dangers, but also, and indeed, primarily, as an impetus for her renewed commitment to evangelization in the world and to re-evangelization in those lands and nations where … religion and the Christian life were formerly flourishing and … are now put to a hard test” (29). Further on, he points out that: “Our prayers and the very person of Joseph have renewed significance for the Church in our day in light of the Third Christian Millennium” (32).

In light of this, it is interesting and significant that Pope Francis, in his October 10, 2013 meeting in the Vatican with the Board of Directors of the Knights of Columbus (L’Osservatore Romano—English edition—October 18, 2013, p. 14) said, “I commend all of you in a special way to the intercession of St. Joseph, … who is an admirable model of those manly virtues … which the Knights of Columbus are committed to preserving, cultivating, and passing on to future generations of Catholic men.” This was a brief reference to the same subject on which he based his greetings of July 18, 2013, to the Knights on the occasion of their Supreme Convention in San Antonio, Texas. That letter by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone, stated: “Among the first acts of his pontificate, the Holy Father wished to add the name of St. Joseph in each of the Eucharistic Prayers of the Mass. It is his hope that the Knights, in venerating the memory of this great saint, still beg his intercession for the protection of the many blessings which the Lord has poured out upon them and their families, and work with ever greater commitment for the spread of the Gospel, the conversion of hearts, and the renewal of the temporal order in Christ” (cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem, 7). It is obvious that, here, the Holy Father follows Our Lady by directing such men to “Go to Joseph!”(Gn 41:55)—since, like him, they are to be providers and protectors in today’s society.

This papal message can be addressed to each Catholic men’s organization, since the manly virtues and way of life of St. Joseph presents him as a perfect model of faith and service to Christ and his Church for all men.

Fr. Stanley Smolenski, SPMA About Fr. Stanley Smolenski, SPMA

A priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford, in the service of the Diocese of Charleston, for Eucharistic Evangelization, Fr. Stanley Smolenski, SPMA, is a Baptistine Canonical Hermit, and diocesan director of the Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina, Our Lady and Mother of Joyful Hope.


  1. Avatar Cynthia Coleman says:

    Fr. Smolenski, what parish was this in Enfield? I grew up in Enfield in Holy Family Parish–I was in the first group of children to make First Holy Communion in the parish (though we used St Patrick’s church that day, we were still having Sunday Mass at Enfield High School auditorium). I left Enfield when my parents moved in 1979 while I was in college.

  2. Avatar Franca Pirazzi Maffiola says:

    I was impressed when reading some lines by Saint Teresa d’Avila. She recommends “pray to Saint Joseph and you’ll see.” I didn’t know about San Giovanni XXIII, neither about the Vatican Council nor what the present Pope had in His mind. I just started to love Saint Joseh. I addressed him both asking for a miracle, but even more to support me as He must have done with Holy Mary. So I pray every day 7 Paters and 7 Aves to him. I read somewhere that one should go on for one year in doing so, I seldom forget these prayers but I don’t mind. I tell myself: go on, this will mean that the necessary year starts from now. Thanks and love from Italy

    • Tante Grazie, Cara Franca… There is much available on St Joseph – a special branch of theology – Josephology – that provides in depth appreciation of the Patron of the Universal Church. He is the man for our times. Pope Francis gave 2 conferences [at the end of January & the beginning of February] on fatherhood today, pointing to St. Joseph as the model man, husband & father… Caio!

  3. Thank you for inspiring me more to love St. Joseph.

    • There is an excellent book published this year that covers the main areas of Josephology in simple non-technical language: MEET YOUR SPIRITUAL FATHER by Dr. Mark Miravalle [Marian Press –
      Stockbridge MA]

  4. Avatar Caroline Connelly says:

    I just wanted to say that I am finally ELATED that our dear ST. JOSEPH is being recognized as a fine example of a man, who took a woman to be his wife, with child, and helped her raise him. This child, turned out to be Our Lord and Savior. But his example should be honored because he could have denied her, if it wasn’t for the Spiritual Guidance he received.

    If more men would step up, many of the abortions today would decrease, maybe even be eliminated. I think most women choose that course because the seed planter won’t help shoulder the responsibility. If the Church could promote that fatherhood doesn’t always have to be the man who impregnated the woman, even though they would like the couple to be married, the protectors of the family are the persons who RAISE the children. That is the example that ST. JOSEPH was used for, in my opinion.

