Holy Family of Nazareth,
Make Our Families Like Yours


Published by


An Imprint of Melrose Press Limited

St Thomas Place, Ely




First edition published by Oska~Jo & Partners Publications 2013

This edition published by Melrose Books 2015

Copyright © Ehimhanre Joseph S. Uujamhan 2013

The Author asserts his moral right to
be identified as the author of this work

Cover designed by Melrose Books

ISBN 978-1-909757-95-0

EPUB 978-1-911280-20-0

MOBI 978-1-911280-21-7

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

eBook convertion by Vivlia Limited.


Oseiwe Joseph, Onose Chloe & Patricia Uujamhan, their Grandmother

Nihi Obstat: Vey Rev. Fr. Dr. Benedict Etafo, STL, JCD
President of Inter Diocesan Tribunal,
Archdiocese of Benin City

Imprimatur: Most Rev. Dr. Augustine Obiora Akubeze
Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Benin City



Foreword (by A Lay Man)

Foreword (by A Catholic Priest)

Chapter 1: Introduction – My Journey to Saint Joseph:

Chapter 2: St. Joseph’s Prefiguration

Chapter 3: Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484)

Chapter 4: Pope Innocent VIII (1484–1492)

Chapter 5: Pope Leo X (1513–1521)

Chapter 6: Pope Gregory XIII (1572–1585)

Chapter 7: St. Gregory XV (1621–1623)

Chapter 8: Pope Urban VIII (1623–1644)

Chapter 9: Pope Clement X (1670–1676)

Chapter 10: Pope Clement XI (1700–1721)

Chapter 11: Pope Benedict XIII (1724–1730)

Chapter 12: Pope Benedict XIV (1740–1758)

Chapter 13: Pope Pius VI (Venerable) (1775–1799)

Chapter 14: Pope Pius VII (1800–1823)

Chapter 15: Pope Gregory XVI (1831–1846)

Chapter 16: Pope Pius IX (1846–1878)

Chapter 17: Pope Leo XIII (1878–1903)

Chapter 18: Pope Pius X (Saint) (1903–1914)

Chapter 19: Pope Benedict XV (1914–1922)

Chapter 20: Pope Pius XI (1922–1939)

Chapter 21: Pope Pius XII (1939–1958)

Chapter 22: Pope John XXIII (1958–1963)

Chapter 23: Pope Paul VI (1963–1978)

Chapter 24: Saint Pope John Paul II (1978–2005)

Chapter 25: Pope Benedict XVI (2005–2013)

Chapter 26: Pope Francis (2013–)

Chapter 27: Conclusion and Grand Summary

Summary of Papal Actions & Pronouncements


I was opportuned to read the three-volume works of a Carmelite nun who died in Spain on October 4th, 1582, canonised in 1628 and proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970. St. Teresa of Avila wrote:-

I do not remember ever having asked anything of St. Joseph that he did not grant me, nor can I think without wonder of the graces God has given me through his intercession, nor of the dangers of soul or body from which he has delivered me …

Fascinated by these words, I wondered what I was doing with St. Joseph if St. Teresa – Patron Saint of those in need of grace, bodily ills, sick people, headaches, loss of parents and people in religious orders – could say these words about my Patron Saint. She must have known his worth. This was recent though, about seven years back, when the retiring Archbishop of Benin City, Most Rev. Dr Patrick Ebosele Ekpu, CFR, directed me to artistically write “Avila Villa” on the gate of his retirement home. I came to know that she, Teresa, was a student of the practice of mental prayer built around the lifestyle of St. Joseph. The retiring Archbishop, I reasoned, wanted his retirement place to be for prayers. He did tell me that he liked St. Teresa of Avila.

Earlier on, just when I returned from my studies abroad in 1981, I observed with a bit of chagrin and perhaps jealousy, that on every Catholic Church occasion or announcement, we were repeatedly lambasted by the speaker or announcer at the start and end of any statement with the slogan, “Glory to Jesus, Honour to Mary” without a mention of Joseph, the husband. Such a slogan was not only uncommon and indeed unusual where I came from, but appeared incomplete to me. I immediately wondered how this greeting or salutation would sound among Catholic faithful in Catholic Churches named “Holy Family Catholic Church”. Would that sound like a family greeting to them?

In my anxiety, I went to check the Holy Bible and saw very little of St. Joseph of Nazareth. He said nothing, not one word; but he did some great things. I noticed a great faith displayed by Joseph when he could accept that his wife was made pregnant through the Holy Spirit, something never heard of before. I saw in St. Joseph unimaginable faith and a soldier-like-obedience, built in an empire of silence, listening and patience. I also saw that our Mother Mary regarded Joseph as the earthly father of her Son and expressed the feeling that Joseph bore with her, the pains of the temporary disappearance of her Son on their journey to Jerusalem.

These agitations led me back to my early days in life and deep reflections. This book is part of these flashbacks or reflections. I realised that Joseph had been in my life since the eve of my baptism. It is a long journey. I made the decision to start my voyage by knowing the pronouncements and actions of the Popes on St. Joseph, as this would help identify the place and position of St. Joseph in Church hierarchy. It could also tell the world around us if we have been missing something in ignorance by not always seeking his intercession.

