Ite ad Joseph: Seeking Strength in the Virtues of St. Joseph

Josh Florence

Ite ad Joseph: Seeking Strength in the Virtues of St. Joseph

When we dream, what is it that we aspire to be? We all should aspire to grow in virtue and closer to Our Lord. For the men reading this article, my hope would be that we wish to grow in fatherly virtues. It is difficult to make a definitive list of those virtues. Some that come to mind off the bat are leadership, a protective nature, and patience, but these are not exhaustive. Regardless of vocation, I really believe that developing these virtues help men grow closer to who God intended them to be. 

 It should be noted that it is isn’t necessary to be a biological father to grow in fatherly virtues. Men religious all over the world have many of these qualities in caring for their respective flocks. Single men can develop fatherly qualities by teaching or volunteering in their parish.

St. Joseph, as the Universal Patron of the Catholic Church, is, after God the Father, the ultimate guide of fatherhood. While the list of good, fatherly qualities are abundant, three qualities of St. Joseph highlighted in this article are his righteousness, his humility, and his fortitude.


A man who is considered “righteous” in Scripture is someone who is in right relationship with God. Someone who is faithful to God and his covenant. These men kept the faith, despite trials, tribulations, and unforeseen events. 

Throughout scripture, many other men have been seen as precursors, or types, to St. Joseph. In Genesis, we find another Joseph, son of Jacob, who, through his righteousness, is given authority over his brothers and receives his father’s birthright (1 Chronicles 5:1-3). Even though he was sold into slavery by his own brothers, Joseph becomes the al habayit, or overseer, of an influential Egyptian man, Potiphar.

When Joseph does not succumb to the advances of Potiphar’s wife she bears false witness against Joseph and has him thrown in jail. God remembers Joseph during this time. Eventually he is put in charge of the prisoners and through the interpretation of a dream, becomes the al habayit of Pharaoh, himself.

Joseph is entrusted with much, including the preparations for Egypt’s eventual famine after seven years of plenty. We read in Genesis that “Pharoah said to all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.’ So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain . . .” (Gen 41:55-57)

Fast forwarding to The New Testament, St. Joseph, in his righteousness is entrusted with the care of the most important household that has ever been, the Holy Family. He is given this task because God is so aware of his righteousness. Like the Joseph of the Old Testament, St. Joseph, through a dream, is given directions to take his new family and venture into Egypt, a foreign land. There, he is to safeguard Jesus, who will give us the bread of eternal life in the Eucharist.

We still, to this day, follow the directions from Genesis to ite as Joseph, “Go to Joseph.” Since he is such a good and righteous patron, we can entrust our intercessory needs to him. St. Thomas Aquinas is quoted as saying, “Some Saints are privileged to extend to us their patronage with particular efficacy in certain needs, but not in others; but our holy patron St. Joseph has the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, in every undertaking.”


Often times, people wish to make a name for themselves. They have a plan for their life, wish to “grab life by the horns,” and will stop at nothing until they have achieved “success” or “happiness.” When life doesn’t go as we planned, it’s common to complain to God out of our own pride.

St. Joseph, in his humility, trusted in God’s divine providence and goodness. He said “yes” to all of the unexpected twists and turns of his life through the actions he did. Think of what happens when he hears that Mary is with child. He could have, in his pride, made a show of her and disowned her. Instead, he wished to divorce her quietly. After a dream he receives, Joseph learns of the true nature of things and takes Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:18-24).

Recently, my wife and I discovered that we are expecting our first child. While we pray and hope that God will allow us to carry the baby to a full-term, healthy pregnancy, I have, in the process, had my humility checked by the experience. I better realize how much I am not in control of this situation. My pride tempts me to think on what I don’t have for this baby and, in these moments, I must look upon St. Joseph.

It would take a humble man to keep calm when his wife was going into labor while traveling. Surely not every man would be as successful as St. Joseph. Imagine a stereotypical, prideful, avaricious businessman in St. Joseph’s situation while in Bethlehem. If his wife started going into labor, he might say to himself “Surely I’ll buy my way into an inn.” Others may think “Surely I’ll cajole my way into an inn.” Perhaps he’ll think “Once I tell them who I am, they’ll of course, let me in.” Still others, “If push comes to shove, I’ll sneak in.”

 St. Joseph accepted the fact that, despite all of his efforts, the best he could offer the Virgin Mary and the Savior of the World was a manger. This may have destroyed other men either in their agitation or in their feeling of defeat. For St. Joseph, there is no record of lament or crying out to God in frustration. He was focused on others throughout the whole ordeal. This is a true strength of humility.


To care for him on earth, God gave Jesus an earthly mother and a foster-father. For a mother, he gave Jesus the Immaculate one. Compared to Jesus and Mary, St. Joseph was not perfect. He sinned and had faults. However, God gave Joseph the gift of being Jesus’ foster-father because he knew that he had the fortitude to protect, lead, and provide for his family.

When we think of fortitude, we think of strength. The Catechism of The Catholic Church says fortitude “ . . . ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions.” (CCC 1808)

Given the above definition, we can only wonder at how well God chose St. Joseph for his task. Looking back at the events of the Annunciation, the birth of Christ, the flight into Egypt, or the finding of Jesus in the temple, there were many of opportunities for Joseph to display his great fortitude. He faced all of these trials with trust in God and immense obedience to His will.

Some will ask whether St. Joseph was a younger man or an older man when Jesus was born. Mother Angelica gave her opinion to the question of whether Joseph was young or old during one of her television broadcasts on EWTN. When put to the question, she answered 

“Well, my dear, that’s a good question. There is no official Church teaching on whether or not St. Joseph was old or young, but I prefer a young Joseph. All I know, sweetie, is old men don’t walk to Egypt!”1

 Some may choose to think of him as older since it is easier to see an older man remaining chaste. Personally, I think to view him as old for that reason alone does not give St. Joseph enough credit. Old men can be chaste, but so can young men. 

God also wouldn’t want a foster-father who couldn’t physically take care of Jesus and Mary. Let’s face it, whether we are in the first century or present day, traveling can be dangerous. Joseph would have needed to be able to offer some form of protection to Mary and Jesus during all of their travels.

His strength, be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, frightens Satan. St. Joseph didn’t receive the title “Terror of Demons” for nothing! In his book Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father, Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, explains “Demons are terrified at the mere mention of St. Joseph’s name. They fear everything about St. Joseph. ‘How terrified are they?’ you ask. Well, terrified enough that they fear when he sleeps! When St. Joseph slumbers, he speaks to God! It doesn’t matter if his mind and body are at rest. Saint Joseph’s spirit is always at attention and ready to protect, defend, and fight for Jesus, Mary and souls.”2

What an image for the true strength of this Universal Patron of the Catholic Church! As the Model of Workmen, Glory of Domestic Life, and Terror of Demons, let us “Go to Joseph” with all of our needs.

Donald H. Calloway, MIC, Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father (Stockbridge: Marian Press, 2020), 113.

Ibid., 73.