Where Does the Soul Go?

In this episode of Ask A Priest, Father Joseph Matlak answers the question: Where does a soul go when the human body dies?

There’s a lot more to the afterlife than this, though! If you want a deep dive into the destiny of YOUR soul—about death, judgment, heaven, hell, purgatory, and even what it MEANS to have a soul—then check out The Four Last Things: Journey of a Soul, from Good Catholic.

//Good Catholic//


6 Tips For Finding and Keeping Your Peace

Is it possible to experience peace, and live it spiritually, when things in your life seem to be imploding?

Yes. Not only can you remain in peace yourself, you can bring it to others—regardless of your circumstances.

Sacred Scripture repeatedly calls us to be at peace. Here is one particular verse:

And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15

Such interior peace does not depend on the absence of conflict, strife, or suffering. It is completely unrelated to the events taking place in our lives. It exists at such a deep and soulful level—an otherworldly level—that it remains untouched by whatever swirls around us.

Yes, in the midst of our greatest sufferings, we can still have this peace of soul, this biblical peace. It is a peace that we come to know, over time, as we learn to entrust every circumstance of our lives to the Lord.

Every. Single. One.

Suffering Is Not Wasted

St. Francis embracing Christ by Francesco Ribalta

Have you ever heard the saying “God uses everything”? I have recognized and lived this truth many times in my life, but perhaps most powerfully in the last five years—for it is in these last five years that Our Lord has begun to teach me so much more about His peace.

It all began when one of my children was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. The shock and fear of that moment—and the many shocks that followed—are something I can’t describe, but anyone who has gone through moments like these can understand.

The last five years have been difficult, at times threatening our peace in every way imaginable. Yet we are still persevering, and still hoping, as our daughter continues to struggle with a disease that doctors say is incurable.

Sometimes peace comes so naturally; sometimes it comes moment by moment. But I know it is there for me, and I rest in it every day of my life. I see it growing from faith and hope and from the charity of wonderful prayer warriors, who sustain and accompany my family during this time.

Here are six things that I have found necessary for finding and keeping interior peace:

1. Know what (and Who) peace truly is.

Giuseppe Craffonara's “Portrait of Christ"

The peace with which God wants to fill our hearts is not strictly found in a weekend getaway, a stroll on the beach, or a day off from a difficult schedule. Those getaways are indeed important—they encourage us to enter into an atmosphere of serenity, which makes it easier for us to seek interior silence and to hear His voice. When we seek to establish peace and organization in our home, for example, the more interior soul-level peace we can experience. Calm surroundings help us focus on Him, not on life’s difficulties.

At the same time, we should not confuse a peaceful atmosphere with the peace God wants to give us. This peace—which only He can give—is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Now this gift does not mean that we will be entirely calm and serene all the time, or that we will never experience emotions brought about by weariness, sadness, grief, fear, or anxiety. At the same time, we should not assume that because our emotions get the best of us, we are incapable of the supernatural gift of peace—or that we do not have it at all.

We will, at times, be fearful and anxious. It is part of our human nature. The key is to be vigilant over our emotions and refuse to let them carry us away. We must offer them to God when things are challenging, and directly ask Him for His peace. Because peace is not a thing. It is a person. Jesus Christ. Only through intimacy with Him will we ever truly find it.

2. Defend your daily peace if you want biblical peace.

Quiet time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament

We must do everything we can to defend our daily peace—every day—unceasingly. Some of the “noise of the world” is inevitable. We cannot escape it. It is part of living in this age. But it’s important to recognize that we are actually choosing some of this noise for ourselves!

It does not please the Lord if we are so busy running around, helping everyone, and doing everything, that we are frantic all day long with no time to seek or acknowledge Him. It doesn’t delight Him if we become so overwrought by the problems of our loved ones that we don’t remember to give these problems to Him and rest securely in that.

