St. Joseph Experienced the Greatest Holy Hours in History

Noble Offspring of David models and teaches us Eucharistic adoration in countless ways.

A painting of the Holy Family by an unknown artist of the 19th century adorns the Church of St. Benedict in Parma, Italy.
A painting of the Holy Family by an unknown artist of the 19th century adorns the Church of St. Benedict in Parma, Italy. (photo: Renata Sedmakova / Shutterstock)

“St. Joseph was the first adorer,” St. Peter Julian Eymard recounts in his book The Month of St. Joseph. “Have confidence, strong confidence in him. Take him as the patron and model of your adoration.” 

Indisputably, St. Joseph is the epitome of Eucharistic devotion.

Being the quintessential example of devotion to Our Lord, St. Joseph naturally becomes the perfect model of Eucharistic devotion to follow, especially during the National Eucharistic Revival.

St. Joseph’s name is remembered in the Eucharistic Prayer at every Mass, and he has long been closely tied to the Eucharist. 

Theologian, author and professor Scott Hahn explains the foundation this way: “St. Joseph was, with Mary, the first to take up the practice of perpetual adoration. He was with Jesus, loving him, all the time — at home, in the workshop, in the synagogue, on the road. He teaches us to live in the presence of God at all times, and he shows us how to pray when we are in the Eucharistic presence of Our Lord.”

St. Joseph models and teaches us Eucharistic adoration in many ways, expounded Father Jeffrey Kirby, the pastor of Our Lady of Grace parish in Indian Land, South Carolina, and the host of the daily devotional podcast Morning Offering With Father Kirby. “Joseph was the first to see the Christ Child when he was born from his mother. As he held the Christ Child in his arms, he made the first Holy Hour. As he showed the Christ Child to Our Lady, he was the first to announce the Eucharistic Lord to the world. By placing him in the stable, which was a feeding trough, in Bethlehem, which means the ‘City of Bread,’ Joseph was giving us all the Bread of Life, the Bread come down from heaven.”

That stable became more than a stable. In Consecration to St. Joseph, Marian Father Donald Calloway writes, “The first adoration chapel was visited by local shepherds, followed closely by the Wise Men. … St. Joseph would not only establish adoration in the Holy Land, St. Joseph established the second adoration chapel [later] in pagan territory: Egypt,” where “St. Joseph was responsible for raising the Living Host that would feed the world.”

Interestingly, Father Kirby describes how in the Old Testament the patriarch Joseph feeds the world with bread. “People came from the ends of the earth to be fed by Joseph, second only to pharaoh. In the New Testament, the earthly father of the Lord lived up to his ancestral name since he also helped to feed the world” with “the Bread of Life. Joseph gave us Jesus, the Eucharistic Lord.”


Past Ties to Present

During this present Eucharistic Revival, many people will be taking part in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. St. Joseph shows the way. In his book, Father Calloway pointed out, “After their time in Egypt, St. Joseph and Mary walked with Jesus to Nazareth. This long walk was, and remains, the grandest procession of the Body and Blood of Christ ever conducted. It was a procession that covered more than 120 miles!”

Such processions likely began earlier. Father Calloway detailed in his book how many scholars believe Joseph accompanied Mary on her long trip to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Since at the time of her pregnancy Mary was a living monstrance, that would mean Joseph took part in a Eucharistic procession along that journey. The same goes for their travels to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus.

St. Peter Julian Eymard taught, “From his  entry into the world, even while still enclosed in Mary’s womb as if a living ciborium, Jesus singled out Mary and Joseph to be his adorers. Joseph responded royally. He never ceased adoring Jesus in [Mary’s] womb. And after the child’s birth at Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary adored him uninterruptedly as he lay before their eyes. They represented all mankind at the feet of Christ.”

Father Kirby elaborated, telling the Register, “Joseph’s adoration of the Lord’s presence was shown by his sensitivity and openness to the will of God. He did whatever was asked of him, no matter the sacrifice. This included taking Mary as his wife, naming the Christ Child, thus making Jesus his son under the Law of Moses, fleeing to Egypt, coming back and making Nazareth home. 

“He loved and cherished the Lord. He protected him and guarded him. He showed him a father’s love and fulfilled the demands of his vocation.”

Father Calloway underscored in his book that, back in Nazareth, “St. Joseph and his wife adored the divine presence of Jesus in their home” for many years. “In one sense, it was like a house of perpetual adoration and uninterrupted contemplation, even while they carried out all their daily tasks and chores of domestic life. The adoration lasted for decades.”

