5 Books on St. Joseph to Read for the Jubilee Year

THE JUBILEE OF ST. JOSEPH: Book picks from St. Julian Peter Eymard, Mike Aquilina, Father Donald Calloway and others

MICHAEL WILLMAN, THE KISS OF SAINT JOSEPH, C. 1675
MICHAEL WILLMAN, THE KISS OF SAINT JOSEPH, C. 1675 (photo: Public domain)

It’s no exaggeration to say that, except for the Blessed Virgin Mary, her blessed spouse St. Joseph is perhaps the most popular saint in the world, which makes sense, given his role as “Patron of the Universal Church.” 

As a consequence of this popular devotion, the popes began to elevate St. Joseph’s role in the Church: Pius IX named him “Patron of the Universal Church” in 1870; Pius XII established May 1 as the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955; Pope John XXIII included his name in the Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) of the Mass in 1962 (followed in 2013 by his inclusion in all of the Eucharistic Prayers of the Mass); and, last year, Pope Francis announced 2021 as the Year of St. Joseph.

Yet how many know who St. Joseph is as a historical figure, a source of spiritual benefits, a powerful intercessor and a model of manhood, fatherhood and sanctity?

The following five books represent a good “start” in knowing more about St. Joseph. Although there are countless other fine books, articles and tracts dedicated to the silent saint of the Gospels, these five titles represent a cross section of the literature written about St. Joseph in the last 350 years, a period of time during which devotion to St. Joseph became increasingly more ardent not only in certain regions but throughout the world. 

 

The Divine Favors Granted to St. Joseph by Pere Binet (TAN Books, 1973; 176 pages, $9.95)

This book was originally published sometime during the author’s lifetime. Jesuit Father Etienne Binet (1569-1639) was a prodigious author of works on theology and spirituality — and TAN Books made it available for readers today as one of the earliest books in Church history devoted to the importance of St. Joseph as intercessor and guardian of the faith. In fact, more than 200 years before Pius IX announced his role as “Patron of the Universal Church,” Father Binet had already recognized his powerful intercession for all people at all times, noting that “while God gives to other Saints the power of helping us in certain special necessities, to St. Joseph He gives the privilege of helping us in all circumstances where his protection is needful for us.” The book includes chapters on St. Joseph’s titles, his natural gifts, his virtues, his specially granted abundance of graces, and individual accounts of his divine assistance granted to those in need.

 

Month of St. Joseph by St. Peter Julian Eymard (The Sentinel Press, 1948)

This book used to be long out of print; my copy is a handsome slim red hardbound booklet from a multivolume set of Eymard’s works. According to the book’s preface, Month of St. Joseph was available in the original French as early as 1872 and perhaps earlier, during the author’s lifetime. This Eucharist-centered devotional booklet has recently been republished and is available along with other Eymard titles at MyCatholicStore.com and Sacramentals.org. My 1948 copy refers to its author as “Blessed” Peter Julian Eymard, but Pope John XXIII canonized this saint on Dec. 9, 1962 (a day after his decree adding St. Joseph to the Canon of the Mass had officially gone into effect). St. Peter Julian (1811-1868) is best known for his work in spreading devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, especially through Eucharistic adoration. 

In this book, which provides 31 meditations, one for each day of March, the author shows the important connection between St. Joseph and the Eucharist through his guardianship of Jesus in Nazareth: “Among the graces which Jesus gave his foster-father — and He flooded him with the graces attached to every one of His mysteries — is that special to an adorer of the Blessed Sacrament,” St. Peter Julian writes, encouraging us to take St. Joseph “as the patron and the model of your life of adoration.” It is the perfect book to bring along for Eucharistic adoration this year.

 

Go to Joseph by Father Richard W. Gilsdorf, with a foreword by Bishop David Ricken, Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin (Star of the Bay Press, 2009; 134 pages, $22) 

The manuscript for this book was found among the papers of Father Richard Gilsdorf (1930-2005) of the Green Bay Diocese; with the help of the book’s editor, Patrick Beno, it was published five years after Father Gilsdorf’s death. Divided into nine chapters with three appendices, Go to Joseph seeks to ascertain who Joseph was — and his importance today — as one of the most important figures in Jesus’ earthly life and in the life of the Church he founded. 

The last chapter, in particular, seeks to better understand why St. Joseph remains silent in the Gospels. 

Father Gilsdorf notes that “although Scripture is indeed largely silent about Joseph, this is not something unique. Consider the hidden life of Jesus and Mary. … We must understand there is a reason the Holy Spirit in His infinite wisdom has told us only so much and no more. One obvious reason is that by limiting the information, all persons of all places and times can apply the basic facts to their own individual lives.” In Go to Joseph, these basic facts are presented in the full light of the Catholic faith and loving devotion to St. Joseph.

 

St. Joseph and His World by Mike Aquilina, with a foreword by Scott Hahn (Scepter Publishers, 2020; 144 pages, $11.48) 

In the prologue to this work, the author mentions to a novelist friend that he is working on a book about St. Joseph, and the friend replies, “St. Joseph is like a black hole at the center of the Gospel galaxy. You know him by his effects more than by seeing the man himself.” So the book reads, in large part, like a novel, filling in the character and person of St. Joseph by looking at the things around him. “A man like St. Joseph can become indistinct when we talk too much about him,” Aquilina acknowledges. 

“In this book, I want to talk about his world: the society and culture of the Judean kingdom, the workplaces where he practiced his craft, the villages that he called home. It was a hot climate, so we will allow him to spend his time in the shade while we contemplate his works.” 

The author delivers on his promised intentions; the work presents a historical account — based on both theological and archeological evidence — of the earthly father of Jesus, the lowly carpenter of Nazareth who trained God in the family business and, along with Mary, served as his first and greatest disciple. 

 

Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father by Father Donald Calloway (Marian Press, 2020; 326 pages, $14.95) 

This book, likely to be one of the bestsellers for the Year of St. Joseph, serves as a spiritual retreat in a paperback. 

Divided into three parts, the book begins with a 33-day preparation for the Consecration to St. Joseph — based on the purpose and method of the Consecration to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716). 

The second part of the book provides the readings that accompany the preparation for the consecration, while the third part presents a selection of prayers to St. Joseph, including the Litany to St. Joseph (in English and Latin) and various prayers of consecration composed by saints and others, including the author. 

As Father Calloway notes, since Mary and Joseph had the perfect marriage, it only makes sense that the faithful would want to consecrate their lives to both. 

“God desires that all children be committed to the love and care of a mother and a father,” he writes. 

“You are not a member of a single-parent spiritual family. Mary is your spiritual mother, and St. Joseph is your spiritual father. The spiritual fatherhood of St. Joseph is extremely important for your spiritual growth.”


Read the PDF of the Register special section on the Jubilee of St. Joseph, or browse the other articles here: 

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