Book Review: The Life and Glories of St. Joseph

“In the silence of the holy hour, one paragraph at a time, through the teaching of the Church Fathers, St. Joseph materialized before my eyes”

This book review is provided by Dennis McGeehan and republished from the Catholic Writers Guild blog.

Among the classics of Catholic literature, The Life and Glories of Saint Joseph is a book to be consumed, savored, and meditated on. Do not attempt large bites, rather enjoy each morsel, one paragraph, even one sentence at a time.

This book, written in 1888 by Edward Healy Thompson, M.A., is based on the earlier work of theologian Canon Antonio Vitali, Father Jose Moreno, and others. They in turn cite the works and opinions of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Augustine, Saint Bernadine, Saint Bridget, Ven. Maria d’Agreda, and others.

I purchased the book over 20 years ago and for over a decade it languished on my book shelf. Time and again I would begin to read it only to be rebuffed by its language and depth. It is a heavy read. Approximately ten years ago I had the opportunity to participate in a weekly holy hour. The silence was wonderful; however, my senses needed something to help me direct my mind towards God and not my pressing To Do list at home. I began to bring books with me to read and meditate on. The Life and Glories of Saint Joseph became my regular companion.

As a husband and father I have been drawn to Saint Joseph, believing he would be the best model I could choose for my life. I have other books on Saint Joseph but many are full of prayers to him rather than providing insight into the man he was. Growing up without a good male role model I deeply wanted someone to copy so I could be the husband and father I hoped to become. In the silence of the holy hour, one paragraph at a time, through the teaching of the Church Fathers, Saint Joseph materialized before my eyes.

As the book explicitly states, to dwell on Saint Joseph one must out of necessity also meditate on Jesus and Mary. They are (and these are my words) a package deal. Jesus of course can stand alone (except there is that matter of the Trinity). Jesus embodies the Divine and Human Nature in Himself, and Mary and Joseph are forever part of this Union.

Joseph, and the man he had to be to carry out the mission the Father gave him, is the main subject of the book, but to study Joseph is to be immersed in Jesus and Mary. The ancient Fathers deduced much as they meditated on the events of the Nativity of Jesus. The conclusions they arrived at they shared in homilies with their flocks. These conclusions are discovered by the reader of this marvelous book.

Nothing in the Bible is changed but the events are fleshed out to give a fuller picture of God’s work in our salvation. The reader is first privy to details of Joseph and Mary as youngsters. They are then provided with insights into their lives together including the visit to Elizabeth’s house (yes, the Church Fathers agreed Joseph accompanied Mary), their flight to Egypt, and their time spent there. Other familiar moments are studied such that the reader feels he is with them at the Presentation or on their search for the lost child. What I found most beneficial was the illumination of Joseph’s role as husband of Mary and father of Jesus. He is made real and tangible.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Embrace the man who first taught Jesus the Torah, the man that Jesus called Daddy.

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