Prudent choices about how far to extend ourselves, and when to detach ourselves, are important to keeping our peace. We are called to charity, selflessness, and generosity, but if we overextend that without prudence, we are responsible for giving away our own peace.

A quiet mind is essential to finding and keeping your peace. Look at the things you choose to prioritize during your day. If time with Christ  isn’t one of them, what can you set aside in favor of more quiet time to rest in Him? How will we find Him if we are not actively looking for Him by clearing space (in our hearts, minds, and calendars) to meet Him?

Time in prayerful communion with God is the best kind of quiet. If that is missing from your life, start today. Sit quietly for ten minutes, talking to Him, thanking and praising Him, and asking for His peace. That is a beginning.

Make time for things that calm your mind. Disconnect from what fills it with “noise.”

3. Recall what He has done in the past so that you can keep trusting Him with the future.

The Virgin Mary in Prayer by Albrecht Dürer

Psalm 77:1 says, “I will recall the deeds of the Lord; yes, recall your wonders of old.”

In order to have peace, we must practice trusting God, over and over again, until it becomes natural and constant for us. We know how much He loves us, and how much He desires for us. He gave everything in order to demonstrate that love.

The Lord is particularly glorified when we entrust everything to Him in the midst of a disorienting and debilitating situation. We do not have to know the mind of God or understand why He permits something in order to entrust Him with our cares. Seeing our trust and obedience in the face of devastating uncertainty gives great glory to God. It allows Him to open a portal to us for greater grace and peace.

Trust does not come naturally to most of us. Relinquishing everything to Christ is an act of the will. We cannot perfect this disposition without willing ourselves to surrender everything to Him over and over again, constantly, until it becomes second nature.

When you are tempted to try and take back what you have given to the Lord, remember His works throughout salvation history; throughout your own life; and throughout the lives of your loved ones. What He has done before, He can do again, and then some. His power is unlimited, as is His mercy and love.

4. Live a life of praise.

Visitation (detail) by Franz Anton Maulbertsch

Try praising God for every “little miracle,” even as you are praying for greater things. The little things can be as seemingly insignificant: a beautiful day, a patch of flowers seen on a walk, an unexpected visit from a friend.

Many times as we are suffering, the little things allow us to live a life of praise for—and glory in—our good God. Sometimes the big prayers remain unanswered, only to be addressed in His timing—but there are always little things that we can praise Him for.

Praise is a mantle of protection against the enemy. It prevents the evil one from getting a foothold on us. Remember, the devil wants to take away our hope. Without it we are laid bare as the most vulnerable prey to his tactics.

Sacred Scripture tells us that praise—which demonstrates hope—is a spiritual weapon in our arsenal.

On the mouths of children and infants, you have found praise to foil your enemy, to silence the foe and the rebel.

Psalm 8:2

In the beginning, it may feel forced and unnatural, but focus on finding things for which to praise God. Praise Him as constantly as you can, interiorly and even aloud.

5. Stay in the present moment.

Peace in the moment

Don’t get too far ahead. God gave us wisdom and knowledge, but only a finite amount of both. There’s a reason for that. He is God and we are not. He has already suffered for us, in order to make suffering redemptive and own it all. In this way, He shows us that He wants to be our peace.

Don’t give away your peace to your own imagination by getting too far ahead of yourself. You will be worrying about things that may not materialize and ruining this moment with the anxieties of the next. Stay in this present moment, live in it, and seek Him in it.

Trust Him as He stretches and readies you along the way, so that He has time to prepare you for what comes next. Don’t seek what’s ahead before He has made you ready. He will lift the veil on the future a little at a time. Take comfort in that and don’t rush into things He has not yet prepared you to receive.

There are graces to be found in the smallest things if we are living in the moment. Worries and anxieties bind us if we are jumping into the future—at the expense of the graces in this moment, and peace in the next.

6. Have an expectant faith.

Waiting for God's forthcoming blessings

Even when you are frightened by the things in life that you can see, believe that God is with you. Believe that His will is perfect for you. Believe that He wants only what is best for you. Do not doubt God’s desire to bless you.

