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Who Was Saint Joseph?

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Saint Joseph Cathy Crawford / Workbook Stock / Getty Images

Name:

Saint Joseph, also known as Joseph the Worker and Joseph the Betrothed

Lifetime:

The 1st century in Galilee when it was part of the ancient Roman Empire (now part of Israel)

Feast Days:

March 19th and May 1st (Joseph the Worker)

Patron Saint Of:

Saint Joseph represents the universal church’s protection against evil for people in this fallen world. He is also known for inspiring people to gain the faith they need to fight doubt and the courage they need to fight hesitation. Joseph also serves as the patron saint of groups that include: fathers, expectant mothers, families, married couples, workers, pioneers, immigrants, dying people, people working on social justice causes, people searching for new homes, and numerous places and churches worldwide.

Famous Miracles:

Believers consider Joseph’s overall example of faith in action throughout his life to be miraculous, because it inspires greater faith in those who look to his example of how to trust God and follow where God leads them. They point to several accounts of Joseph’s life from the Bible as miraculous moments.

The Bible records in the Gospel of Matthew that when Joseph discovered that his bride-to-be Mary was pregnant, he was troubled, thinking that she had had premarital sex with another man. Joseph considered how he could end their relationship as quietly as possible to bring the least amount of shame to Mary.

But God, who knew what Joseph was thinking, sent an angel to visit him in a dream and let him know that Mary had conceived a child -- Jesus Christ -- as a virgin through the Holy Spirit, and to encourage him to go through with his plans to marry her. Joseph responded by following through with God’s plans, without hesitation, despite the gossip and humiliation he would have to endure as a result from people who didn’t understand what was going on.

Later in the Bible, an angel visits Joseph in a dream once again to warn him that King Herod has ordered his soldiers to find Jesus and kill him, so Joseph should take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to protect their family. Joseph, characteristically, obeys the message from God without hesitation -- even though it means leaving behind all of his family and friends, and everything he owns.

Catholics and some Protestant Christians (like Orthodox and Anglican) worldwide have prayed for Saint Joseph’s intercession before God in heaven for their needs since his death in the first century AD. Some have reported various events they consider miraculous, such as receiving healing from diseases such as cancer, or receiving the courage they need to take difficult risks that they sense God calling them to take.

Biography:

Joseph, who was born in 1st century Galilee (now part of Israel), was a descendant of King David, the heroic Jewish leader whose adventures are chronicled in the Torah and the Bible. He was a devout man who worked as a carpenter and perhaps also as a stone mason, building houses, furniture, or other items that people needed.

When Joseph became engaged to Saint Mary, he may or may not have been a widower who already had some children; historians don’t agree on the matter. However, most historians say that Joseph was considerably older than Mary.

Joseph raised Jesus Christ as his own son, even though he wasn’t related to him biologically. The Bible mentions that Jesus had "brothers" and "sisters" but doesn’t say whether they were stepchildren that Joseph had with a previous wife or whether they were born to Joseph and Mary after Jesus was born.

The last time that the Bible mentions Joseph was when and he Mary were looking for Jesus when Jesus was 12 years old and had left them temporarily to go to a temple to teach the people gathered there. Since no record exists of Joseph’s presence during Jesus’ ministry as an adult, Christian tradition says that he had died before that time. Certainly, say historians, Joseph must have died prior to the crucifixion, because Jewish custom would have called for him to take care of Jesus’ body afterward if Joseph would have been alive then -- but in his absence, others took over.

After Joseph’s death, Christians continued to celebrate the example of steadfast faith that he set. Coptic Christians began to venerate Joseph as a saint by the 4th century, and the Catholic Church began celebrating a feast day for him in the 6th century.

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