Saint Joseph by Guido Reni, c. 1640.

Josephology is the theological study of Saint Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Records of devotions to Saint Joseph go back to the year 800 and Doctors of the Church since Saint Thomas Aquinas have written on the subject.[1] With the growth of Mariology, the theological study of Saint Joseph also grew and in the 1950s specific centers for it were formed.[2] The modern study of the theology of Saint Joseph is one of the most recent theological disciplines.[3]


History and background

Early period

The earliest record of a formal devotional following for Saint Joseph in the Western Church is in the abridged Martyrology of Rheinau in Northern France, which dates to the year 800. References to St. Joseph as nutritor Domini (educator/guardian of the Lord) from the 9th to the 14th centuries continued to increase as Mariology developed,[4] and by the 12th century, along with greater devotion to Mary, the writings of the Benedictine monks began to foster a following for Saint Joseph and they began to enter his name in their liturgical calendars or in their martyrology.[5][6]

A series of articles on

Guido Reni 042.jpg

General articles
St. JosephHoly FamilySaint Joseph's Day

Prayers & Devotions
PrayerNovena • Chaplet • Scapular • Cord

Sisters of St. JosephJosephite FathersOblates of St. Joseph

Papal Documents
Redemptoris Custos • Quamquam Pluries

In the 13th century, the Dominican Doctor of the Church Saint Thomas Aquinas discussed the necessity of the presence of Saint Joseph in the plan of the Incarnation for if Mary had not been married, the Jews would have stoned her and that in his youth Jesus needed the care and protection of a human father.[7] The Josephology of Aquinas often proceeded with the juxtaposition of Joseph and Mary.[8]

In the 15th century major steps were taken by Saint Bernardine of Siena, Pierre d'Ailly and Jean Gerson, the chancellor of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris.[9] Gerson wrote a lengthy treatise in French titled Consideration sur Saint Joseph and a 120 verse poem in Latin about Saint Joseph. In 1416 to 1418 Gerson preached sermons on Saint Joseph at the Council of Constance in which he borrowed heavily from Marian themes.[10]

16th-19th centuries

The growth of the following of Saint Joseph is manifested with the earliest church dedicated to him in Rome, San Giuseppe dei Falegnami (St. Joseph of the Carpenters), constructed in 1540 in the Forum Romanum, above the prison that by tradition had held Saint Peter and Saint Paul.[11] The spread of his following is then shown by the publication of the first Litany of St. Joseph in Rome in 1597 and the introduction of the Cord of St. Joseph in Antwerp in 1657. These were then followed by the Chaplet of St. Joseph in 1850, and the Scapular of St. Joseph of the Capuchins which was approved in 1880.[12] The formal veneration of the Holy Family began in the 17th century by Mgr François de Laval.

From the 16th century onwards a number of Catholic saints prayed to Saint Joseph, invoked his help and protection and encouraged others to do so. In Introduction to the Devout Life St. Francis de Sales included Saint Joseph along with the Virgin Mary as saints to be invoked during prayers following an examination of the conscience.[13] Saint Teresa of Avila attributed her recovery of health to Saint Joseph and recommended him as an advocate. [14] In The Story of a Soul, Saint Therese of Lisieux stated that for a period of time, every day she prayed to "Saint Joseph, Father and Protector of Virgins..." and felt safe and protected from danger as a result.[15] The three saints mentioned in this paragraph were all Doctors of the Church.

Pope Pius IX proclaimed Saint Joseph the patron of the Universal Church in 1870. Saint Joseph is also, unofficially, the patron saint of fighting communism. In 1889 Pope Leo XIII issued the encyclical Quamquam Pluries in which he urged Catholics to pray to Saint Joseph, as the patron of the Church in view of the challenges facing the Church, such as the growing depravity of morals in the young generation. He prescribed that during October, a prayer to St. Joseph be added to the Rosary and granted indulgences for this.

Modern development

With the growth of Mariology, the theological study of Saint Joseph also began to grow, to discuss his role in the economy of salvation. Three centers for Josephology were formed in the 1950s, the first in Valladolid Spain, the second at Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montreal and the third in the theologate of Viterbo, Italy.[16]

In 1989, on the occasion of the centenary of Quamquam Pluries Pope John Paul II delivered the Apostolic exhortation Redemptoris Custos, i.e. Guardian of the Redeemer. This exhortation is part of the "redemption documents" issued by Pope John Paul II, and refers to the Marian encyclical Redemptoris Mater.[17] It discusses the importance of Saint Joseph in the Holy Family, and presents the pope's view of Saint Joseph's role in the plan of redemption.[18] John Paul II positions Saint Joseph as breaking the old vice of paternal familial domination, and suggests him as the model of a loving father.[19][20]

See also

Further reading

  • Discovering Saint Joseph by Andrew Doze 1991 ISBN 0854393838
  • Josephology and its advancement since the time of Pius IX by Jean Edward Furey, 1961 St. Bonaventure University Press


  1. ^ For an analysis of the Josephology of Aquinas see: A Thomistic Josephology by James J Davis 1967, University of Montreal, ASIN B0007K3PL4
  2. ^ P. de Letter, "The Theology of Saint Joseph", The Clergy Monthly, March 1955, Online at JSTOR
  3. ^ Sunday Catholic Magazine October 4, 2009 [1]
  4. ^ The liturgy and time by Irénée Henri Dalmais, Aimé Georges Martimort, Pierre Jounel 1985 ISBN 0814613667 page 143
  5. ^ Holy people of the world: a cross-cultural encyclopedia, Volume 3 by Phyllis G. Jestice 2004 ISBN 1576073556 page 446
  6. ^ Bernard of Clairvaux and the shape of monastic thought by M. B. Pranger 1997 ISBN 9004100555 page 244
  7. ^ The childhood of Christ by Thomas Aquinas, Roland Potter, 2006 ISBN 0521029600 pages 110-120
  8. ^ Aquinas on doctrine by Thomas Gerard Weinandy, John Yocum 2004 ISBN 0567084116 page 248
  9. ^ The liturgy and time by Irénée Henri Dalmais, Aimé Georges Martimort, Pierre Jounel 1985 ISBN 0814613667 page 143
  10. ^ Medieval mothering by John Carmi Parsons, Bonnie Wheeler 1999 ISBN 0815336659 page 107
  11. ^ The Roman Forum by David Watkin 2009 ISBN 0674033418 page 128
  12. ^ Ann Ball, 2003, Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices ISBN 087973910X page 520
  13. ^ Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales ISBN 076610074X Kessinger Press 1942 page 297
  14. ^ The interior castle by Saint Teresa of Avila, Paulist Press 1979, ISBN 0809122545 page 2
  15. ^ The Story of a Soul by Saint Therese De Lisieux Bibliolife 2008 0554261588 page 94
  16. ^ P. de Letter, "The Theology of Saint Joseph", The Clergy Monthly, March 1955, Online at JSTOR
  17. ^ Foundations of the Christian way of life by Jacob Prasad 2001 ISBN 8876531467 page 404
  18. ^ Vatican website: Redemptoris Custos
  19. ^ Cradle of redeeming love: the theology of the Christmas mystery by John Saward 2002 ISBN 0898708869 page 230
  20. ^ Divine likeness: toward a Trinitarian anthropology of the family by Marc Ouellet ISBN 0802828337 page 102

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