New Artwork Shows St. Joseph as Young, Royal and Powerful
Father Donald Calloway inspired several artists to come up with magnificent new paintings of St. Joseph which we can get for ourselves.
For his major new book on St. Joseph — Consecration to St. Joseph — Father Donald Calloway of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception also wanted to include images of this great saint. But the search wasn’t proving productive. Until he knew the way to get pictures that would be truer depictions of this great saint.
“As I went through classic images on St. Joseph through the centuries, the majority of them pictured St. Joseph as old,” he said. “And he is in the background and not very prominent. Sometimes he looks soft.” He thought, “We’ve got to do something about that.” They really don’t represent the real St. Joseph.
To get representations that would help us better see and understand St. Joseph, he turned to artists he knew from around the world, all who paint like classic artists, to paint new images of St. Joseph. Two of them are based in Malta where there is great devotion to St. Joseph.
“I guided all the artists through each step,” Father Calloway said. “What colors I wanted, what I wanted them [St. Joseph and those with him] to be wearing, and what I wanted them to be holding.”
When it came to colors, Father Calloway notes that “St. Joseph is usually associated with three colors — green, purple and brown. Sometime you can also get gold in there because of royalty.” We know that he was of the House of David, therefore, he was royalty. “And purple and gold symbolize royalty.”
Brown, of course, because this color is associated with carpentry and working with wood. “The green also has that worker mentality,” Father Calloway said. That color takes in another aspect since “St. Joseph was a carpenter, and also probably worked with stone.” Aside from the color itself, to do that kind of labor, St. Joseph had to have strength and be younger than depicted throughout many centuries.
“I have him shown in two of the images with an ax in his hand,” Father Calloway said. “It’s a powerful, strong, human image.” All the more obviously so since the titles of these pictures are “Terror of Demons.” All of them must be cringing at the very thought of St. Joseph coming after them like that. In one of these titles he appears with the Blessed Mother.
St. Joseph is also represented in other ways to highlight and make shine some of his attributes.
Father Calloway points out several images that show St. Joseph wearing a crown. “You don’t see that a lot.,” he said. “You always see Our Lord and Lady crowned, but not many of St. Joseph.”
And yet many people don’t realize “we actually have papal crownings of St. Joseph statues.” For one, the stature of St. Joseph at the most famous shrine in Montreal, Saint Joseph's Oratory, is crowned. In the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, at the National Shrine of St. Joseph, his statue is crowned.
These and other examples led Father Calloway to realize, “It would be great to have some images of St. Joseph crowned,” he said.
In another, not only is St. Joseph crowned, but he appears in his rightful place in heaven. Father Calloway based the painting on Matthew 20:23 where Jesus is asked about who sits on his right and left in heaven.
“We know that Mary is sitting at the right hand of Christ. That’s biblical,” explains Father Calloway. “Who is at his left? None other than St. Joseph to his left. It would be disrespectful for Jesus to allow anyone other than his earthly father to sit on his left in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
One Artist’s Words
One of the magnificent “St. Joseph, Terror of Demons” paintings was done by Bernadette Carstensen, who credits Father Calloway with the inspiration and the composition idea of how he wants St. Joseph to be known.
“In reality, St. Joseph could have realty been a very strong, young man close in age to Mary,” she explains. “Father wanted to counter that tradition of St. Joseph as very old, as a caretaker. St. Joseph was young and strong.” In that regard, too, he would be the terror to the demons.
This same image of St. Joseph also appears in a form where he is surrounded by 26 saints and blesseds paying homage to him. The composition draws our eyes to St. Joseph. Carstensen describes how she came up with this composition from Father Calloway’s idea to include “these different saints and other figures who had devotion to St. Joseph. Writings from each of them are included in his book.”
Among these 26 holy ones that he gave her to appear are Sts. John Paul II, Andre Besette, Luigi Guanella, Alphonsus Ligouri, Teresa of Avila, John XXIII, Blessed Pope Pius IX and Venerable Fulton Sheen. All wear their habits or religious garments. Inspired by the 15th-century Ghent Altarpiece, Carstensen used brighter Renaissance colors and gave royal touches to St. Joseph’s clothing.
Doug Barry, well-known to EWTN audiences for his Battle Ready series, already has six of the different images, three right near his desk. He’s partial to the icon-like one of the Child Jesus sitting on his foster father’s lap, and to the warrior side of St. Joseph — Terror if Demons — pictured in prints to either side of it.
In the painting with Mary, Barry loves the way St. Joseph, standing there with the ax after striking the snake, “is giving her the hero pose,” he said. “He looks at Mary and says, ‘I’m here.’ I love it.”
“To me these images that Father Calloway has for the people say that St. Joseph is the hero, the action hero, the provider. Standing that way and the way he’s looking at Mary and she’s looking at him is the ultimate hero pose that combines the spiritual and physical role of the man. St. Joseph wasn’t just a spiritual man — that’s the root of everything. This picture is the physical and physical combined.”
At the same time, Barry finds this image implies and speaks to Revelation and that great sign in the sky because here Mary is the Woman clothed with the sun. And refers back to Genesis, because she’s also the Woman crushing the serpent’s head. “And there is Joseph with that physical sort of lean toward her [that says] ‘Look what I just did for you, Sweetheart.”
Barry describes how this portrayal of St. Joseph can tell us that “giving your wife the hero pose is letting her know, ‘I’m here for you.’”
That should inspire men to take the same hero pose. Barry said, “That rosary in your hand is a hero pose to your family, to your wife, to your loved ones. It lets them know you’re engaged in the battle. And especially [being] on your knees before the Blessed Sacrament. That’s an ideal hero pose.”
He also sees another part of the message in this stance of St. Joseph, “showing he is the spiritual battering ram for God, that terror of demons, that slayer of dragons.” Barry pictures men similarly “standing in the door with hand on hips, saying ‘Honey, I’m home. Your man is home. Your husband is here. I’ve slayed the dragon. I’ve worked to provide for the family — We have these roles to do.” Remember, St. Joseph is also the Provider.
With all the images showing a strong St. Joseph, the paintings also illustrate that physical quality St. Joseph had to have. Barry points out how St. Joseph had to make the trips to and from Bethlehem, and travel the desert to and from Egypt.
Feedback is already incredible.
People have also been buying these new pictures of St. Joseph. Father Calloway said families are getting them, prayer groups are getting them, and so are men’s groups for when they meet. He suggests, put them “in a prayer space in your home.” The images are of great quality and inexpensive, and available for purchase directly on Father Calloway’s website, ConsecrationToStJoseph.org.
“I’m hoping other artists will see these, come up with their own ideas, and get some fresh presentation of St. Joseph out there, especially in parishes where a lot of the images they have of St. Joseph [show him] very old,” Father Calloway said.
He doesn’t limit the new presentations only to paintings. “It would be great,” he hopes, “if somebody would be inspired to do statues like this.”
Purchase on the official site: ConsecrationToStJoseph.org.
- st. joseph