top of page


Ibar Quirke

St Joseph was a 1st-century Jewish man from Nazareth who, according to the canonical Gospels, was the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and – as a result – was the legal father of Jesus. Even though little information is known about the life and times of St Joseph, his guardianship of the Holy Family has merited him great intercessory power according to Christian – particularly Roman Catholic – belief. The Latin Rite – to which Roman Catholicism belongs and which I will concentrate here for this article.

Joseph is venerated as a saint in the Roman, Orthodox, and Oriental Churches, as well as in the Anglican denomination of Protestantism and by some Lutherans. Declared as the Patron of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX (Giovanni Ferretti; 13 May 1792 – 7 February 1878) in 1870, Joseph is honoured as the patron saint of workers, and the memorial to honour devotion to St Joseph the Worker on any 1 May unless precluded by Sunday – instituted by Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli; 2 March 1876 – 9 October 1958) in 1955 – seeks to promote the dignity of human work, occurring as it does on International Workers’ Day. St Joseph is particularly honoured during the month of March, with the Solemnity of St Joseph occurring on any 19th March unless precluded by Sunday. St Joseph is also honoured as a patron saint of the sick and is invoked for the grace of a happy death – due to the belief that he died in the presence of Jesus and Mary – and for the virtue of chastity – the reason for which he is often depicted with a lily.

The virtues of St Joseph have been the subject of much ecclesial reflection down through the centuries, especially so during more recent times. The faith of St Joseph caused him to fully accept God’s salvific plan, expressed through trust and prompt and silent obedience to the will of God. St Joseph brought his love for and fulfillment of the Law into his own family, a true piety in his religious duties which granted them courage and fortitude during times of trial. His love for the Blessed Virgin Mary was chaste, and his exercise of his paternal authority in the life of the young Jesus of Nazareth was dutiful. St Joseph also maintained a fruitful reticence regarding his own self. These core personal values of St Joseph invigorate Pope Francis (Jorge Bergoglio; 17 December 1936 – elected as the Supreme Pastor of the Church on 13 March 2013 and inaugurated on 19 March 2013) in sustaining and promoting his great love for St Joseph.

'I have a great love for St Joseph, because he is a man of silence and strength. On my table, I have a statue of St Joseph sleeping. Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the Church. Yes, we know that he can do that. So when I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note, and I place it underneath St Joseph, so that he can dream about it. In other words, I tell him: pray for this problem'.

Pope Francis declared 8 December 2020 – 8 December 2021 as the Year of St Joseph in recognition of the 150th anniversary of his formal declaration as the Patron of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX in 1870. In the Apostolic Letter Patris Corde (With a Father’s Heart), Pope Francis wrote the following Prayer to St Joseph: 'Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To you, God entrusted his only Son; with you, Christ became a man. Blessed Joseph, to us too, show yourself a father, and guide us in the path of life. Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen'.

Whilst St Joseph has proven a very powerful intercessor in the lives of many people, a famous contemporary miracle associated with his intercession occurred on 30 March 1992. A McDonnell Douglas DC-9 Aviaco aircraft – Flight 231 – departed Madrid for Granada with 99 people onboard. There were no problems until heavy rain and strong gusts of wind threatened to obstruct the landing. A particularly powerful downward gust caused the landing gear to hit the ground with great force, which in turn caused the plane to bounce and fall back onto the runway, splitting into two parts, which then in turn ended up breaking apart completely as the aircraft slid at high speed down the runway. Despite the violence of the crash, and the fact that the two halves of the plane scraped to a stop about 100 yards apart, all 94 passengers and five crew members survived. Of the total 99 occupants of the plane, 26 people had injuries, one in a serious condition. However, all recovered. It is worth noting that the pilot of this aeroplane, Jaime Mazarrasa, was the brother of a priest, Fr Gonzalo, who was studying in Rome at the time.

If I may be as bold as to propose from the perspective of marriage and the family and to make one foray into offering a Christian response to the bioethical challenges associated with different contemporary issues surrounding the understanding of gender – I conclude with a comment by Fr Gonzalo: To enter this world, God only needed a woman. But it was also necessary that a man should take care of her and His Son, and God chose a son of the House of David: Joseph, the Spouse of Mary, from whom Jesus, called Christ, was born.

May St Joseph pray for us all about all these huge issues!


bottom of page