It’s taken me years, but I’m really learning to love St. Joseph. Part of it has probably been praying this novena, but a bigger part is art. I’m sorry, but I just can’t get that excited about an old guy with a lily.
But with all the traveling I’ve done, I’ve seen a lot of images of St. Joseph that have shown me that this is a tender, fierce, joyful, protector of a man, the man who taught curly-haired, gap-toothed Jesus how to hold a hammer and speak to ladies and go back to sleep after a nightmare. That’s a Saint worth loving. So here are some of my favorite images of Joseph, strong, sweet, and silly as he was.
Watching over Mary during the Visitation. It never occurred to me that he might have traveled with her, but of course he would have wanted to protect her!
Loving on his bride.
Not just teaching little Jesus but learning from him, too.
Standing behind Mary and Jesus with his staff, ready to take on any brigand, ruffian, or trained soldier who might threaten his beloveds.
Mary’s looking at Jesus and Jesus is looking at the Father but Joseph is looking at the audience as if to say, “You GUYS! Do you believe they let me hang out with them??”
Look at the way they love each other! Jesus is looking at Joseph like, “Dad you did a really good job making that horse! One time I made all the horses and it was really cool. But I really like your horse!”
In the cold of the stable or the uncertainty of the flight into Egypt, Joseph was their rock, the one who (in the image of the Father) made everything okay. Whether cold or frightened or just exhausted, Jesus and Mary knew Joseph would hold them. Mary was without sin but Joseph was the one ordained by God to be the leader of their Holy Family and he gave every moment of his life to serve them.
Oh, his humble smile holding the sweet little foot of toddler Jesus who asked his Papa for a shoulder ride!
I’m a sucker for non-Western images of Mary, but you hardly ever see any of Joseph. Here’s a lovely Korean one to remedy that.
Baby Jesus shoulder ride!
I adore this one. At first you think Jesus is just little and fell asleep playing but then you see the way he’s holding his hand and wonder. I think he was hammering a nail, the echoes of the crucifixion overcame him, and he was broken with grief at what he would have to suffer. Before Gethsemane, I imagine he prayed that prayer–thy will be done–a thousand times. And Joseph is there speaking to the Father on behalf of the Son, asking that he would have the strength and courage to suffer for love of men. Sigh.
Oh, the love in those eyes. Many of you get to see this in the way your husbands love your babies. If this picture makes you think of your husband, go give him a nice long kiss. You got a good one.
There’s a pain in his eyes despite the smile on Jesus’ face. Who knows what he was worrying about or regretting. See how he drops to Jesus’ level and hangs on so tight? Would that we ran to Jesus like that.
Even as the traditional old man, Joseph is on his feet, staff in hand, willing to fight.
Goodness, he looks like a giddy 20-year-old on his wedding day. The look on his face, like, “Have you seen this woman? Have you seen this baby? This is MY family! How did that even happen?”
St. Joseph is patron of the universal Church, terror of demons, and patron of a happy death. But above all, I think, he’s the patron of husbands and fathers. So here’s to St. Joseph and to the men who (in his image) love and serve and protect and tickle and delight and adore. Thank you for being men after the heart of St. Joseph. Good St. Joseph, pray for us!
Edit: many thanks to Mary Ellen Fosso for this incredible image of St. Joseph from the cathedral in Wichita:
Look at the arms on that carpenter! God sure didn’t find a weak, passive man to take care of his son and his mother.