I decided to put my pen to paper when I spent the post-Christmas season of 2012 with my two-year-old grandson – named Joseph by his parents – and his baby sister, Onose, who I was seeing for the first time since her birth five months earlier. I gathered most of my materials in the one month I stayed with them in Birmingham, England, and the first draft of the book was virtually completed in four sleepless months by the end of May 2013. No wonder this book is dedicated to them, together with their grandmother – my wife – who I neglected so much as I devoted so many nights to this gruelling work. She also helped me to proofread the work. Accept my thanks and appreciation, my dear chummy gem.

I acknowledge the works of various authors and the rich sources from which this work drew enormously. I seek forgiveness from those sources whose names I might have inadvertently left out, more so by ignorance and omission than by choice. I retrospectively acknowledge them, as I really appreciate their works.

Two great minds, a layman and a Priest, provided the Forewords to this book. Prof. Mathias Obiaya, KSGG, a Papal Knight of St Gregory the Great, an authority in Anesthesiology, an avid reader, and a private teacher in Doctrinal classes of the Opus Dei, expertly provided the layman’s Foreword. Painstakingly, he read every page in less than one month, and corrected me and my work in charity. For a man of over eighty years of age to sit and read over the two hundred-page draft was a big sacrifice.

Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Benedict Eluemie Etafo, STL, JCD, (Doctoratus luris Canonici) was for years the Rector of one of the foremost Major Seminaries in Nigeria, the Saints Peter & Paul Major Seminary at Bodija, Ibadan. A well sought-after speaker on Catholicism in general and Canon Law in particular, Dr. Etafo – while now running a Parish in Benin City – is the President of the Inter-Diocesan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Benin City. A highly respected teacher and the then Rector of a major Seminary, a good number of Catholic Priests of today in Nigeria passed through him. His comments and endorsement of this book will hopefully make a good impact on his former students and future priests, just as some would say but in humility, is a testimony to its worth. He also graciously gave the Nihil Obstat. I whole heartedly thank both Prof. Obiaya and Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Etafo for their opinions and expert advice. My thanks also go to the Catholic Archbishop of Benin City, Most Rev. Dr. Augustine Obiora Akubeze, not only for kindly giving the Imprimatur to this book but for doing so in good time for me to go to the press as scheduled. I however take full responsibility for the work.

May I also respectfully thank the parents of my grandchildren, my first son and his wife, Engr. Dr. & Mrs. Anthony Ehi-Uujamhan (PhD), who continually spur me on to aim higher by their own progress and achievements. They helped me to purchase not only the many needed books on St. Joseph and the three-volume work on St. Teresa of Avila, but also named their first son, Joseph, after me. That further triggered my interest in writing on St. Joseph. I like to thank my other biological children – Obehi, Odalo and Oseasunmhen – for their unconditional love and industry which give me the peace of mind to face new and uncommon challenges, professionally and spiritually.

The list of appreciation will not be complete without thanking Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu and my Secretary, Miss Anthonia Ekpenisi, who had to deal with my poor handwriting and repeated changes to get this book to press as scheduled. I also thank and acknowledge those who I may have forgotten to mention by name. I seek their kind pardon, peace and forgiveness.

Finally, I give the glory and adoration to the Almighty God who gave me the good health, ability and thoughtfulness to embark on this project. Not only have I learnt a lot about St. Joseph, our Blessed Mother Mary and the King of Kings Jesus, I have also come close to knowing a little more of the actions and associated pronouncements of twenty-four Popes who reigned in the past six hundred years. It is enlightening, rewarding, but most of all, so fulfilling. To let you into the silence and serene world of St. Joseph, it is fitting at this point to remind you, reader, of what St. Teresa of Avila said of St. Joseph after a long reflection:

… It seems to me that God grants to other saints the power to help us in such and such a need. But I know by experience that St. Joseph helps us in every need, as if Our Lord wanted us to understand that, as He himself, was subject to him on earth because there he held the place of a father and was called by that name, now in heaven, He can refuse him nothing.

The Pharaoh of Egypt during the great famine directed all Egyptians to “Go to Joseph” for food. Like Pope Pius XII told the world in 1955, if you would be close to Christ,we repeat, “--- Go to Joseph ------- Ite Ad Joseph ------.



Spirituality is often regarded as the special domain of the clergy and the religious. Laymen are supposed to walk in this field with caution and trepidation. It is indeed very welcome to see a layman, a very busy engineer at that, striding with zeal and confidence into the hallowed grounds. Dr. Joseph Uujamhan has worked hard to honour his patron saint and to draw our attention to the spirituality of Saint Joseph, the foster father of our Lord Jesus. He has made a good job of it and achieved so much in the process.

The Church has always honoured and respected Saint Joseph but it must be conceded that from the very beginning, the volume of devotion was meagre. The reason is not far to seek. St. Joseph died before the public ministry of Christ. In his lifetime, he (St. Joseph) would have been seen and treated just as the father of Jesus, who was then living as a young ordinary citizen. Indeed, the ordinary living was so complete and unmarked that when supernatural events began to manifest in the public life of Christ, the citizens of Nazareth wondered where all that could have come from (Mt. 13:56). St. Joseph was a good man. He was a good carpenter and cared for his family. His contemporaries would have seen him only as such.

