St. Joseph

an excerpt from “Finding St. Joseph” by Sandra Miesel

St. Teresa of Avila became St. Joseph’s great advocate, because she believed his intercession had healed her of paralysis. Referring to “the glorious St. Joseph” as her “father and lord,” St. Teresa praised him as a helper in every need and burned with eagerness “to persuade all to be devoted to him.”

By the 1550s, St. Teresa was also dreaming of reforming her Carmelite order. She placed this difficult project—and the dangerous journeys it required—under St. Joseph’s protection. Twelve of the 17 new monasteries she founded were dedicated to the saint, and all of them were adorned with his statue—honors hitherto unknown.

St. Teresa’s enthusiasm spread to others, notably her friend and fellow Discalced Carmelite, Jeronimo Gracian. This friar’s highly popular Josephina (1597) repeated earlier praises for the saint, adding the significant proposal that St. Joseph was the man who most resembled Christ in “countenence, speech, physical constitution, custom, inclinations, and manner.” Gracian also plucked the command “Ite ad Joseph” (“Go to Joseph”) from the story of the Old Testament patriarch Joseph (Genesis 41:55) and made it the New Testament saint’s catch phrase, a quote that was often inscribed on his altars and images.

Carmelite devotion to St. Joseph spread to other orders within Spain and throughout the Spanish empire. The first foundation of St. Teresa’s nuns in France (1604) planted her spirituality into the French “Century of Saints.” In particular, her love of St. Joseph took root in St. Francis de Sales, the great champion of holiness in everyday life.

For more information please read, “Finding St. Joseph” by Sandra Miesel