Was St. Joseph Assumed Into Heaven? Here’s What the Saints Say

“St. Joseph, then, is in heaven in body and soul,” wrote St. Francis de Sales. “There is no doubt of it.”

Francisco de Zurbarán, “Christ Crowns Saint Joseph,” 1640
Francisco de Zurbarán, “Christ Crowns Saint Joseph,” 1640 (photo: Public Domain)

This Year of St. Joseph happens to be the perfect time to also consider the pious belief that, like Our Lady, St. Joseph was taken up bodily into heaven — the assumption of St. Joseph.

Some great saints, Doctors of the Church and other eminent churchmen have spoken of it and taught about it.

 

St. Bernardine of Siena and Blessed Bernardine de Bustis

One such saint is St. Bernardine of Siena, who was the undisputed top preacher throughout Italy in the early 15th century. We may not be familiar with his name, but because he was so devoted to the Holy Name of Jesus, Bernardine popularized the familiar symbol for Jesus’ name using the first three Greek letters of his name — IHS.

“We may piously believe, but not assert, that the Most Holy Son of God Jesus crowned his foster-father with the same privilege which he gave his Mother: that as he assumed her into heaven bodily and glorious in soul, so also on the day when he arose he took Joseph up with him in the glory of the Resurrection,” Bernadine preached in one of his great sermons, adding, “So that as this glorious family, Christ, the Virgin and Joseph, had dwelt together on earth in the labors of life and in loving grace, so now they reign in heaven in loving glory of both body and soul.”

When the saint was preaching in Padua that St. Joseph was in heaven body and soul, it was recorded that a brightly shining heavenly cross of gold appeared over his head, and taken as proof to the very eyes of those who surrounded him the truth of what he was conveying to their ears.

Another of a similar name, Blessed Bernardine de Bustis, witnessed this phenomenal event, and he also most resolutely believed that St. Joseph also rose with Jesus and was in heaven body and soul.

 

Jean Gerson

At the same time, Jean Gerson, the chancellor of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, was another one on the same page as St. Bernadine of Siena. During that period he was also constantly invoking Joseph’s help at the Council of Constance, which was dealing with the Great Western Schism.

 

St. Francis de Sales

Next, the Doctor of the Church St. Francis de Sales gave a stirring sermon on this matter during a series of spiritual conferences he held. In the 19th conference he said that “we must nowise doubt that this glorious saint (Joseph) has great credit in heaven with him who has so favored him as to raise him to it both body and soul; which is the more probable as we have no relic of him here below on earth; and it seems to me that no one can doubt this truth. For how could he who had been obedient to him all the time of his life, have refused this grace to St. Joseph?”

After Francis de Sales described what might have been said during the reunion of Jesus and St. Joseph in limbo, as he termed the place where those just and holy souls were waiting until Jesus’ resurrection, he continued: “And if it is true, as we must believe, that by virtue of the most Holy Sacrament which we receive, our bodies will rise again at the day of judgment, how can we doubt that our Lord caused to rise with him to heaven in body and soul the glorious St. Joseph who had had the honor and the grace of carrying him so often in his blessed arms, in which our Lord took such pleasure? Oh, how many kisses he tenderly gave him with his blessed mouth, to reward, in some measure, his labor!”

This great Doctor of the Church makes it exceptionally clear, exclaiming, “St. Joseph, then, is in heaven in body and soul, there is no doubt of it.”

 

Pope St. John XXIII

Fast-forwarding a few centuries. In a homily in 1960 St. John XXIII said “so piously we can believe” that St. Joseph is also in heaven body and soul.

 

St. Leonard of Port Maurice

And so did other saints. The great 18th-century preacher St. Leonard of Port Maurice was another. A major proponent of having the dogma of the Immaculate Conception declared, he also believed and explained why St. Joseph was, like his spouse, in heaven body and soul.

 

The Wise Give Whys

The saints and blessed had good reasons for this belief along with a measure of spiritual common sense. Obviously, there are no bodily relics of St. Joseph. No one ever claimed any.

In his famous sermon on St. Joseph, Bernardine offered more than one reason. He said, “For it is written (Matthew 27:52): ‘And many bodies of the saints arose, who had fallen asleep,’ that is, were dead. According to Jerome, this was done at the Lord’s Resurrection because the Lord was ‘the Firstborn of the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth,’ as we read (in Revelation 1:5).”

He continued: “I say these souls arose with Christ as proofs of his Resurrection. This, Matthew (27:52-53) sets down plainly when he says: ‘And coming forth out of the tombs after his Resurrection, they came into the holy city, and appeared to many.’ We may piously believe that among these risen ones was the most holy Joseph.”

In his book Consecration to St. Joseph, Father Donald Calloway of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception reflects on what Bernadine and other saints believed. “It certainly makes sense that St. Joseph would be among their number.

“If people rose from the dead at the death of Jesus — a fact that is clearly stated in the passage from Matthew's Gospel — would not St. Joseph have been one of them? Why would our Lord raise others from the dead and leave his own beloved father in a tomb? St. Joseph is greater than all the Old Testament prophets, including St. John the Baptist.”

Mentioning that many saints believed St. Joseph was assumed into heaven in like manner of his spouse, Father Calloway continues, “It makes a lot of sense if you think about it. … If Jesus assumed his mother's body into heaven, why would he not do the same for his beloved Father? What son, if he had divine power, would take his mother's body to heaven and leave his father's body in a tomb?”

Then Father Calloway added one magnificently beautiful thought for “speculation” and “delightful meditation” based on Matthew’ words (27:52-53), by adding that if St. Joseph was one of the saints rising from the dead at the Resurrection and appearing to many in Jerusalem, “who would St. Joseph most likely have gone to see? Why, his wife, of course! … Imagine the sweet reunion, the chaste, tear-filled embrace!”

 

St. Joseph’s Limitless Intercession

It’s as if St. Francis de Sales had the same in mind during that spiritual conference of his on St. Joseph. After presenting the reasons we’ve already seen and adding even more reasons and explanations about St. Joseph being in heaven body and soul, he went on enthusiastically to describe what we can expect through devotion to him and his intercession for us. St. Francis de Sales enthused:

Oh, how happy should we be, if we could deserve to have a share in his holy intercession! For nothing will be refused him, either by our Lady, or by her glorious Son. He will obtain for us, if we have confidence in him, a holy growth in all sorts of virtues, but especially in those we have found that he possessed in a higher degree than any others, which are most holy purity of body and mind, the most amiable virtue of humility, constancy, valor and perseverance; virtues which will render us victorious over our enemies in this life, and make us merit the grace to go and enjoy in eternal life the reward prepared for those who shall imitate the example given them by St. Joseph while he was in this life, a reward which will be nothing less than eternal happiness, in which we shall enjoy the clear vision of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Obviously, we can piously believe St. Joseph is already body and soul with his foster son Jesus and his wife Mary.

Horace Vernet, “The Angel of Death,” 1851

Don’t Wait to Cram for Your ‘Final Exam’

“Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven — through a purification or immediately — or immediate and everlasting damnation.” (CCC 1022)

Horace Vernet, “The Angel of Death,” 1851

Don’t Wait to Cram for Your ‘Final Exam’

“Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven — through a purification or immediately — or immediate and everlasting damnation.” (CCC 1022)

Francisco de Zurbarán, “The Family of the Virgin,” ca. 1650

Why Do We Ask Mary to Pray for Us?

“After her Son’s Ascension, Mary ‘aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers.’ In her association with the apostles and several women, ‘we also see Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation.’” (CCC 965)