Encountering Saint Joseph

Encountering Saint Joseph

[NOTE: Jennifer Settle is Director of Programs for Theology of the Body Institute and co-author of Consecration to Jesus Through St. Joseph: An Integrated Look at the Holy Family. You can order the book for just $5 here.]

I had no idea that St. Joseph would play such a pivotal role in my journey toward healing and how he would become a real father to me.

Until I was in my 30s and met a Benedictine priest who loved St. Joseph, I didn’t give St. Joseph much thought. I sort of just lumped him into “the Holy Family.” I wasn’t drawn to him in my prayer — that focused mostly on Jesus. It wasn’t until I was encouraged by this Benedictine monk to open my heart to St. Joseph and saw how this monk embodied the heart of St. Joseph, that I came to see St. Joseph as a real man, as a humble husband, and a gentle father — my father.

One of the profound ways the Lord helped me come to know Saint Joseph was through Pope St. John Paul II and the Theology of the Body. Pope St. John Paul II had a deep love for St. Joseph. In his Theology of the Body and his Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Cusos (Guardian of the Redeemer), he brought new depth to help us to understand St. Joseph.

Pope St. John Paul II helped us to know St. Joseph as a humble and just man chosen by the Father to father His Son and to protect and honor Our Lady. In his TOB section on “Fruitfulness from the Spirit,” Pope St. John Paul II shows us the embrace of the heavenly marriage and the earthly marriage made manifest in the virginal-marriage of Our Lady and St. Joseph. St. John Paul II also shows us that in their virginal-marriage, they become the “first witnesses of a fruitfulness different from that of the flesh, that is, the fruitfulness of the Spirit: ‘What is begotten of her comes from the Holy Spirit’ (Mt. 1:20)” (TOB 75:2).

Along my path of healing, I began to turn to Our Lady and St. Joseph as my parents. I began to share with them the joys and sorrows of my past. They showed me their parental love for me in those situations that wounded me or in the events of my past that brought me joy.

Our Lady and St. Joseph helped me to understand my identity as a beloved daughter of the Father through their parental love for me. I became their daughter and they became the source of parental love when I needed it. In particular, St. Joseph became a real father to me. He became a father who was present in my life, one whom I could share my daughter’s heart with, without fear of how he would receive me. His masculine, fatherly love has been such a source of healing for my feminine, daughter’s heart.

As I grew to love and had encounters with the hearts of each of the Holy Family, I very much felt part of this family. The fruitfulness of their virginal-marriage became the foundation of my understanding of the fruitfulness of celibacy. In 2017, I became a bride of Christ as a Consecrated Virgin. The morning of my consecration, as my spiritual director and I prayed together, I very much felt the presence of the Holy Family. At that moment, I came to realize that for years I had seen myself as an “adopted” daughter of Our Lady and St. Joseph, but in a few short hours, I was becoming a bride of their son. Through my vocation, I was uniquely becoming a real part of the Holy Family for all eternity!

[If you participate in the] Consecration to Jesus through St. Joseph, my hope for you is that you would encounter the heart of St. Joseph in a profound and new way. My prayer for you is that you would open your heart to all he desires to share with you and trust in his fatherly presence in your life. May this consecration be a journey of healing, intimacy, and joy.

St. Joseph, pray for us! Pope St. John Paul II, pray for us!

[Image: Father and Son by Corbert Gauthier.]