We glorify Him all the more when we have an expectant faith. It feeds our sense of hope and trust. These things lead us to interior peace even in the darkest circumstances. If we truly believe in His infinite love for us and His desire for us in heaven, we can live in the expectant faith that Jesus calls us to in Sacred Scripture.

So let us confidently approach the throne of grace…

Hebrews 4:16

But how can we have an expectant faith when situations are truly devastating?

This is a question I have wrestled with over time. In these crises, we must go back to what we know, because there is so much that is unknowable to us in this life.

The Apostle Paul understood this well:

Therefore we are not discouraged; rather, though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison, as we look not to what is seen, but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Are you experiencing great sufferings that seem insurmountable? The Beatitudes are Jesus’ promises for some of life’s most tragic situations. In each beatitude, His eternal promises bring graces in which we can trust and believe. His promises are the promises of heaven, not necessarily this of earthly life. As Christians, however, we know that these are the grandest, most incredible, and most important of all His promises.

It takes trust and strength of will to “see” eternally and wait for the Lord to bring graces from something tragic. But He has promised to accompany us with His mercy and love, so we must believe that, in time—if we stay faithful—graces will follow even the most devastating trials.

Final Thoughts

Peace is not simply a serene atmosphere that allows for temporary relief from anxieties. It is not merely a “state of mind” or a period of rest and tranquility. Those types of peace are transitory.

Peace is the person of Christ, in His permanence and love. He’s waiting for you to entrust everything to Him. Keep giving Him your cares and trusting in His promises, both here and in eternity, and you will find the peace and healing your soul craves.

May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way…

2 Thessalonians 3:16

//The Good Catholic//


Good Catholic – Telling the Truth

Telling the truth is a personal responsibility. True love for others and concern for their wellbeing means to tell the truth. With humility. With calmness. With gentleness.Even when it’s uncomfortable. It is never charity to encourage someone in sin or lie in order to make them feel comfortable. St. Thérèse of Lisieux knew this. “If I am not loved,” she said, for telling the truth, “so what!”


The Little Way

The Little Way makes holiness accessible to us despite our weaknesses and our ordinariness. It is a way of trust and love. This fresh application of the Gospel message is the legacy of the Little Flower. She lived the Little Way as it sprang from her heart, then left it to the Church she loved.As we deal with family, friends, neighbors, employers, co-workers, teachers, and especially those who are difficult, we can each do the “little.” Even in encounters with strangers, we can do the little, in love, for Jesus. The Little Way is manageable, not overwhelming. It is a means by which any one of us can become a saint.That is not to say that St. Thérèse’s Little Way is easy! To love in each moment may not mean we achieve a desired outcome or response. There are times when loving is a heroic act of the will. It may simply mean that we make every effort to give our best in that moment. Then we offer those moments to God in a childlike spirit of trust and abandonment. We make this offering with confidence, knowing that He sees our hearts and our intentions. We entrust all of our small efforts to the Lord, believing that He receives them as our Heavenly Father.

//Good Catholic//


Staying Focused at Mass

Let’s face it: fighting distraction during Mass is a difficult task for just about everyone.

After all, we’re human. We live in a fast-paced world. We have so many things bouncing around in our minds that we bring into Mass, not including the distractions we’re bombarded with after we sit in our pew.

And if we have children with us—multiply the distractions by ten.

It takes almost an heroic effort to prevent our minds from wandering away from the most important thing happening in our world in that moment: Jesus Christ coming to us in the Flesh.

But it IS possible to limit some of our distractions at Mass. All we need is a little thoughtful preparation.

Here are some simple-yet-practical tips.

