Last updated
Saint Joseph and the Christ Child by Guido Reni, c. 1640. Guido Reni - Saint Joseph and the Christ Child - Google Art Project.jpg
Saint Joseph and the Christ Child by Guido Reni, c. 1640.

Josephology is the theological study of Saint Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Records of devotions to Joseph go back to the year 800 and Doctors of the Church since Saint Thomas Aquinas have written on the subject. [1] With the growth of Mariology, the theological study of Joseph also grew and in the 1950s specific centers for it were formed. [2] The modern study of the theology concerning Joseph is one of the newest theological disciplines. [3]

Theology Study of the nature of deities and religious belief

Theology is the critical study of the nature of the divine. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries.

Saint Joseph Christian saint; husband of Mary and stepfather of Jesus

Joseph is a figure in the Gospels who was married to Mary, Jesus' mother, and was Jesus' legal father. Joseph is venerated as Saint Joseph in the Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, Anglicanism, Lutheranism, and Methodism, and is also known as Joseph the carpenter. Some differing views are due to theological interpretations versus historical views.

Thomas Aquinas Dominican scholastic philosopher of the Roman Catholic Church

Saint Thomas Aquinas was an Italian Dominican friar, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. He is an immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, within which he is also known as the Doctor Angelicus and the Doctor Communis. The name Aquinas identifies his ancestral origins in the county of Aquino in present-day Lazio, Italy.


History and background

Early period

Saint Jerome's Against Helvidius (c. 383) paved the way for aspects of future Josephite devotion with his assertion that Joseph was always a virgin. [4] The earliest record of a formal devotional following for Saint Joseph in the Western Church is in the abridged Martyrology of Rheinau in Northern France, which dates to the year 800. References to Joseph as nutritor Domini ("educator/guardian of the Lord") from the 9th to the 14th centuries continued to increase as Mariology developed, [5] and by the 12th century, along with greater devotion to Mary, the writings of the Benedictine monks began to foster a following for Joseph and they inserted his name in their liturgical calendars and their martyrology. [6] [7]


Mariology is the theological study of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mariology methodically relates teachings about her to other parts of the faith, such as teachings about Jesus, redemption and grace. Christian Mariology aims to connect scripture, tradition and the teachings of the Church on Mary. In the context of social history, Mariology may be broadly defined as the study of devotion to and thinking about Mary throughout the history of Christianity.

A martyrology is a catalogue or list of martyrs and other saints and beati arranged in the calendar order of their anniversaries or feasts. Local martyrologies record exclusively the custom of a particular Church. Local lists were enriched by names borrowed from neighbouring churches. Consolidation occurred, by the combination of several local martyrologies, with or without borrowings from literary sources.

In the 13th century, the Dominican Doctor of the Church Thomas Aquinas discussed the necessity of the presence of Saint Joseph in the plan of the Incarnation for if Mary had not been married, her fellow Jews would have stoned her to death and that a young Jesus needed the care and protection of a human father. [8] The Josephology of Aquinas often proceeded with the juxtaposition of Joseph and Mary. [9]

Dominican Order Roman Catholic religious order

The Order of Preachers, also known as the Dominican Order, is a mendicant Catholic religious order founded by the Spanish priest Dominic of Caleruega in France, approved by Pope Honorius III via the Papal bull Religiosam vitam on 22 December 1216. Members of the order, who are referred to as Dominicans, generally carry the letters OP after their names, standing for Ordinis Praedicatorum, meaning of the Order of Preachers. Membership in the order includes friars, nuns, active sisters, and affiliated lay or secular Dominicans.

Doctor of the Church one of the early Christian theologians regarded as especially authoritative in the Western Church

Doctor of the Church is a title given by the Catholic Church to saints recognized as having made significant contribution to theology or doctrine through their research, study, or writing.

In the 15th century, major steps were taken by Saint Bernardine of Siena, Pierre d'Ailly, and Jean Gerson, the chancellor of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris. [10] Gerson wrote a lengthy treatise in French titled Consideration sur Saint Joseph and a 120-verse poem in Latin about Saint Joseph. In 1416 to 1418, Gerson preached sermons on Saint Joseph at the Council of Constance in which he borrowed heavily from Marian themes. [11]

Pierre dAilly French theologian, astrologer, and cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church

Pierre d'Ailly was a French theologian, astrologer, and cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.

Jean Gerson French academic

Jean Charlier de Gerson was a French scholar, educator, reformer, and poet, Chancellor of the University of Paris, a guiding light of the conciliar movement and one of the most prominent theologians at the Council of Constance. He was one of the first thinkers to develop what would later come to be called natural rights theory, and was also one of the first individuals to defend Joan of Arc and proclaim her supernatural vocation as authentic.

