Feast Day : March 19 (Joseph the Husband of Mary) and May 1 (Joseph the Worker)
Patronage: carpenters; against doubt; dying; engineers; families; fathers; happy death; against hesitation; married couples; social justice; social workers; working men; the Universal Church
According to the Gospels, Joseph was a descendant of the royal house of David, and worked as a carpenter. After his betrothal to Mary, he learned she was pregnant, and planned to divorce her quietly after marriage so as not to bring shame and punishment down upon her. An angel then informed him in a dream that Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. He married Mary. It is not certain whether the marriage took place before or after the Incarnation. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Joseph was warned by an angel in a dream to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to avoid the deadly search by King Herod for the Messiah child. The family stayed in Egypt until Herod died and Joseph was told by an angel that it was safe to return to Nazareth. Joseph apparently raised Jesus as his own son. The last reference to him in the context of Jesus’ life is the time when Jesus stayed in the Temple and Joseph and Mary searched for him with great anxiety for three days (Luke 2:48). Joseph is not mentioned in scriptural descriptions of Jesus’ ministry, or his Crucifixion, passion, Resurrection or Ascension. Many historians conclude that perhaps he died before these events took place. Veneration of Joseph is widespread throughout the Eastern Church as well as the Western from about the 15th century. He was commemorated as early as the ninth century in the Eastern Church. SS. Teresa of Avila and Francis of Assisi helped to spread devotion to him, and in the early 20th century Bl. André Bessette had built and dedicated St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, the world’s largest shrine devoted to Joseph. In 1870 Joseph was declared patron of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX (r. 1846–78). In 1899, Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878–1903) gave him the same rank as Mary. Pope Benedict XV (r. 1914–22) named him protector of workers; Pope Pius XI (r. 1922–39) named him patron of social justice. Pope Pius XII (r. 1939–58) declared the Feast of Joseph the Worker on May 1. In art Joseph is depicted as a man with a lily, or holding the baby Jesus. Sometimes he is shown with the symbol of the carpenter’s trade.