1. Turn off music streaming and the car radio on the way to Mass.

One of the best ways to mentally prepare for Mass is to begin before you arrive. Start clearing out your distractions in advance by spending your drive-time to the church in silence. Turn off the car radio, silence your phone, and avoid superfluous conversation if you have family or friends in the car with you. Leave any important conversations for after Mass. Consciously make your transition from the secular to the sacred. Let that silence sink in.

2. Get to Mass at least 10 minutes early.

It’s very important to get to Mass a little early—rather than rushing in and looking for a seat while Mass is already beginning.

By clearing out your mind on the way to Mass and making room for silence, you have already taken steps to prepare yourself for prayer. Deepen that preparation by spending at least a few minutes in quiet prayer before Mass begins. Remind yourself that you are now in the presence of God and that you are about to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and thank Him for this gift of grace. This will help to settle you down and keep you attentive.

More time is better but a few minutes is better than none at all. This may take practice, but over time you can develop the habit.

Getting to Mass early

3. Sit closer to the front.

Another good reason to get to Mass a bit early is to get a free seat in one of the front pews. If all that is in front of you is the altar, it is much easier to stay focused on what is happening there. You will also be less distracted by what is happening in the pews around you.

4. Keep your hands folded in prayer.

Posture is very important to prayer. Let your body remind you of what your heart and mind should be doing by keeping your hands reverently folded.

There is a reason why we teach this to kids! Try it, and you’ll probably find that it helps lessen your distractions.

Catholic School Kid's Mass

5. Fully participate in the Mass.

Mass is not an event for spectators. Participate! Say all the prayers and sing all the songs. If it helps, follow along with each part of the Mass using a Missal.

Where does this Sunday fall in the liturgical calendar? How is the Old Testament reading connected to the New Testament reading? How does the Responsorial Psalm connect both?

If you are engaging in all of this, it is a rewarding occupation for the mind, and God will undoubtedly assist you to better grasp and understand His sacred truths.

6. Bring back those wandering thoughts.

Mass is the place where heaven meets earth. Each time you are distracted, bring your mind back to where you are, even if you have to do this 100 times from start to finish. As instructed by St. Francis de Sales:

“If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master’s presence. And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back and place it again in Our Lord’s presence, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.”

St. Francis de Sales quote on calling back a wandering heart

7. Intentionally add your intentions and sacrifices to the prayers of the Mass.

Two things that you can bring with you to every Mass are the special intentions that you’re praying for, and the personal sacrifices that you’re uniting to Christ’s one great sacrifice. Both come together as you “offer it up” at Mass. At the point before the Consecration when the priest says, “Pray brethren, that my sacrifice AND YOURS may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father,” consciously think of what these things are for you.

8. Memorize the Anima Christi Prayer.

The Anima Christi is a beautiful Communion prayer dating back to the Middle Ages. Pray these words very slowly as a meditation to keep your mind focused on what Christ is doing in your soul at your reception of every Holy Communion. Do this enough times and you’ll have it memorized.

Anima Christi Prayer

9. Ask for help—from your guardian angel!

If you want help overcoming distractions away at Mass, just ask! Your guardian angel is with you to help you with things like this. Humbly ask your angel—who is adoring Christ along with you—to assist you in staying attentive and praying well.

What do you think of this list? If you have other tips for curbing distractions during Mass, please share in the comments below!

//Good Catholic//

Finding and Keeping Your Peace

Is it possible to experience peace, and live it spiritually, when things in your life seem to be imploding?

Yes. Not only can you remain in peace yourself, you can bring it to others—regardless of your circumstances.

Sacred Scripture repeatedly calls us to be at peace. Here is one particular verse:

And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15

Such interior peace does not depend on the absence of conflict, strife, or suffering. It is completely unrelated to the events taking place in our lives. It exists at such a deep and soulful level—an otherworldly level—that it remains untouched by whatever swirls around us.

Yes, in the midst of our greatest sufferings, we can still have this peace of soul, this biblical peace. It is a peace that we come to know, over time, as we learn to entrust every circumstance of our lives to the Lord.