Council of Constance synod

The Council of Constance is the 15th-century ecumenical council recognized by the Catholic Church, held from 1414 to 1418 in the Bishopric of Constance. The council ended the Western Schism by deposing or accepting the resignation of the remaining papal claimants and by electing Pope Martin V.

16th–19th centuries

The growth of the following of Joseph is manifested with the earliest church dedicated to him in Rome, San Giuseppe dei Falegnami (St. Joseph of the Carpenters), constructed in 1540 in the Forum Romanum, above the prison that by tradition had held Saint Peter and Saint Paul. [12] The spread of his following is then shown by the publication of the first Litany of St. Joseph in Rome in 1597 and the introduction of the Cord of St. Joseph in Antwerp in 1657. These were then followed by the Chaplet of St. Joseph in 1850, and the Scapular of St. Joseph of the Capuchins which was approved in 1880. [13] The formal veneration of the Holy Family began in the 17th century by Mgr François de Laval.

San Giuseppe dei Falegnami church

San Giuseppe dei Falegnami is a Roman Catholic church, located in the Forum in Rome, Italy.

Mamertine Prison Prison

The Mamertine Prison, in antiquity the Tullianum, was a prison (carcer) located in the Comitium in ancient Rome. It was situated on the northeastern slope of the Capitoline Hill, facing the Curia and the imperial fora of Nerva, Vespasian, and Augustus. Located between it and the Tabularium was a flight of stairs leading to the Arx of the Capitoline known as the Gemonian stairs.

Saint Peter apostle and first pope

Saint Peter, also known as Simon Peter, Simeon, Simon, or Cephas, according to the New Testament, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, leaders of the early Christian Great Church. Pope Gregory I called him repeatedly the "Prince of the Apostles". According to Catholic teaching, Jesus promised Peter in the "Rock of My Church" dialogue in Matthew 16:18 a special position in the Church. He is traditionally counted as the first Bishop of Rome‍—‌or pope‍—‌and also by Eastern Christian tradition as the first Patriarch of Antioch. The ancient Christian churches all venerate Peter as a major saint and as the founder of the Church of Antioch and the Roman Church, but differ in their attitudes regarding the authority of his present-day successors.

From the 16th century onwards, a number of Catholic saints prayed to Saint Joseph, invoked his help and protection and encouraged others to do so. In Introduction to the Devout Life St. Francis de Sales included Joseph along with the Virgin Mary as saints to be invoked during prayers following an examination of conscience. [14] Saint Teresa of Avila attributed her recovery of health to Joseph and recommended him as an advocate. [15] In her biography The Story of a Soul , Saint Thérèse of Lisieux stated that for a period of time, she prayed every day to "Saint Joseph, Father and Protector of Virgins..." and felt safe from danger as a result. [16] The three saints mentioned in this paragraph were all Doctors of the Church.

<i>Introduction to the Devout Life</i> book by Franciscus van Sales

Introduction to the Devout Life is a book written by Saint Francis de Sales, the first edition being published in 1609. The final edition was published in 1619, prior to the death of Francis in 1622. It enjoyed wide popularity, and was well received in both Protestant and Catholic circles, evidenced by its translation into all major languages of the day. It is typically categorized as a form of reading known as lectio divina, based on the Christian monastic practice of spiritual reading. Like The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, it is considered a spiritual classic in the Christian tradition. The work is also used as a guide in Christian spiritual direction.

Examination of conscience is a review of one's past thoughts, words, actions, and omissions for the purpose of ascertaining their conformity with, or deviation from, the moral law. Among Christians, this is generally a private review; secular intellectuals have, on occasion, published autocritiques for public consumption. In the Catholic Church penitents who wish to receive the sacrament of penance are encouraged to examine their conscience using the Ten Commandments as a guide, or the Beatitudes, or the virtues and vices. A similar doctrine is taught in Lutheran churches, where penitents who wish to receive Holy Absolution are also asked to use the Ten Commandments as a guide. The process is very similar to the Islamic practice of Muhasaba, or self-reflection.

<i>The Story of a Soul</i> book by Thérèse of Lisieux

The Story of a Soul is the autobiography of Thérèse of Lisieux, a French Discalced Carmelite nun, later recognized as a saint. It was first published on September 30, 1898, a year to the day after her death from tuberculosis at the age of 24, on September 30, 1897. The book was a single volume formed from three distinct manuscripts – manuscripts of different length, written at different times, addressed to different people, and differing from one another in character. The work of unifying these disparate manuscripts was carried out by Pauline, the sister of Thérèse. It was initially published with a limited audience in mind, and just 2,000 copies of the 475-page book were printed. It quickly became a publishing phenomenon however, and Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was canonised in 1925.

