Now Israel loved Joseph above all his sons, because he had him in his old age: and he made him a coat of divers colors. […] Now it fell out also that he told his brethren a dream, that he had dreamed: which occasioned them to hate him the more. —Genesis 37:1,5
Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately. But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost. —Matthew: 1:19–20
In the Holy Scriptures, we learn that God sent us men named Joseph, and both were dreamers.
In the first instance, God sent his servant Israel (Jacob) a son in his old age. This Joseph had dreams about his family bowing down to him — and God allowed his dream to become a reality. Joseph came to rule Egypt at Pharaoh’s right hand. This Joseph saved the whole Egyptian empire from starvation! He was a just ruler, and God would give him the power to interpret dreams.
This Joseph is but a type of a greater Joseph to come.
The month of March is dedicated to St. Joseph, the adoptive father of Christ. It is time we devoted this whole month to him. Lent is the perfect time for this, for St. Joseph is an even greater Joseph than ruled over Egypt.
Like the Joseph of the Old Testament, St. Joseph was given divine messages in his dreams. Angels visited him to inform him that his adopted son would be the Messiah, and later he was warned in a dream about Herod’s coming persecution, so he took the Holy Family to Egypt. St. Joseph was connected to God in a direct way. St. Joseph is like the Joseph of the book of Genesis in that he came to Egypt under perilous conditions and toiled there for many years. Unlike the previous Joseph, St. Joseph never came to posses any temporal power. Yet St. Joseph far surpasses the Old Testament figures.
As the first Joseph was ruler over Egypt, St. Joseph ruled over the Holy Family. St. Joseph was their leader while they were in Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth — until the day he died. As St. Paul teaches in Ephesians 5 and as Pope St. Peter teaches in 1 Peter 3:1–15, the hierarchy God has established in the domestic Church is such that children obey their parents and wives obey their husbands. Our Lady is the only saint above St. Joseph, but she doubtless obeyed him to teach all women the nobility of humility within marriage. St. Joseph was a benevolent ruler, and the world owes him so much for all he did. All women should pray for a spouse like St. Joseph!
More than being the head of the Holy Family, St. Joseph heard from God in his dreams. God spoke to St. Joseph in a way few other saints can fathom. St. Joseph’s dreams were filled not with visions of power and glory, as the Old Testament Joseph’s were. But angels would give St. Joseph knowledge of future events. St. Joseph is often called “the Savior of the Savior,” not because he has the power to redeem Christ, but because he saved Our Lord and Our Lady from the wrath of King Herod — all because of his dreams.
This month, begin the tradition known as “Sleeping St. Joseph.” Obtain a statue of a sleeping St. Joseph and place a prayer intention under the statue (preferably after you’ve had a priest bless your statue). Tradition holds that asking St. Joseph to dream about a request of ours is a most efficacious way of having your request answered. St. Joseph is connected to God at all times. Whether he is working or sleeping, he is always communicating with Heaven. St. Joseph’s dreams are greater than the dreams of his Old Testament predecessor. They are how God revealed the Incarnation to mankind.
St. Paul had a vision on the Damascus road. The sainted children of Fatima had visons of Our Lady. St. John Vianney had dreams of Hell and encounters with the Devil. But no saint had dreams like St. Joseph. Too often in Church art and in our personal conceptions of the foster father of Christ, we picture him as a carpenter. We ought also to picture him as a dreamer! St. Joseph is connected directly to Heaven when he slumbers.
St. Joseph shows us how to be a perfect saint, for he knew God the Son each day while he worked, and he knew God the Holy Spirit when he dreamed. St. Joseph was never without God! He must have offered both his work and his sleep up to God the Father. Truly, St. Joseph is the man all men must imitate, for every moment of his life was an offering to God. His very dreams were prayers in themselves.
If creation rejoices at this, how much Hell must be enraged by it! St. Joseph is called “The Terror of Demons” by the church. Every father is the “priest” of his household (though not ordained) because we are called to be a priestly people (see Ex. 19). St. Joseph had the honor of being the priest to the Holy Family. Although he was not a Jewish priest, he was a priest of his household, as all fathers are called to be. What an incredible priest he must have been for Our Lord and Our Lady! Just as good priests perform exorcisms and protect their bride (the Church) from the demonic, so St. Joseph protects those who turn to him from evil. All of Hell must sputter in rage when St. Joseph sleeps, for no saint can dream as he can!
Let us pray:
O St. Joseph, blessed dreamer,
Please dream about my request when the angels come to you in your rest. Ask Our Lady and Our Lord for my request, and protect my innocent children from nightmares. Dream for me, Terror of Demons, a happy death and protection from Hell. On my last day in life as I pass into eternal slumber, be there to take me into your Son’s kingdom. Sancte Ioseph, ora pro nobis!
Image: Joseph’s Dream (1645/46) by Rembrandt (1606–1669).