Painting of St. Joseph at the Franciscan shrine of St. Joseph built over the house of St. Joseph in Bethlehem, near the Church of the Nativity.


St. Joseph, patron of contemplatives

St. Joseph, “the foster-father” of Jesus is often venerated under many titles, such as “St. Joseph the Worker” or “St. Joseph, most Chaste Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” more so than “St Joseph, patron of contemplatives.” I am Palestinian, from Bethlehem in the West Bank. Bethlehem of ancient Judea was where the relatives of St. Joseph were from, and according to some esteemed apocryphal texts,[1] St. Joseph was born in Bethlehem of Judea. There is a legend there among the Christians to this day, that he is buried there.

In 2017,  I began to pray to St. Joseph on a regular basis. I had the intution that he was an important saint for the world. I began to ask his intercession for the Church, and the Palestinian Christians. I had dedicated my dissertation in 2019 to St. Joseph, patron of the seven clans of Bethlehem, six of them Christian, some of them reportedly descending from the time of Jesus. I later had the intuition that he was the patron of many other things, such as of the unmarried women of Bethlehem (it did not surprise me, therefore, that the all-girls Catholic school in Bethlehem is named after him). Later that year, in 2019, I visited his house in Bethlehem.[2] I had the intution the summer I was in Bethlehem in 2019 that he was also the patron of contemplatives.  Indeed, the image of St. Joseph is on nearly every stained-glass window of the chapel of the Carmel of Bethlehem, or the Carmel of the Infant Jesus. I, therefore, wish to draw attention to St. Joseph in this article as patron of contemplatives.

The so-called year of St. Joseph is over. Even before Fr. Calloway’s book, Consecration to St. Joseph, came out, and the so-called year was dedicated, St. Joseph had inspired me to begin praying to him, first as to “the man of sorrows.” St. Joseph does not speak.  He does not speak in the Gospels (and was silent in his appartion to the three shepherd children at Fatima in 1917).[3] St. Joseph’s role as guardian of the child Jesus and the Virgin Mary is the basis of his role as guardian of Holy Mother Church, the mystical body of Christ. It is also why he is considered by the Franciscans in the Holy Land, in addition to St. Anthony, to be the patron of the custody (of the Holy Land).

St. Joseph is an example for all of us who wish to balance work and prayer. Let us invoke him whenever we become confused as to what is our duty. Let us turn to him when we do not know whether we ought to be praying. He is guide of the Holy Family, and thus guide for each one of us. When we find ourselves lost and asking ourselves, “what should I do?” the answer is always Ite ad Joseph, or “Go to Joseph,” (Gen. 41:55). He is the quintessential guide, who guided the Holy Family through the unforgiving Judaean and Sinai deserts to Egypt. In a prayer that I used to pray everyday in Arabic, it reads: “You [St. Joseph] God made protector and advocate of the life of His Son, Jesus.”[4]

Even if we are not cloistered nuns and monks, we are all called to a life of contemplation. Here I wish to quote from several Catholic and non-Catholic sources. The Iberian medieval Jewish philosopher, Maimonides ben Moses says in Guide of the Perplexed, a commentary on the Torah, that our minds always ought to be occupied with God, even while engaged in mundane activities: “Know that even if you were the man who knew most the true reality of the divine science, you would cut that bond existing between you and God if you would empty your thought of God and busy yourself totally in eating the necessary or in occupying yourselves with the necessary.”[5]

Let us keep in mind the words of the “Golden-tongued” St. John Chrysostom, who says that it is never a “bad”  time to pray. In other words, it is always time to pray: “As breathing is never out of season, so neither is praying unseasonable, but rather not praying.”[6] Furthermore, he argues that in prayer, petitions for food, drink, and clothing should be secondary to our petition that God possess us.[7] 

It is, therefore, incumbent upon all of us, and according to the preface of one Spanish missal,[8] especially upon men, to seek out places of quiet where which we may pray and spend time in solitude. St. Joseph was first a “praying man,” before he was a “working man.” He is the quintessential philosopher-king of Plato’s Republic, and the “perfect man” and “perfect king” of The Reformation of Morals, a commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Plato’s Republic, by Yahya ibn Adi, a medieval Christian Iraqi philosopher.[9]

It is the axiom of philosophy that one cannot act according to his nature if he does not know the true good.[10] St. Joseph is the sailor guiding us through the turbulent and muddied waters of this life. As Plato points out in the Republic, the philosopher-king is like a sailor, who contemplates the stars.[11] St. Joseph wants us to ask the existential questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? To where am I going?


[1] See The Gospel of The Nativity of Mary chapters 8 and 10 and The History of Joseph the Carpenter sec. 2.

[2] This shrine is “off the beaten path.”

[3] He appeared on October 13, 1917.

[4] translation:

O most great Saint and Virgin Joseph,

You are that faithful slave whom God has raised over the people of his house,

You have been made by God vigilant protector of and advocate for the life of His Son, Jesus Christ,

comforter and help to his Blessed Mother,

and partaker in the command of redemption of the world.

Blessed are you because you dwelled with Jesus and Mary, and died in their arms.

You are the chaste Spouse of our Virgin Mother, and the model for and defender of pure, humble, tender, and stainless souls.

Turn, therefore, towards us who have put our trust in you, and receive from us this veneration by which we honor you.

And we thank God for the favors He bestowed upon you, and we ask Him, through your intercession, to make us imitate your virtues. Pray for us, then, O great saint, by the love that Jesus and Mary have for you and by the love that you have for them.

Pray for us and grant us to live and die in the love of Jesus and Mary…


[5] Maimonides ben Moses, The Guide of the Perplexed, III. 51.

[6] St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, Homily XXII. 

[7] Ibid“For we were not born for this end, that we should eat and drink and be clothed, but that we might please God, and attain unto the good things to come. Therefore as things here are secondary in our labor, so also in our prayers let them be secondary. “ It continues:  “For to this end also He bade us ask even those [i.e., food, drink, etc.], not as though God needed reminding by us, but that we might learn that by His help we accomplish whatever we do accomplish, and that we might be made more His own by our continual prayer for these things.” 

[8] Dom Gaspar Lefebvre, O.S.B., Misal Diario y Vesperal, 1951. Preface reads as follows (translation): “A Program of Christian life: the first is to love God… Third: attend holy Mass every day…and receive communion…and if you are a man, even more reason to do so, because you need it more…Fourth: Pray daily for five minutes…It is an important business, especially if you are a man…Every week: Ninth: Attend Mass and listen to the sermon on all feast days in your parish (even more if you are a man), and read on those days some religious or spiritual book. Every Month: Tenth: Go to confession and receive communion at least once a month, and even more if you are a man.”


[10] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1.1. The emphasis is on ends (Gr. τελειώνει). (Happiness is good activity, not amusement [see book 10 ch. 6]. Happiness is in the highest sense the contemplative life [see ibid  ch. 7]).

[11] Plato, Republic, book 6 488aff; “true pilot.” In Plato we read: “And, further, that you are telling the truth in saying that the most decent of those in philosophy are useless to the many. However, bid him blame their uselessness on those who don’t use them and not on the decent men. For it’s not natural that a pilot beg sailors to be ruled by him nor that the wise go to the doors of the rich…The truth naturally is that it is necessary for a man who is sick, whether rich or poor. to go to the doors of doctors, and every man who needs to be ruled to the doors of the man who is able to rule, not for the ruler who is truly of any use to beg the ruled to be ruled. You’ll make no mistake in imagining the statesmen now ruling to be the sailors we were just now speaking of, and those who are said by them to be useless and gossipers about what’s above to be the true pilots,” (489b, c).

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