In 1870, Pope Pius IX proclaimed Saint Joseph "Patron of the Universal Church". Joseph is also the unofficially patron of fighting communism. In 1889, Pope Leo XIII issued the encyclical Quamquam pluries in which he urged Catholics to pray to Joseph as patron of the Church. This was in view of challenges facing the Church, such as the growing depravity of morals in the young generation. He prescribed that every October, a prayer to Saint Joseph be added to the Rosary, with attached indulgences.

Modern development

With the growth of Mariology, the theological study of Joseph also began to grow to discuss his role in the Economy of Salvation. Three centers for Josephology were formed in the 1950s, the first in Valladolid Spain, the second at Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, and the third in the theologate of Viterbo, Italy. [17]

During the centenary of Quamquam pluries in 1989, Pope John Paul II delivered the Apostolic exhortation Redemptoris custos ("Guardian of the Redeemer"). This exhortation is part of the "redemption documents" issued by the pope, and refers to the Marian encyclical Redemptoris Mater . [18] It discusses the importance of Saint Joseph in the Holy Family, and presents the pope's view of Saint Joseph's role in the plan of redemption. [19] John Paul II positions Saint Joseph as breaking the old vice of paternal familial domination, and suggests him as the model of a loving father. [20] [21]

See also

Related Research Articles

Immaculate Conception Catholic doctrine that Mary was conceived free from original sin

In Christian theology, the Immaculate Conception is the conception of the Virgin Mary free from original sin by virtue of the merits of her son Jesus. The Catholic Church teaches that God acted upon Mary in the first moment of her conception, keeping her "immaculate".

Rosary Roman Catholic sacramental and Marian devotion to prayer

The Holy Rosary, also known as the Dominican Rosary, refers to a form of prayer used in the Catholic Church and to the string of knots or beads used to count the component prayers. When used for the prayer, the word is usually capitalized, as is customary for other names of prayers, such as "the Lord's Prayer", and "the Hail Mary"; when referring to the beads, it is written with a lower-case initial letter.

Prayer to Saint Joseph

The following are Roman Catholic prayers to Saint Joseph.

Catholic Mariology study of Mary, mother of Jesus

Catholic Mariology refers to Mariology—the systematic study of the person of Mary, mother of Jesus, and of her place in the Economy of Salvation—within Catholic theology. Mary is seen as having a singular dignity above the saints. The Catholic Church teaches that she was conceived without original sin, therefore receiving a higher level of veneration than all other saints. Catholic Mariology thus studies not only her life but also the veneration of her in daily life, prayer, hymns, art, music, and architecture in modern and ancient Christianity throughout the ages.

Teachings of Pope John Paul II

The teachings of Pope John Paul II are contained in a number of documents. It has been said that these teachings will have a long-lasting influence on the Church.

"Octave" has two senses in Christian liturgical usage. In the first sense, it is the eighth day after a feast, reckoning inclusively, and so always falls on the same day of the week as the feast itself. The word is derived from Latin octava (eighth), with dies (day) understood. In the second sense, the term is applied to the whole period of these eight days, during which certain major feasts came to be observed.


In Roman Catholic Mariology, the title Mediatrix refers to the intercessory role of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a mediator in the salvific redemption by her son Jesus Christ, and that he bestows graces through her. Mediatrix is an ancient title that has been used by a number of saints since at least the 5th century. Its use grew during the Middle Ages and reached its height in the writings of saints Louis de Montfort and Alphonsus Liguori in the 18th century.

Protestant views on Mary

Protestant views on Mary include the theological positions of major Protestant representatives such as Martin Luther and John Calvin as well as some modern representatives. While it is difficult to generalize about the place of Mary, mother of Jesus in Protestantism given the great diversity of Protestant beliefs, some summary statements are attempted.

History of Catholic Mariology

The history of Catholic Mariology traces theological developments and views regarding Mary from the early Church to the 21st century. Mariology is a mainly Catholic ecclesiological study within theology, which centers on the relation of Mary and the Church. Catholic Mariology is the encyclopedic area of theology concerned with Mary, the Mother of God. Theologically, it not only deals with her life, but her veneration in daily life, prayer, art, music, architecture, in modern and ancient Christianity throughout the ages.

Mariology of the saints

Throughout history Roman Catholic Mariology has been influenced by a number of saints who have attested to the central role of Mary in God's plan of salvation. The analysis of Early Church Fathers continues to be reflected in modern encyclicals. Irenaeus vigorously defended the title of "Theotokos" or Mother of God. The views of Anthony of Padua, Robert Bellarmine and others supported the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, which was declared a dogma in 1850.