    • The approved locutions by St. Joseph to a university student in Itapiranga, Brazil, includes a prophecy that the Triune Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph will triumph. Implicit is the restoration of the family according to the Gospel image of the Earthly Trinity – the Most Holy Family – as the source for the wisdom and power for that necessity… Earthly Trinity was a term initiated by the Rector of Paris University, Jean Gerson, in a paper he was to give at the Council of Constance [1418]. They deserve this appellation because of the harmony of their love that mirrors the eternal love of the Divine Trinity.

  5. Avatar Carmelo Cutajar says:

    This painting of Saint Joseph with the Child Jesus is the best I have ever seen. It is an ecstasy of love between Jesus and Saint Joseph. How enchanting !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Dear St Joseph, please pray to Jesus for us all. Jesus will surely hear your prayer. We need you so. Thanks.

  6. We love Saint Joseph and pray the Saint Joseph prayer everyday.

  7. Avatar Ted Heywood says:

    A beautiful description of St Joseph and his relevance for the third millennium. He is an answer to what is tearing apart our society today. His profile needs to grow and be recognized as an example of true fatherhood.
    It is worth noting that Joseph was married to Mary when she conceived Christ in her womb through the intercession of the Holy Spirit, they had just not ‘lived together yet’. This was necessary because God intended children to be procreated within the marriage of a man and woman. I believe that by a special gift of God Joseph was able to love, nurture and identify with Jesus as if He was his own son, thereby truly acting as Jesus earthly father. Perhaps even to the point that Joseph had to die before Christ began His earthly ministry, suffering and death. Participation in that was Mary’s to endure, not Joseph’s.

  8. Avatar Martin B. Drew says:

    Father Smolenski, thank you for your marvelous article on Joseph the spouse of Mary. I chose Joseph for my confirmation name . Yes Joseph is definitely a guide for all families and a patron of the Knights of Columbus in which I am a 4th degree member. And I am happy that John xxIII placed Joseph in the canon of the mass. Fathers and families should go to Joseph pray to Joseph for happiness and for the protection of life in all levels, oppose abortion, assisted suicide, fornication. The Gospels tell us Joseph was a just man therefore all mankind must live that way ..

  9. Dear Ted –
    St. Thomas Aquinas proposed that God the Father gave St, Joseph a ‘spark’ of His love for His Son..So Joseph’s love for Jesus was not that of an ordinary father since Jesus was not an ordinary son. — The parenthood of Mary& Joseph did not belong to the Natural Order because begetting a child in the Natural Order is procreation. Their parenthood belongs to the Hypostatic Order which centers on the Incarnation [not procreation] – and therefore has its own laws for those singular parents, which includes virginity. The Hypostatic Order is above our Natural Order and therefore is full of mystery, just as Mary’s virginal motherhood… virgin before, during and after childbirth… inexplicable in human terms because there is nothing similar in the Natural Order. Joseph’s virginal fatherhood belongs to that mystical realm that we accept on faith…

  10. Thank you, Father.! Your thoughts and words open us to the REALITY of Jesus’ humanity., of FAMILY, of DAILYNESS in His life.

  11. “By obeying St. Joseph (Lk 2:51), Jesus was fulfilling the will of God the Father. These are among the required things that St. Joseph has to offer us for the renewal of human life today, individually and socially.”

    People mainly promote St. Joseph today as a servant of the Holy Family, not its legitimate head. But Mary was perfectly obedient to St. Joseph, too, just as wives today, contra JPII in Mulieris Dignitatem*, are meant to be to their own husbands. Other than increasing devotion to St. Joseph, we need to reject the teaching of JPII on marriage.

    *“The author of the Letter to the Ephesians sees no contradiction between an exhortation formulated in this way and the words: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife” (5:22-23). The author knows that this way of speaking, so profoundly rooted in the customs and religious tradition of the time, is to be understood and carried out in a new way: as a “mutual subjection out of reverence for Christ” (cf. Eph 5:21). This is especially true because the husband is called the “head” of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church; he is so in order to give “himself up for her” (Eph 5:25), and giving himself up for her means giving up even his own life. However, whereas in the relationship between Christ and the Church the subjection is only on the part of the Church, in the relationship between husband and wife the “subjection” is not one-sided but mutual.”


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