Foster father of Jesus and husband of Our Lady. Patron saint of families, homes, hospices, manual workers, especially carpenters, and those who desire a happy death.
All that is known of St Joseph for certain is in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. He came from the house of David but his trade as a carpenter shows that he was not rich. He was betrothed to Mary and worried when he learnt that she was pregnant, until an angel came to him in a dream.
After the birth of Jesus, Joseph was warned in other dreams firstly to flee with his family to Egypt and then when Herod died, to return to Israel. But he feared Herod's successor and went on to Galilee, where the Holy Family set up home in Nazareth.
The episode of the 12 year-old Jesus being lost on the way back from the Passover at Jerusalem, again shows Joseph as a faithful father and husband.
While traditionally St Joseph is depicted as an old man, historians think he was probably younger. It is not know when he died, but it was before the crucifixion. The few biblical details give an impression of a just, compassionate, dignified and brave man, prompt in action but self-effacing.
A Greek document called the History of Joseph the Carpenter helped to create the cult to him from the fifth century onwards.
Early Irish writers had a great devotion to St Joseph.
Across mediaeval Europe he became immensely popular. St Theresa of Avila dedicated the mother house of her reformed Carmelite convents to the saint and frequently recommended devotion to him in her writings. St Ignatius Loyola also promoted his cult.
Pope Pius XII encouraged the second celebration of St Joseph, as St Joseph the Worker on 1 May. Pope John XXIII added his name to the Canon of the Mass in 1962.
The symbol of St Joseph is a white lily, signifying purity.