Mariology of the popes

The Mariology of the popes is the theological study of the influence that the popes have had on the development, formulation and transformation of the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrines and devotions relating to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Veneration of Mary in the Catholic Church Roman Catholic veneration of Mary

In the Catholic Church, the veneration of Mary, mother of Jesus, encompasses various Marian devotions which include prayer, pious acts, visual arts, poetry, and music devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Popes have encouraged it, while also taking steps to reform some manifestations of it. The Holy See has insisted on the importance of distinguishing "true from false devotion, and authentic doctrine from its deformations by excess or defect". There are significantly more titles, feasts, and venerative Marian practices among Roman Catholics than in other Western Christian traditions. The term hyperdulia indicates the special veneration due to Mary, greater than the ordinary dulia for other saints, but utterly unlike the latria due only to God. The term "Mariolatry" is a Protestant pejorative label for perceived excessive Catholic devotion to Mary.

Mariological papal documents

Mariological papal documents have been a major force that has shaped Roman Catholic Mariology over the centuries. Mariology is developed by theologians on the basis not only of Scripture and Tradition but also of the sensus fidei of the faithful as a whole, "from the bishops to the last of the faithful", and papal documents have recorded those developments, defining Marian dogmas, spreading doctrines and encouraging devotions within the Catholic Church.

Mother of the Church Roman Catholic term

In Roman Catholic Mariology, Mother of the Church is a title, officially given to Mary during the Second Vatican Council by Pope Paul VI. The title was first used in the 4th century by Saint Ambrose of Milan, as rediscovered by Hugo Rahner.

Catholic prayers to Jesus

A number of prayers to Jesus Christ exist within the Roman Catholic tradition. These prayers have diverse origins and forms. Some were attributed to visions of saints, others were handed down by tradition.

Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary

The Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary refers to the historical, theological and spiritual links in Catholic devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Devotions to the two hearts are key elements of Catholic teachings, and terms such as Holy Heart, Agonizing Heart and Compassionate Heart have also been used in devotions.

<i>Quamquam pluries</i> encyclical

Quamquam pluries is an encyclical on Saint Joseph by Pope Leo XIII. It was issued on August 15, 1889 in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.

<i>Redemptoris custos</i>

Redemptoris custos is the title of an apostolic exhortation by Pope John Paul II on Saint Joseph. It was delivered on August 15, 1989 in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome on the occasion of the centenary of Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Quamquam pluries.


  1. For an analysis of the Josephology of Aquinas see: A Thomistic Josephology by James J Davis 1967, University of Montreal, ASIN B0007K3PL4
  2. P. de Letter, "The Theology of Saint Joseph", The Clergy Monthly, March 1955, Online at JSTOR
  3. Sunday Catholic Magazine October 4, 2009
  4. Jerome Contra Patres
  5. The liturgy and time by Irénée Henri Dalmais, Aimé Georges Martimort, Pierre Jounel 1985 ISBN   0-8146-1366-7 page 143
  6. Holy people of the world: a cross-cultural encyclopedia, Volume 3 by Phyllis G. Jestice 2004 ISBN   1-57607-355-6 page 446
  7. Bernard of Clairvaux and the shape of monastic thought by M. B. Pranger 1997 ISBN   90-04-10055-5 page 244
  8. The childhood of Christ by Thomas Aquinas, Roland Potter, 2006 ISBN   0-521-02960-0 pages 110-120
  9. Aquinas on doctrine by Thomas Gerard Weinandy, John Yocum 2004 ISBN   0-567-08411-6 page 248
  10. The liturgy and time by Irénée Henri Dalmais, Aimé Georges Martimort, Pierre Jounel 1985 ISBN   0-8146-1366-7 page 143
  11. Medieval mothering by John Carmi Parsons, Bonnie Wheeler 1999 ISBN   0-8153-3665-9 page 107
  12. The Roman Forum by David Watkin 2009 ISBN   0-674-03341-8 page 128
  13. Ann Ball, 2003, Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices ISBN   0-87973-910-X page 520
  14. Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales ISBN   0-7661-0074-X Kessinger Press 1942 page 297
  15. The interior castle by Saint Teresa of Avila, Paulist Press 1979, ISBN   0-8091-2254-5 page 2
  16. The Story of a Soul by Therese De Lisieux Bibliolife 2008 0554261588 page 94
  17. P. de Letter, "The Theology of Saint Joseph", The Clergy Monthly, March 1955, Online at JSTOR
  18. Foundations of the Christian way of life by Jacob Prasad 2001 ISBN   88-7653-146-7 page 404
  19. Vatican website: Redemptoris Custos
  20. Cradle of redeeming love: the theology of the Christmas mystery by John Saward 2002 ISBN   0-89870-886-9 page 230
  21. Divine likeness: toward a Trinitarian anthropology of the family by Marc Ouellet ISBN   0-8028-2833-7 page 102

Further reading