Every. Single. One.

Suffering Is Not Wasted

Have you ever heard the saying “God uses everything”? I have recognized and lived this truth many times in my life, but perhaps most powerfully in the last five years—for it is in these last five years that Our Lord has begun to teach me so much more about His peace.

St. Francis embracing Christ by Francesco Ribalta

It all began when one of my children was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. The shock and fear of that moment—and the many shocks that followed—are something I can’t describe, but anyone who has gone through moments like these can understand.

The last five years have been difficult, at times threatening our peace in every way imaginable. Yet we are still persevering, and still hoping, as our daughter continues to struggle with a disease that doctors say is incurable.

Sometimes peace comes so naturally; sometimes it comes moment by moment. But I know it is there for me, and I rest in it every day of my life. I see it growing from faith and hope and from the charity of wonderful prayer warriors, who sustain and accompany my family during this time.

Here are six things that I have found necessary for finding and keeping interior peace:

1. Know what (and Who) peace truly is.

The peace with which God wants to fill our hearts is not strictly found in a weekend getaway, a stroll on the beach, or a day off from a difficult schedule. Those getaways are indeed important—they encourage us to enter into an atmosphere of serenity, which makes it easier for us to seek interior silence and to hear His voice. When we seek to establish peace and organization in our home, for example, the more interior soul-level peace we can experience. Calm surroundings help us focus on Him, not on life’s difficulties.

At the same time, we should not confuse a peaceful atmosphere with the peace God wants to give us. This peace—which only He can give—is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Now this gift does not mean that we will be entirely calm and serene all the time, or that we will never experience emotions brought about by weariness, sadness, grief, fear, or anxiety. At the same time, we should not assume that because our emotions get the best of us, we are incapable of the supernatural gift of peace—or that we do not have it at all.

We will, at times, be fearful and anxious. It is part of our human nature. The key is to be vigilant over our emotions and refuse to let them carry us away. We must offer them to God when things are challenging, and directly ask Him for His peace. Because peace is not a thing. It is a person. Jesus Christ. Only through intimacy with Him will we ever truly find it.

Giuseppe Craffonara's “Portrait of Christ"

2. Defend your daily peace if you want biblical peace.

We must do everything we can to defend our daily peace—every day—unceasingly. Some of the “noise of the world” is inevitable. We cannot escape it. It is part of living in this age. But it’s important to recognize that we are actually choosing some of this noise for ourselves!

It does not please the Lord if we are so busy running around, helping everyone, and doing everything, that we are frantic all day long with no time to seek or acknowledge Him. It doesn’t delight Him if we become so overwrought by the problems of our loved ones that we don’t remember to give these problems to Him and rest securely in that.

Prudent choices about how far to extend ourselves, and when to detach ourselves, are important to keeping our peace. We are called to charity, selflessness, and generosity, but if we overextend that without prudence, we are responsible for giving away our own peace.

A quiet mind is essential to finding and keeping your peace. Look at the things you choose to prioritize during your day. If time with Christ  isn’t one of them, what can you set aside in favor of more quiet time to rest in Him? How will we find Him if we are not actively looking for Him by clearing space (in our hearts, minds, and calendars) to meet Him?

Quiet time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament

Time in prayerful communion with God is the best kind of quiet. If that is missing from your life, start today. Sit quietly for ten minutes, talking to Him, thanking and praising Him, and asking for His peace. That is a beginning.

Make time for things that calm your mind. Disconnect from what fills it with “noise.”

3. Recall what He has done in the past so that you can keep trusting Him with the future.

Psalm 77:1 says, “I will recall the deeds of the Lord; yes, recall your wonders of old.”

In order to have peace, we must practice trusting God, over and over again, until it becomes natural and constant for us. We know how much He loves us, and how much He desires for us. He gave everything in order to demonstrate that love.