At the same time, Father Kirby pointed out a Eucharistic connection to St. Joseph in the New Testament. He calls it “highly significant that the famous Bread of Life Discourse, in which the Lord Jesus definitely taught us about his True Presence, included a mention of Joseph. The crowds were shocked by the Lord’s teachings. ‘They were saying, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? (John 6:42).’ We can only imagine Joseph’s joy as the Lord announced to the world his True Eucharistic Presence.”


‘Joseph Is a Model Adorer’

Theologian Hahn offered advice on how to apply St. Joseph’s model to our lives. “We should certainly be as silent as Joseph, as attentive to the angels, and as faithful to the traditions of God’s people,” he said. “Especially for men who are husbands and fathers, like Joseph, we should allow the grace of adoration to fill our hearts and our homes. We can learn all those things just from a close reading of the early chapters of Matthew and Luke. Joseph is a model adorer.”

The pharaoh of old told the world, “Go to Joseph” (Genesis 41:55), pointed out Father Kirby. “And that wisdom echoes again today. We can go to Joseph, not the patriarch of old, but the earthly father of the Lord Jesus and the head of the Holy Family.” 

“Like Joseph, we can show homage to the Lord and his Eucharistic Presence,” Father Kirby added. “We can defend it and cherish it. We can fulfill the duties of our vocation, knowing that the Lord is with us and his presence is with us to help us. We can do all that the Lord asks of us, in imitation of Joseph.”

At Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, senior Michael Ferarro employs St. Joseph as a model in all these regards. A member of the university’s Apprentices of St. Joseph household, Ferarro has learned how St. Joseph “prioritized his life. He understood that what was most important was to be with Our Lord.”

Working with Jesus day in and day out, “I’m sure Joseph would have had a deeper understanding of the reality that Jesus was the Son of God,” Ferarro told the Register. “So Joseph has taught me so much about the importance of remaining in the presence of [Jesus in] the Eucharist.”

“It’s going to depend on what extent you’re able, depending on your life and availability,” he added. One important way is by making time to be “particularly in the presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, whether that be signing up for a Holy Hour at your parish or talking to your pastor in getting a Holy Hour instituted in the flow of life.”

In his own case, he is able to arrange hours to visit the Eucharistic Lord in the campus chapel. In the Gospels, St. Joseph is presented as a silent witness and adorer, and Ferarro takes a cue from that because of the “profound stillness found in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist,” he said. “It’s telling that a lot of what we know of Joseph from Scripture isn’t necessarily words, but his action, his steadfastness to the Lord, being faithful as a husband and father.”

Like Joseph, the faithful should spend quality time with Our Lord in the Eucharist. 

“Basically, it just boils down to getting as much time as we can in front of him and really prioritizing that, both in an individual sense, in the family sense, and in the communal sense, in our parish life and our diocesan life — allowing the Lord to be the center of all things.”

Fellow senior Jacob Close, also a member of the Apprentices of St. Joseph, turns to the Holy Family in his faith life. “Reflecting on the Holy Family, there is Mary and Jesus and their perfection, and there is Joseph,” he said. “[W]e know that he was there as an important part. I really think he could be seen as a model to approach Mary and Jesus through what he did do — very simple obedience and humility,” adding that St. Joseph is “the closest that we can grasp to understand the model of adoring that perfection, especially Jesus, raising Jesus and bringing him up into manhood.”

Close believes that Joseph’s example of “obedience is really a key factor in understanding the Eucharist and understanding the highest point of who we are as Catholics, regarding the Eucharist.”


Imitate Joseph

According to St. Peter Julian Eymard, in Joseph, “We find ... the perfect adorer, entirely consecrated to Jesus, working always near Jesus, giving Jesus his virtues, his time, his very life; it is thus that he is our model and inspiration.”

“Actions speak loudly,” emphasized Father Kirby. “Joseph was a man of action. We are called to do the same. Our Eucharistic devotion begins at the altar and is then played out in the duties of our state in life.”

And think of Father Calloway’s beautiful description in his book relating to how St. Joseph’s wife Mary is “a living tabernacle, a walking monstrance, a veiled temple … she is never without the divine presence. God lives in her body!” Therefore, “[A]ll tabernacles are basically a replica of Mary’s bodily temple … God lived in Mary at all times, and St. Joseph was perpetually in the presence of Jesus.”

“The Church needs more people like St. Joseph,”  Father Calloway added. “To be like St. Joseph, you, too, need to adore Christ.”

As St. Peter Julian counseled, “We must beg for good adorers; the Blessed Sacrament needs them to replace St. Joseph and to imitate his life of adoration.”