Sacred Scripture describes St. Joseph as “a Just man” (Matthew 1:19) which can also be translated as “righteous,” “upright,” or, “he who is virtuous in all things.” If we want to learn from St. Joseph, we must begin by imitating the virtues he practiced daily in his quiet, hidden life.
The following list represents virtues and titles for St. Joseph as prayed in the Litany of St. Joseph (Litany of St. Joseph LINK):
Most Valiant Protector of Church
St. Joseph had the entire Church under his protection since the Holy Family was the Church. Our Lady is the Mother and Image of the Church, the Holy Spirit the soul of the Church and Christ the Church’s head. To Joseph this treasure was entrusted and by his wit, his obedience and his sacrifice he valiantly defended them.
Joseph Most Chaste
Chaste love requires that one wills the good to another without taking the other to oneself as one’s own. To Joseph was entrusted the Divine Child and His fairest Mother. Chaste in body but also in heart, Joseph loved freely which created the interior tranquility of order in the Holy Family.
Joseph Most Just
Joseph was first and foremost just unto God, rendering to Him what was His due. Since all things are due to God, Joseph was perfectly religious in prayer, in labor, and in love giving to God, even as an infant, the energy of his whole life.
Lover of Poverty
Joseph could count on nothing in this world to be his stay. Neither his trade nor property were employed in his first years as father of the Divine child. He had to abandon all that was his and provide for them in whatever way was possible as they were on pilgrimage to Bethlehem, to Egypt, and finally to Nazareth.
Model of Workers
We must not simply intend love, we must labor to fulfill love’s demands. Beneficence, laboring for the good of another, in Joseph’s case was direct labor for God. Working in Adam’s curse by the sweat of his brow was replete with purpose as it was all done to feed, to clothe, to shelter God Himself.
Joseph Most Obedient and Head of Holy Family
All authority is borrowed except for the Author himself. One can only be a just head of a family, be it natural or religious, if one is first obedient to the Word himself. Joseph’s perfect obedience rendered him the perfect Head of the Holy Family.
Joseph Most Faithful
Fidelity connotes steadfastness. In the vicissitudes of life, one needs steadfast love, that is, fidelity, when encountering confusion, suffering, and failure. The image of Joseph finding a place in which the Child could be born was his movement in all of life. Failure simply meant one went on in fidelity and found by failure what God had intended for the fruitfulness of His will.
Mirror of Patience
Patience is willingness to suffer. A patient is one who suffers a malady not by choice whereas a patient man is one who suffers volitionally rather than relinquish the vocation given him. Joseph was patient because of his love. He was willing to suffer anything, even the loss of Our Lady and the Divine Child by being the first to die.
Joseph Most Prudent
Prudence is the mother of virtues which depends upon the practical wisdom gained by experience matched with an agile mind to make decisions in the here and now. Each time Joseph knew the will of God he acted decisively, swiftly, and accurately. He acted neither rashly nor timidly, but prudently.
Terror of Demons
Demons hate humility, suckled as they are on the vice of pride. Joseph’s humility is what terrifies the demons. He is entrusted with power and authority not simply because of his internal strength but because of his complete reliance upon and fidelity to God.
Patron of Dying and Solace of the Afflicted
What a blessed death to see God before you die and for God Himself to tell you to go. This was Joseph’s gift from his Son, who would hand his father over to His Father. Thus has Christ entrusted Joseph to have particular intercessory power for all those on the moment of death.
Chaste Guardian of Virgins and Pillar of Families
Due to his chastity and vocation, Joseph has further been entrusted to continue his mission of guarding the pure ones of God and of the integrity of the family. This power flows through him now as a reward of his perfect fidelity. All religious and families should have recourse to this most powerful intercessor.
“Let us love Jesus above all, let us love Mary as our mother; but then, how could we keep from loving Joseph, who was so intimately united to both Jesus and Mary? And how can we honor him better than by imitating his virtues? Now, what else did he do in all his life but contemplate, study, and adore Jesus, even in the midst of his daily labors? Behold, therefore, our model.”
–St. Madeleine Sophie Barat