The Lord is particularly glorified when we entrust everything to Him in the midst of a disorienting and debilitating situation. We do not have to know the mind of God or understand why He permits something in order to entrust Him with our cares. Seeing our trust and obedience in the face of devastating uncertainty gives great glory to God. It allows Him to open a portal to us for greater grace and peace.

Trust does not come naturally to most of us. Relinquishing everything to Christ is an act of the will. We cannot perfect this disposition without willing ourselves to surrender everything to Him over and over again, constantly, until it becomes second nature.

When you are tempted to try and take back what you have given to the Lord, remember His works throughout salvation history; throughout your own life; and throughout the lives of your loved ones. What He has done before, He can do again, and then some. His power is unlimited, as is His mercy and love.

The Virgin Mary in Prayer by Albrecht Dürer

4. Live a life of praise.

Try praising God for every “little miracle,” even as you are praying for greater things. The little things can be as seemingly insignificant: a beautiful day, a patch of flowers seen on a walk, an unexpected visit from a friend.

Many times as we are suffering, the little things allow us to live a life of praise for—and glory in—our good God. Sometimes the big prayers remain unanswered, only to be addressed in His timing—but there are always little things that we can praise Him for.

Praise is a mantle of protection against the enemy. It prevents the evil one from getting a foothold on us. Remember, the devil wants to take away our hope. Without it we are laid bare as the most vulnerable prey to his tactics.

Sacred Scripture tells us that praise—which demonstrates hope—is a spiritual weapon in our arsenal.

On the mouths of children and infants, you have found praise to foil your enemy, to silence the foe and the rebel.

Psalm 8:2

In the beginning, it may feel forced and unnatural, but focus on finding things for which to praise God. Praise Him as constantly as you can, interiorly and even aloud.

Peace in the moment

5. Stay in the present moment.

Don’t get too far ahead. God gave us wisdom and knowledge, but only a finite amount of both. There’s a reason for that. He is God and we are not. He has already suffered for us, in order to make suffering redemptive and own it all. In this way, He shows us that He wants to be our peace.

Don’t give away your peace to your own imagination by getting too far ahead of yourself. You will be worrying about things that may not materialize and ruining this moment with the anxieties of the next. Stay in this present moment, live in it, and seek Him in it.

Trust Him as He stretches and readies you along the way, so that He has time to prepare you for what comes next. Don’t seek what’s ahead before He has made you ready. He will lift the veil on the future a little at a time. Take comfort in that and don’t rush into things He has not yet prepared you to receive.

There are graces to be found in the smallest things if we are living in the moment. Worries and anxieties bind us if we are jumping into the future—at the expense of the graces in this moment, and peace in the next.

6. Have an expectant faith.

Even when you are frightened by the things in life that you can see, believe that God is with you. Believe that His will is perfect for you. Believe that He wants only what is best for you. Do not doubt God’s desire to bless you.

We glorify Him all the more when we have an expectant faith. It feeds our sense of hope and trust. These things lead us to interior peace even in the darkest circumstances. If we truly believe in His infinite love for us and His desire for us in heaven, we can live in the expectant faith that Jesus calls us to in Sacred Scripture.

So let us confidently approach the throne of grace…

Hebrews 4:16

But how can we have an expectant faith when situations are truly devastating?

This is a question I have wrestled with over time. In these crises, we must go back to what we know, because there is so much that is unknowable to us in this life.

The Apostle Paul understood this well:

Therefore we are not discouraged; rather, though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison, as we look not to what is seen, but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Are you experiencing great sufferings that seem insurmountable? The Beatitudes are Jesus’ promises for some of life’s most tragic situations. In each beatitude, His eternal promises bring graces in which we can trust and believe. His promises are the promises of heaven, not necessarily this of earthly life. As Christians, however, we know that these are the grandest, most incredible, and most important of all His promises.

It takes trust and strength of will to “see” eternally and wait for the Lord to bring graces from something tragic. But He has promised to accompany us with His mercy and love, so we must believe that, in time—if we stay faithful—graces will follow even the most devastating trials.

Waiting for God's forthcoming blessings

Final Thoughts

Peace is not simply a serene atmosphere that allows for temporary relief from anxieties. It is not merely a “state of mind” or a period of rest and tranquility. Those types of peace are transitory.

Peace is the person of Christ, in His permanence and love. He’s waiting for you to entrust everything to Him. Keep giving Him your cares and trusting in His promises, both here and in eternity, and you will find the peace and healing your soul craves.

May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way…

2 Thessalonians 3:16

What are some examples of practices that bring greater peace into your life?

What are some things that steal your daily peace or prevent you from feeling biblical peace?

Have you experienced a difficult situation that you consciously gave to God? What were the resulting graces and blessings?

//Good Catholic//

Saint Joseph – Our Spiritual Father

While I have great love and admiration for all the saints, I have a very special relationship with St. Joseph, my spiritual father. He is one of the most beloved saints in the Catholic Church. His principle feast day, March 19, is a solemnity—a feast of the very highest rank. We also celebrate a secondary feast day under his title “St. Joseph the Worker” on May 1st.

St. Joseph is, for me, a spiritual father; a protector and provider; an intimate companion; a pattern for a life hidden in Christ and cloaked in docility. His divine call by God the Father was a great and mysterious grace that cannot be easily reduced to a list of specific qualities; there would not be enough space to contain them. Such is the generosity of God when He asks something tremendous of His beloved children. St. Joseph is so special to me that I took his name for my Carmelite name when I became a Secular Discalced Carmelite.

Joseph with the Child and the Flowering Rod, Alonso Miguel de Tovar

He was the earthly father of Jesus, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin, and the patron saint of fathers, workers, immigrants, the Universal Church, the “domestic” church, and a happy death. He is also recognized as “The Terror of Demons.” He has numerous titles and patronages, and his intercession is very powerful.

It is impossible to list all the wonders and virtues of my beloved spiritual father, but here are some of the most beautiful qualities of St. Joseph:

1. He showed supreme generosity in the gift of self.

God gave full possession of Himself to Joseph in divine generosity, and in return, Joseph gave himself fully to God.

Before his young wife came to live with him, she was found to be with child. As he was processing this shocking news, the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, telling him not to be afraid to take Mary into his home as his wife.

Daniele Crespi: Saint Joseph’s Dream

What incredible confusion and unworthiness he must have felt after the Angel told him the child was the Messiah, the long-awaited Savior of his people. Imagine how unworthy he found himself to be as the leader of the Holy Family. Yet Joseph was devout; he was just. He gave himself fully and completely to the designs of God.

2. He exercised humility within his God-given authority.

Despite the confusion about this topic in our culture today, there is a hierarchy of love that prevails in family life. A husband and father has a very particular spiritual authority in his family. God has intended for that authority to extend to daily life as he guides, guards, and protects his wife and children, and provides for their needs as the head of the family.

St Joseph and the Christ Child (c. 1655–60), Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

God the Father gave St. Joseph authority over Mary and the Divine Child. His angel appeared to Joseph in dreams to inform and guide him—the angel did not appear to Our Lady after the Annunciation, nor to Christ, the Infant God. Joseph’s God-given role was to be a true spouse and father to Our Lady and to Jesus; he was the leader of their family. God did not disrupt this order, even under these circumstances, because He Himself designed it that way.

Joseph may have felt ill-equipped in his humanity, but because God chose him for this role, the Lord enriched Joseph with the gifts appropriate to his paternity and to every other task and duty entrusted to him. For his part, Joseph put his entire life at the service of Love.

3. He lived a deep interior life.

The same silence that characterizes the life of St. Joseph also reveals the deep union between the contemplative and active life in this beloved saint. The Gospels announce what Joseph did. They do not present a single word of what he said. All that he did in the Gospels evidences a spirit of deep contemplation. God would not have subjected Himself to the authority and care of someone who was not seeking to know Him in holiness and to live in His law. For these reasons we know that St. Joseph was a holy man who sought the face of God in prayer.

He lived life in communion with Jesus, in His very presence within the Holy Family. As surely as this Presence sanctifies us here and now in the Eucharist, bringing forth grace within us, it sanctified and edified Joseph throughout his daily life, profoundly deepening the grace within him. And St. Joseph’s fatherly love surely had an influence on Jesus as His human nature grew in grace and maturity.

The supposed tension between the active life and the interior life finds a perfect balance in St. Joseph. The Lord worked powerfully within him—his great love for God was both the source and the impulse for his interior life.

4. He had amazing faith and obedience in the face of great mystery.

Joseph believed and obeyed. His incredible faith and trust in God enabled him to surrender his own plans, dreams, and assumptions about his life in order to take on a fatherhood he had never expected and a mystery he’d never imagined—all for love of God, the Messiah, and the Jewish people who had awaited the coming of the Messiah for generations.

With unquestionable trust and belief, he took Mary into his home under extraordinary circumstances. He took his wife and child into Egypt in the middle of the night to escape a murderous King. He took them out of Egypt when the Angel of the Lord appeared with news that it was safe to return home.

St. Joseph holding the Christ Child

He did not falter or hesitate. He trusted, knowing that he was at the service of God, Our Lady, and the Christ Child. In each of these instances, he stepped symbolically into darkness. He walked in mystery, embracing it, in obedience and faith.

5. He is the patron and protector of the “domestic church” and the Universal Church.

As a Jewish father, Joseph would have led the prayers at home every day. He would have taken Mary and Jesus to the temple to worship. He would have taught Jesus in His human nature.

The Holy Family is a model for every Catholic family. As head of the Holy Family, St. Joseph is also the patron and guardian of every “domestic” church. The domestic church is the collective spiritual life within every Christian family. It is the primary place of formation, instruction in prayer, and the teaching of virtues, ethics, and moral values. It is the school of love, and a place where that love nurtures Christian maturity of thought. It is the fertile ground where all vocations are seeded.

St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church

Joseph is also the patron of the Universal Church. Because we have become God’s sons and daughters through baptism, the earthly father of Jesus has become our spiritual father, just as Mary is our spiritual mother. Just as Our Lady looks down upon us from heaven, so too St. Joseph is watching over Christ’s Mystical Body on earth as its patron.

Go to St. Joseph for help for your family and for the Universal Church.

6. He is the patron of a happy death.

St. Joseph is the companion of many faithful Catholics at the end of their life in this world. Pious tradition holds that he died in the arms of Jesus and Mary, after serving them devotedly as father and husband.

St. Joseph, dying in the presence of Jesus and Mary

Who better to usher us into eternity than St. Joseph, the head of the Holy Family, who died in the arms of Jesus and Mary? We should have recourse to him at the hour of our own death and at the deaths of our loved ones.

Concluding Thoughts

St. Joseph is a model for all faithful Catholics to live each day immersed in God.

As the protector and guardian of Our Lady and Our Lord, St. Joseph encourages us to stand up for the teachings of the Church and to defend our Faith against the assaults of the world. As the Most Chaste Spouse of the Blessed Virgin, he is a sign of contradiction in a culture that disdains modesty and purity. As the patron of the domestic and Universal Churches, he will intercede in the restoration and healing that will renew our families, our Church and our culture. As the patron of a happy death, he will be with you, in your final hour of need, to comfort you, protect you, and intercede for you before His Most Beloved Son.

He is a precious spiritual companion who will not fail you. In all of your needs, go to St. Joseph.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

The Coronation of St. Joseph

The Earliest Known Prayer to St. Joseph (Circa 50 A.D.)

O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.

O St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your divine son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

O St. Joseph, I never tire of contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while he reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss his fine head for me, and ask him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen.