St. Joseph, in the New Testament, Jesus’ earthly father and the Virgin Mary’s husband. St. Joseph is the patron of the universal church in Roman Catholicism, and his life is recorded in the Gospels, particularly Matthew and Luke.
Avoiding Bethlehem out of fear of Herod’s successor, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus settled in Nazareth (Matthew 2:22–23) in Galilee, where Joseph taught his craft of carpentry to Jesus. Joseph is last mentioned in the Gospels when he and Mary frantically searched for the lost young Jesus in Jerusalem, where they found him in the Temple (Luke 2:41–49). Like Mary, Joseph failed to comprehend Jesus’ ironic question, “ ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ ” The circumstances of Joseph’s death are unknown, except that he probably died before Jesus’ public ministry began and was certainly dead before the Crucifixion (John 19:26–27).
Although the veneration of Joseph seems to have begun in Egypt, the earliest Western devotion to him dates from the early 14th century, when the Servites, an order of mendicant friars, observed his feast on March 19, the traditional day of his death. Among the subsequent promoters of the devotion were Pope Sixtus IV, who introduced it at Rome about 1479, and the celebrated 16th-century mystic St. Teresa of Ávila. Already patron of Mexico, Canada, and Belgium, Joseph was declared patron of the universal church by Pope Pius IX in 1870. In 1955 Pope Pius XII established the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1 as a counter-celebration to the communists’ May Day.