“St. Joseph: Our Spiritual Father” is a Knights of Columbus-produced documentary looking at the life of St. Joseph, and the lasting lessons he can offer us today. Below, writer and director David Naglieri delves into the meaning of St. Joseph’s spiritual fatherhood.
How can families in particular benefit from the example of St. Joseph?
Throughout history, St. Joseph has earned many titles: “Guardian of the Holy Family,” “Protector of the Church,” “Joseph Most Just,” “Pillar of Families” and “Terror of Demons,” just to name a few. I believe each of his titles speak to the way in which St. Joseph plays an important role in defending and protecting the institution of the family. Fathers face many challenges in protecting their children from harmful influences in today’s world. Whether it’s dangerous ideologies that reject Christian morality, corrupting media influences, or other temptations that draw us away from God’s plan for our lives, St. Joseph demonstrates how to go about protecting one’s family.
First, he is an example of the need to go to God in silent prayer and then to act decisively. Joseph is both a man of contemplative prayer and a man of action. We see this exemplified in the Gospels when the Lord instructs Joseph to take Mary and the Christ child and flee to Egypt in order to escape the evil King Herod. Joseph does not hesitate. He immediately embarks on a harrowing journey to save the life of Jesus.
We may not receive such dramatic instructions in our everyday life, but we are similarly called as husbands and fathers to lay down our lives in defence of our family. To do that, we must be in daily prayer in order to grow in wisdom and understanding. But that prayer life cannot be divorced from decisive action when the Lord speaks.
If we are making decisions that are not generated after prayer and quiet contemplation we can easily go astray. Joseph shows all of us the path forward: humility in prayer and decisiveness and courage in our actions.
How can St. Joseph help guide us through the difficult moments in life?
In answering this question, I immediately think of the Polish priest prisoners of Dachau whose story was recounted in our film. These prisoners of the Nazis faced inhumane treatment and the prospects of certain death as World War II came to an end. It is hard to imagine more difficult circumstances than what these men faced. However, they resisted the temptation to despair, as must we in whatever trials we face, and instead they turned in their moment of agony to St. Joseph. They consecrated their lives to him and appealed directly for his intercession. They saw him as the protector of the Holy Family and of the Church. What better intercessor could there be?
Indeed, we have a remarkable and unique intercessor in St. Joseph. Church tradition holds that St. Joseph’s role in salvation history elevates him above all the choirs of angels. Throughout history countless Catholics afflicted with personal difficulties have discovered comfort, consolation and solace through devotion to St. Joseph.
The prisoners of Dachau, liberated by the Allies just hours before their scheduled execution by the Nazis, serve as a dramatic testimony to what a powerful intercessor we have in St. Joseph. Let’s cultivate our devotion to St. Joseph now and not hesitate to turn to him in our moment of need.
The documentary highlights the Statue of the Sleeping St. Joseph. Can you tell us about its significance for Catholics?
This is a very unique devotion that Pope Francis is very attached to. In fact, the Holy Father brought his statue of St. Joseph with him from Argentina to the Vatican when he was elected Pope. Pope Francis has shared that whenever he has a special request or intention, he will write it down on a piece of paper and slip it under the sleeping statue.
The devotion pays tribute to the fact that God would often appear to Joseph with instructions through his dreams. It’s a powerful devotion that many Catholics adopted during the Year of St. Joseph. It is an excellent way to develop the same trust in God’s providence that St. Joseph modelled.
How can we foster a deeper connection with St. Joseph?
I strongly recommend learning more about St. Joseph’s life. Besides watching our film, I highly suggest reading Fr. Donald Calloway’s Consecration to St. Joseph and Mike Aquilina’s St. Joseph and His World. Both books are tremendous resources that explain St. Joseph’s many virtues and how his life can serve to inspire us.
I also strongly endorse going through with a personal consecration to St. Joseph and incorporating prayers to St. Joseph into your daily life. This could involve the aforementioned Sleeping St. Joseph devotion or perhaps the Memorare to St. Joseph, which is a very powerful prayer.
To watch the documentary, please visit https://www.kofc.org/en/news-room/st-joseph/index.html.
David Naglieri is Director of Film and Digital Media for the Knights of Columbus.