With the birth of the Church, the Holy Spirit, in keeping with the promise of Christ, has come to teach us all things, to open our eyes so that we can see the events of the past with divine perspective and to guide us towards our final encounter with our Creator. With divine illumination, when we look back along the way we have come, we see the supernatural glittering of events, which when they occurred seemed ordinary and trivial. In the case of St. Joseph, it seems to have taken about one thousand five hundred years for the prosaic coverings to fall off so that the underlying gem can be seen for what it is. Now much more is known of the humble carpenter of Nazareth, and the purpose of the author is to study this growth in the recognition of and devotion to St. Joseph in the Church.

The author has confined himself almost exclusively to the actions and pronouncements of the Popes and it makes interesting reading to see how the recognition and devotion to St. Joseph has grown from Pope to Pope. Along with other writers, he sees the first Joseph – son of Jacob (in the Old Testament) – as a prefigure or type of St. Joseph. The similarities are strong indeed, besides having the same name. The first Joseph saved the then known world from physical famine and death, and the second Joseph played a vital role in the incarnation and spiritual salvation of the whole world.

With the passage of time and great study, most definitely under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Popes have drawn attention to the role of St. Joseph in our salvation history through encyclicals and direct teaching. These have been well brought out in the book and it is fascinating to see the rising crescendo in teaching and devotion reaching its peak in the later Popes. St. Joseph emerges not only as a foster father of Jesus, but as an earthly father, who has been granted participation in the fatherhood of Jesus by the Omnipotent Father. He (St. Joseph) is a model husband who cares for and protects the family; silent but active, humble with a strong faith in God. He is a model for contemplative life. With two papal encyclicals devoted to him, accompanied by series of liturgical honours, St. Joseph ceases to be “the most hidden of all the saints of God” and qualifies to be among the best well known saints.

The study of St. Joseph as a saint, a father, a worker, yields gems of wisdom and prepares the reader, who responds accordingly for a close encounter with God. But should we call on St. Joseph every time we call on the Blessed Virgin Mary? Perhaps we should let the Church give us leadership in this direction. I believe, however, you cannot honour St. Joseph without at the same time honouring the Blessed Virgin Mary, and vice versa.

In giving an account of the role of each Pope, the author also gives us an insight into the papacy and leadership of the period. Studying the lives of the Popes is a rewarding look into the past of the Church. I recommend the book to all readers and hope that many, while embracing the devotion to St. Joseph, would be spurred to want to know more about the hidden jewels in the history of the Catholic Church.

Mathias O. Obiaya, KSGG

Assoc. Prof. of Anesthesiology



It is a pleasure to write this Foreword to The Indispensable JOSEPH I Know From the Popes by my friend, Dr. I Ehimhanre Joseph S. Uujamhan, KSGG who, in his life continues to emulate and replicate St. Joseph, his patron saint. It was in July 2009 that I first met him in the Parish of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Benin City, while I was there as a priest in residence. I was there for about a year. He was, and is, distinguished as a daily communicant at Mass, a Eucharistic Minister, made frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament in the Adoration Chapel, and above all, conspicuous in his immaculate white dresses and shoes. Dr. Uujamhan’s person caught my attention and I immediately came to know and appreciate his deep love and respect for the Catholic Church, her institutions, and St. Joseph. Since then a real friendship has developed between me and this man, and his family. I have come to know Dr. Uujamhan as a complete Catholic gentleman with transparent integrity, seeking perfection and holiness after St. Joseph.

The communion of saints constitutes an essential and integral part of our creed as Catholics. Catholics use the term saints specifically to refer to holy men and women who, through extraordinary lives of virtue, have already entered Heaven and are consequently canonized. We take saints as patron saints. Patron saints are associated with certain life situations. It could be of a nation, place, profession, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person. Patron saints – known to be seeing God face-to-face – are believed to be able to intercede effectively for the needs of their special charges.

St. Joseph – husband of Mary and foster-father of Jesus Christ – like Mary, his spouse, was never formally canonized as the canonization process was not developed until the 12th century. Like most early saints, Joseph was venerated and declared a saint by popular consensus among Christians. Devotion to St. Joseph has steadily grown throughout the centuries. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, is one of the three persons in the Holy Family.

Pope Pius IX proclaimed Saint Joseph the patron of the Universal Church in 1870, the unofficial patron against doubt and hesitation, as well as the patron saint of fighting communism, and of a happy death. Having died in the “arms of Jesus and Mary” according to Catholic tradition, St. Joseph is considered the model of the pious believer who receives grace at the moment of death, and prays especially for families, fathers, pregnant women, travellers, immigrants, craftsmen, engineers, real estate agents, and working people in general. He is also the patron saint of families, fathers and orphans, pregnant women, married couples, carpenters, teachers, lawyers, labourers, and working people, professionals, among others. He is also the patron saint of a number of cities, regions and countries.

The book, The Indispensable Joseph I know From the Popes traces the works and efforts of twenty-four Popes on St. Joseph, starting from Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484) to Pope Francis (2013); a period of over six centuries. Each chapter has three subsections, titled: Biodata, Relationship with St. Joseph, and Some Pontifical Highlights. The Biodata gives the date the particular Pope began his papacy, the date it ended, his predecessor and his successor, his birth name, his date and place of birth, and the date, age and place of death. In the subsection of the “Relationship with St. Joseph”, Dr. Uujamhan gives in a schematic manner, specific pontifical act by way of Papal Bulls, Encyclicals, Motu Proprios, Decrees and Declarations on St. Joseph. In the Subsection “Some Pontifical Highlights”, he masterfully presents in detail a historico-theological progression of the contributions of each Pope to the understanding of St. Joseph in our salvation history.

The book presents an exhaustive array of the patronages and virtues which St. Joseph exemplifies and which Christians ought to emulate. Truly, as manifested in the litany of St. Joseph, this book enunciates and corroborates the following: Joseph is a renowned offspring of David, light of Patriarchs, spouse of the Mother of God, chaste guardian of the Virgin and virgins, foster-father of the Son of God, diligent protector of Christ, head of the Holy Family, most just, most chaste, most prudent, most strong, most humble, most obedient, most faithful, mirror of patience, lover of poverty, model of artisans, glory of home life, pillar of families, solace of the wretched, hope of the sick, patron of the dying, terror of demons, and protector of Holy Church of God.

This book has convinced me that the person I knew in 2009 was indeed striving to be like St. Joseph, his patron saint. In this book I see clearly that Dr. Uujamhan has from childhood developed sincere interest in studying and emulating St. Joseph.

St. Joseph is a central figure in the Catholic faith. Demonstrating from the contributions of twenty-four Pontiffs, this work clearly establishes the unique place of St. Joseph as an integral member of the Holy Family and in Christianity. The author illustrates succinctly this axiom, “All for Jesus, All through Mary, and All in imitation of you, O Patriarch, St. Joseph.”

“You must be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Each disciple of Jesus has the obligation to strive for holiness. In St. Joseph we find all that can unfailingly lead us through his spouse, Mary, to his son, Jesus Christ. I therefore, eagerly recommend this book, The Indispensable Joseph I know from the Popes to all who want to be holy and perfect. Readers shall find this book an interesting, sure and effective school of Christian perfection.

Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Benedict Eluemie Etafo, STL, JCD

POPE PIUS X (1903–1914)


















My Journey to St. Joseph:

My journey to St Joseph – a personality seen to be dumb in the Bible accounts, but certainly not deaf – is a long, winding one, starting from near disapproval to approval, from dislike to love, from obedience to acceptance, from obscurity to obsession. It is a journey dating back more than fifty years, and now looking forward to a future of bliss and harmony.

As a young boy growing up in a village setting, I was called and addressed as Sunday by name, having been born on a sunny Sunday afternoon. There were many who bore the names Sunday, Saturday, or Friday, in my village. Apart from Thursday and Wednesday, quite a few bore the name of the weekdays, including Monday and Tuesday. As I grew up a little older to the age of nine, it became clear that I would not get baptized with the name Sunday. Those who bore such weekday names suddenly discarded them at baptism.

I chose various English names, the choice being dependent on the name of any of my varying mentors. I once chose to be called Matthew but, realizing that I already had an elder brother with that name, I took to Lawrence, then Philip. Nobody really called me by any of such names, except that I wrote them on the back of my exercise books any time I purchased a new one. This held sway for some time before the eve of my baptism in 1958. I had just passed the necessary tests preparatory to baptism the next day, when my immediate elder brother, Andrew – seventeen years my senior – brought me home on his bicycle at about 11.55pm from the school ground where we took the tests. He proudly announced to our father that I had passed the tests and asked him, an illiterate (by Western education standard) and un-baptized himself, to give me a name for my baptism.

It was against Church law then to eat late and receive communion the following day. This elicited some sympathy for me, as that meant I would not eat till midday the following day, after baptism. Our father had not even eaten that evening as he had been waiting for us till then. In any case, the joy of my success beclouded the hunger and I really felt strong.

His response to my brother’s request for my baptismal name was – what of Joseph? Shocking! I did not quite like the name at first because the man who bears the name living opposite our family house was not that impressive, though very neat. He was not that highly rated by his mates. My first reaction was: What? Joseph? My brother, seeing my disappointment, told me that our father had just given me a name and that was it. So that is how I came by the name – from the Lord’s Day, Sunday to Joseph.

My senior cousin, Patrick, once asked me which Joseph I was dealing with – Arimathaea or the husband of Mary. I did not know the difference. It took me years before I stuck to Joseph, husband of Mary, as my patron saint. We were taught what a patron saint meant, and all years thereafter I did pray to my patron saint. I also knew that the 19th of March every year was my patron saint’s feast day.

I did not pay any particular spiritual importance to the name, apart from my prayer to St. Joseph as my patron saint, until I was over forty years when someone directed me to a “prayer to Joseph” in the Pieta which had been very helpful to him. I tried it, but because I was also using other prayers at the same time, I could not immediately attribute any such successes to the intervention of any particular prayer or Saint.

My recourse to St. Joseph grew when I was frequently attacked by armed robbers on the road and even at home. On each of the four or five occasions, I was never harmed or physically assaulted – not a blow, or a cut or injury. I only lost property. Such victories I attributed to his particular intervention. These events brought me to a close study of my patron saint.

I was surprised that the Catholic salutation, “Glory to Jesus, Honour to Mary”, did not include Joseph. It was my thinking that as a salutation, a way of greeting, when one sees a friend or enters one’s house, one would not greet the mother and son and leave out the father of the house. This was more so when one considers the emphasis that we should imitate the Holy Family. While we are to model our lives after our Blessed Mother – and I believe we should because of her incomparable virtue – I thought, perhaps naively, that it would be easier and more appropriate for men to imitate a married man than a woman; more so, in a family setting. Would St. Joseph not be more attuned to understanding the pains and rigour of fatherhood than a woman? Should the Church not give any credit to St. Joseph who, in the marriage setting, was required not to have conjugal relations with his wife? What kind of man would that be that is not greeted by visitors who only greet the wife and son when they enter his house?

These and many more did not only look impractical, but constituted real puzzles to me. Should faith and reason be so far apart? That the name of Joseph does not feature in that salutation puzzled me further, when so many aspirations already approved by the Church like the following are of common usage:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for me at the hour of my death.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, assist me at my last agony.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, bless me now and in death’s agony,

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul in peace.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I love you, save souls.

Holy Family of Nazareth, make our families like yours.

All these and more are found in many prayer books. Yet the slogan “Glory to Jesus, honour to Mary” is the beginning and end of any announcement in local churches in Nigeria. It is used by priests freely and repeatedly, to the extent that non-Catholics identified Catholics with it and with their attendant criticisms. For me, perhaps out of ignorance or jealousy, I was really bothered that the “Glory to Jesus, Honour to Mary” salutation was true but incomplete. I strongly felt that it should be “Glory to Jesus, Honour to Mary and Joseph”, as there is convergence of these three in the mystery of Incarnation and in many existing and Church-approved aspirations.

I use the slogan in my private prayers and when others are saying the popular version. On one occasion, when I was asked to give a talk to the Knights of St Mulumba, I wrote a seventeen page document on St. Joseph, including some work by many saints on St. Joseph. I had so many converts who believed that it was more theologically correct to use my version of, “Glory to Jesus, Honour to Mary and Joseph”.

A few years ago, my first son, whom I had named Anthony – the baptismal name of my late father at his death bed – chose to name his own first son, Joseph, after me. It was only then that I told him of how I had named him Anthony, after his own grandfather. I considered it a great honour for him to have named his son after me. Anthony and Joseph have their relationships, but I thought that our Lord wanted Josephs in my family, and this led me to a greater study of my patron saint.

I observed that the first Eucharistic prayer already honoured Joseph after our Blessed Mother. I found that in the divine praises, used during Benedictions, the only human names on that list, outside the Blessed Trinity, were those of Mary and Joseph. I was convinced I was on the right track but I also know that the Church does not operate that way. I had wanted immediate acceptance of my version but things need to be approved and ordered.

I always spoke about Glory to Jesus, Honour to Mary and Joseph, at the least opportunity, soliciting for understanding of my reasoning.

I came to find out that there was no specific theological approval for “Glory to Jesus, Honour to Mary” but a convention perpetrated by the Catholic Women Organisation (CWO) who, rather than venerating and imitating our Blessed Mother Mary, are not able to draw the line between adoration and veneration. Whereas the honour due to our beloved Mother is hyperdulia, and that of our Creator, latria, our worshiping women community could not distinguish between them.

Since these are words of salutation, I still could not understand how a visitor can enter someone’s house and greet only the mother and son but leave out the father of the house. Such a visitor would not only be regarded as lacking good manners but could even be thrown out of the house. The Catholic Men Organisation (CMO) had in the past had a more contentious slogan, claiming to be the “pillars of the Church” until some of us intervened to correct the obvious anomaly. We all know who the pillars of the Church are. “Christ is our Leader” is now the CMO slogan, which is certainly more appropriate.

Incidentally, I do not hear or see many of the slogans being peddled in Nigeria used in other parts of the Catholic world. Perhaps it is a cultural issue but my recommended version is not imagined or intended to dishonour, diminish, reduce or dim the esteemed dignity of our Blessed Mother by the addition of Joseph. Rather, it is a recommendation for inclusiveness, not exclusiveness, just as it is meant to be for a married couple; one who is an example of a family recommended for imitation and emulation for all of humanity.

It is in the midst of this confusion that I chose to study Church pronouncements on St. Joseph of Nazareth. I found that so many people had done a lot of studies on St. Joseph and, of course, on our Blessed Mother Mary. There was no way the early Church fathers could be talking about Joseph and Mary in the first and second centuries when the main issue was how to get Christ accepted as our Lord and Saviour. The Divinity of Christ had to be established and that “He is the way, the truth and life, and no one goes to the father except through him”. The scripture had to be put in place. The works of the Apostles who carried out the teachings of Jesus Christ had to be known. Selecting the canonical and apocryphal writings among the various books or writings in circulation at the time, took some time. Indeed, we find very little written about Mary and Joseph in the Holy Bible and in the case of the latter, he was not even associated with “one” word in the entire New Testament.

When Christianity then had its foot on the ground, for our faith is Christ-centred – Christocentric – devotion to Saints or those who people felt led good lives while on earth and could intercede for them, grew gradually.

It is difficult to talk about our Lord Jesus Christ without talking about how He came into the world. That He was born by a woman who was visibly carrying a baby for months, was incontrovertible. The motherhood of Jesus Christ was easy to establish; so devotion to the woman whose breast Christ “sucked”, was much easier to establish, develop, and advance. Above all, we saw a few places in the Bible where she talked – the discussion with Angel Gabriel; the Visitation and encounter with her cousin Elizabeth; the Magnificat or the Canticle of Mary; the statement when Christ at the age of twelve was found after three days in Jerusalem; the marriage in Cana where she intervened and solicited for wine for the new couple to avoid disgrace, etc. These were good grounds to study and associate with the mother of Our Lord early in the Christian world, coupled with the usual attachment or bonding of children to their mothers arising from conception and breast feeding. Even then, many Church pronouncements on Mary took some long time before their official proclamation. The dogma of Immaculate Conception was only established in 1854 (Pope Pius IX) and the dogma of the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother was only proclaimed in 1950 (Pius XII).

On the other hand, there was no single statement attributed to St. Joseph in the New Testament. It was all action, emanating from his interaction with angels from God the father, or a clear dream in which instructions were given to him. Indeed, St. Joseph’s “Way” was “Doing”, his way was obedience and unquestionable faith, right from the marriage or his betrothal to Mary, up to the birth of Christ; the flight to and from Egypt, etc. In all the four reported encounters in dreams or angelic appearances to him, Joseph only listened and then acted. He did not utter one word. No wonder some writers label him, “Joseph the Silent”.

One can, therefore, understand why devotion to St. Joseph took much more time to develop than that of our Mother, but incidentally, it is impossible to study Josephology without Mariology. They are intrinsically tied to Our Lord in Christology. Every devotion must point to, and end in Christ. One may also add that honouring St. Joseph is also honouring our blessed Mother. St. Bernadette Soubirous, to whom our Blessed Mother revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception – also known as daughter of St. Joseph – was always found praying the Rosary at the chapel of St. Joseph. When confronted by her fellow nuns as to why she should be praying the Rosary in the chapel of St. Joseph, she replied that in Heaven there is no jealousy. Indeed after Jesus, Joseph is the next love of our Blessed Mother, a holy love of husband and wife. Joseph leads us to Mary. It is their life in Nazareth. They are inseparable. The Incarnation Mystery is the foundation of our salvation history, and when God chose to redeem man this way, he also chose the tools, the places and persons that would make this happen. Joseph was chosen to play the role assigned to him by the Blessed Trinity from eternity.

This book is a study of how St. Joseph, both in recognition and devotion, grew in the Church. It was originally thought that the book would contain the works of our Church Fathers, canonised saints, Doctors of the Church, pious writers on St. Joseph, and the actions or pronouncements of Popes on St. Joseph. I later found out that this would be a really big book and unwieldy. I therefore chose, as a first step, to write on the conclusions of Church actions or pronouncements which are the authoritative positions of the church, as coming from the Popes. The works of the saints and Church fathers really led to the actions or pronouncements of the Popes but the Popes have the “final” say, ex-cathedral. While leaving the works of the Saints, pious writers and Church fathers to a separate and future reflection, this book is on the actions or pronouncements of the Popes with respect to St. Joseph.

It will be misleading to think that all that a particular Pope did in his pontificate was to concentrate or focus only on St. Joseph. That is certainly not the case. It is in that respect that a relatively short account or review of each Pope is given, under the heading of “some pontifical highlights”. There were so many other works done by each of the twenty-four Popes selected that are not discussed or included here, not only because of my incompetence to do justice to the subject, but because of the need to limit the size of the book and direct the focus on St. Joseph. Even then, the pontifical highlights presented bring out some clear pictures of the person and personality of each particular Pope.

The works here cover a period of over one thousand years of Church history but are concentrated more on the last six hundred years, which was the time Popes started responding to public yearnings for official devotion and liturgical recognition of St. Joseph. Like I said earlier, the Popes did not just act; they were prompted by writings, submissions, discussions and debates of a great number of pious writers, many of whom have been declared saints by the Church.

I have found my relationship with St. Joseph and his interventions in my life really indispensable. I think he talked to me audibly twice or thrice, at the critical moments when I was in danger. I was taken by gun-tottering, unmasked armed robbers from my bedroom in my well-fortified house at one o’clock in the morning; was driven away locked up in the boot of their small car to a forest forty kilometres away; was stripped totally naked, left bare-footed and dumped at 3am in a thick hideous forest, inhabited by dangerous animals like lions, tigers, snakes and even environmental hazards like quicksand, purpose-made fish ponds, cess-pools, palm tree plantations, thorny trees or shrubs, cut-down wooden stubs, stinging bees, and even animal hunters.

The tortuous journey started from Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria and ended in a danger-filled and lonely forest in the Delta State of Nigeria. I heard clear instructions from above on what to do to find safety and freedom. I attribute the clear, distinct and audible instructions I heard on this and other occasions to St. Joseph. The voice was soothing, cool, serious but reassuring, and the message descended on me like rainfall. I had no doubt it was divine. I couldn’t think of anyone else interceding for me. It had to be St. Joseph, my patron saint, through whom Christ our Lord acted.

I have come to know a bit of St. Joseph from the actions or pronouncements of the Popes. I have thus chosen the title of this book to be “The Indispensable Joseph I Know from the Popes”. Actually he knows me well, all in all, but I want to emphasise here that, whatever is said or written in this book must not and does not deviate from the centre piece of our faith, which is “Christ our Lord and Saviour”. Christ is the way, the truth and the life and we can only reach God the Father through Him (Jn.14:6). Joseph helps us to reach Him. All devotions go to Him and He acts through saints as honour and recognition of their worth. Jesus is the answer!


St. Joseph’s Prefiguration

This indispensable Joseph I shall talk about has a long silent history. He had tagged along with Jesus and Mary in history. So many Christians have written essays, poems, meditations, prayers, and invoked him under various circumstances. He was sighted at apparition sites, alone or with the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Fatima, France, Poland, Mexico, etc., and foreshadowed in many forms in the Old Testament without our knowing. The Old Testament – a history and testament of the people of God – predicted the coming of Christ, a Messiah that would come from the house of David. Our Lord Jesus finally came from the house of David by being the son of the carpenter, Joseph. It is in this context that one examines how the Old Testament predictions of Joseph were fulfilled in the New Testament.

This might be a surprise to many who regard Joseph as a mere mortal, a veil and a shadow. Yes, he was really a veil and a shadow, but even as a mere mortal he was assigned to do great things in our salvation history. God had a plan through him in the fulfilment of our salvation. Joseph looms large in the Incarnation history of our salvation by listening and then acting. “Doing” was his “way”.

This work will attempt to expose the areas of his biblical prefiguration and discuss who foreshadowed him or how he was foreshadowed or prefigured. It will attempt to bring out the hidden meanings of his actions and reveal that a man so obscure or withdrawn in reported accounts can illumine our thoughts and minds, expose his bare outlines of darkness, and replace it with radiant light. Further, we may have a lot to learn from the heroic portrait of his spirituality, as many have found great supernatural value in him. All husbands and priests should emulate him in the love of his Spouse and Jesus, in the defence of the virginity of our Lady and as the witness to the mystery of salvation. All workers, particularly tradesmen and professionals, will find him a reliable patron.

Are these characteristics easy to see of a man prefigured in the Old Testament? Was St. Joseph really prefigured in the Old Testament, since we know that the New Testament is indeed the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old? Popes and eminent Bible scholars have searched or gazed on the Old Testament Bible accounts and found some striking resemblances of St. Joseph. In particular:

(i) Some see him as foreshadowed by Noah (Gen.6, Gen.9), who, after building a boat to house all creatures before the floods, sent out a dove to see if it was safe to come down from the boat and release God’s creatures that he had saved. St. Joseph, on the other hand, had the duty to protect Mary and the child Jesus, that mystic dove that brought salvation to the world.

A little far-fetched, I would think!

(ii) Some see him as Eliezer (Gen.24), a servant in Isaac’s household. Eliezer was appointed by Abraham not only to find a wife for his son, Isaac, but to watch over her – a role he played with utmost faithfulness. That wife, Rebecca, was the mother of Jacob and Esau. Joseph of Nazareth, to some people, compares with Eliezer because he protected with faithfulness the virginity of Mary.

This comparison, I think is also a bit far-fetched, as finding a wife for a family member was common and it is done and still practised today with utmost trust.

(iii) Some writers think that he was foreshadowed by David of the Old Testament, for, as St. Bernard writes:

Joseph is truly the son of David, a son not unworthy of his father. He is the son of David in all the strength of that term, not by flesh so much as by his faith and holiness and loving reverence, for God looked upon him as another David, well able to guard his secrets.

Although this is a veiled foreshadowing or prefiguration, it’s more of a direct resemblance of character.

Like many writers, I think the person most likely to prefigure him is that man who bears the same name as him. Pope Pius IX, while proclaiming Joseph the patron of the Universal Church in 1870, Pope Leo XIII in his ground-breaking Encyclical Quamquam Pluries of 15th

August, 1889, many Church fathers and the liturgy point to this. They believe he was prefigured by Joseph, son of Jacob of the Old Testament.

Father Michael Gasner, O. P. in his book, Joseph the Silent, puts it this way:

Not only do they bear the same name that merely points the way but in their virtues and in their lives are found to an astonishing degree, the same warp and woof of trial and joys. Each one both ‘just men’ in the full meaning of the word, each one devoted himself, soul and body to the mission assigned him, dreading only that any honour which belonged to his Master might be attributed to his servant.

Father Gasner’s argument is very instructive and clear on the similarities of the two Josephs. Let me, therefore, in no particular order, enumerate the basis of my alignment with these and many other eminent minds:

(i) Name Meaning:

The name of the Old Testament Joseph looms large in its pages – a name built around God, occurring over two hundred times and means “Yahweh increases” or “Yahweh adds”. It was given by his mother, Rachael, as gratitude and appreciation that the Lord had opened her womb (Gen.30:22–24). The mother had no children for years. Joseph and his brother, Benjamin, were children of her old age. Joseph opened her womb and removed bareness from her. The name of the New Testament Joseph, Joseph of Nazareth, occurs about eight times in the New Testament, with the meaning “God grants him descendence. Basically the name means the same. Joseph generally means “increasing it”.

(ii) Name of Father:

They both have Jacob as their fathers. Jacob’s son, Joseph, is found in Gen.37–50, 49:22, Deut.33:13 Ps.77:15, 105:17. That of Joseph of Nazareth as the son of Jacob is confirmed by the genealogy of Jesus (Mt.1:16). Explanation has been given by the Church for the possible reason why the listing by Luke’s Gospel is different from that of Matthew.

(iii) Name of Mother:

The name of their mothers is Rachael. It was specifically mentioned in the case of the Old Testament Joseph (Gen.30:29), but that of the New Testament Joseph was mentioned in (Matthew 2:18) as “weeping” when Herod’s soldiers were killing the innocent children while seeking for infant Jesus to kill. “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly: it is Rachael weeping for her children …” This quotation, though it had its origin (Jeremiah 31.15) in response to Rachael, mother of two great tribes of Israel weeping, following the desolation of Israel by King Nebuchadnezzar, would arguably appear to situate the New Testament Joseph’s mother weeping for the innocent babies being mercilessly murdered by King Herod’s soldiers as Joseph of Nazareth escaped with the child Jesus.

(iv) The African Country of Egypt:

Egypt is significant and indeed prominent in christendom. Both Josephs found themselves in Egypt under different providential circumstances. While the Old Testament Joseph was sold into slavery following the fierce jealousy of the brothers (Gen.37:18–30), the New Testament Joseph of Nazareth fled from the fury of Herod wanting to kill his putative or foster son, Jesus (Mt.2:13–15). Here, Jesus and Joseph, with our mother Mary, retraced the journey their ancestors made from Egypt to the promised land of Israel.

(v) Death Threats:

The Old Testament Joseph was first thrown into a dry well by the brothers with the intent of his death there in the well, and the brothers offered the explanation to their father, Jacob, that Joseph had been eaten by a lion (Gen.37:18–30). The second Joseph of the New Testament, in protection of his foster or putative son and as there was no room in the inns for Joseph and Mary, found shelter in an abandoned cave where Jesus was born in poverty, exposed to the biting snowy cold of winter in Bethlehem, with the incidental consequences. He also travelled on long dangerous lonely routes to Egypt and to Nazareth, with Jesus and Mary in his care.

(vi) Dreams:

The first Joseph, sometimes called Joseph the dreamer, had a dream revealing his future; that the brothers and parents would bow down to him (Gen.37:5–9). This was realized (Genesis 42:6–9) when his brothers came to Egypt to look for corn during the worldwide famine. The New Testament Joseph correctly also interprets God’s communication with him;

Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. She will have a Son, and you will name him Jesus because he will save the people from their sins …(Mt.1:18–22)

This Joseph trusted God when he got this astonishing news of his betrothed being pregnant without his cooperation. This is a story that had never been heard of – being pregnant by the Holy Spirit! – but Joseph did as he had been commanded when he woke up from sleep.

It may be interesting to note that the second dream of the Old Testament Joseph was also fulfilled in the Joseph of Nazareth. He had dreamt that “The Sun, the Moon and eleven stars were worshiping me … can it be that I and your mother and your brothers will come to bow to the ground before you”, Jacob their father retorted (Gen.37:5–10). While these were fulfilled when their father and all the family members came to Egypt to meet Joseph – the provider for all the people – that same dream prefigured Joseph of Nazareth when “Jesus the Son of Joseph and Mary, praised in the liturgy for her spotlessness and beauty” would place themselves under the authority of Joseph, the head of the Holy Family, and later, also the “whole assembly of saints would clap their hands to acclaim the merits of him who had made himself the servant of the Word Incarnate”. (Michael Gasner)

(vii) Ruler of King’s House and Possessions:

The king of Egypt, Pharaoh, made Joseph the lord of the possessions in Egypt when Joseph made a convincing and correct interpretation of his dreams (Gen.41:17–45). Similarly, Joseph of Nazareth, as head of the Holy Family, was ruler over the king of the Universe’s home in Nazareth. Jesus the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Alpha and Omega, chose Joseph to be the head of the Holy Family. Joseph was the lord, master and ruler of the house, for as Lk.2:51 put it, “So Jesus went back with them to Nazareth, where he was obedient to them.

(viii) Led The Same Chaste and Virtuous life: