Does St. Joseph Have His Body in Heaven?

St. Joseph is one of the greatest saints. He has been called the Protector of the Redeemer. He was a man eager to do the Will of God.

He is invoked in the Mass, as patron saint of an untold number of places, and he is especially honored as the Patron of the Universal Church.

Why Have a Devotion to St. Joseph?

St. Teresa of Avila answered this question well when she said:

“To the other Saints it appears that the Lord may have granted power to succor us on particular occasions; but to this Saint, as experience proves, He has granted power to help us on all occasions. Our Lord would teach us that, as He was pleased to be subject to Joseph upon the earth, so He is now pleased to grant whatever this Saint asks for in Heaven. Others whom I have recommended to have recourse to Joseph, have known this from experience. I never knew anyone who was particularly devout to him, that did not continually advance more and more in virtue. For the love of God, let him who believes not this make his own trial. And I do not know how anyone can think of the Queen of Angels, at the time when She labored so much in the infancy and childhood of Jesus, and not return thanks to Joseph for the assistance which he rendered both to the Mother and to the Son.”

For this reason, we can say that St. Joseph is the first among the saints after our Blessed Mother. We call this honor, protodulia (‘proto’ means first).

Was the Body of St. Joseph Also Assumed into Heaven?

We know beyond a doubt based on the infallible dogmas of the Catholic Faith and ancient testimony of the early Christians that the body of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was assumed into Heaven at the end of Her earthly life. But what of Her spouse?

No shrine on earth claims to have the mortal remains of St. Joseph. We have shrines with the relics of the early martyrs, contemporaries of Our Lord, St. John the Baptist, the Apostles, and even the Old Testament Prophets. But why are there no relics of Our Lord’s foster father? Saint Frances de Sales referenced this phenomenon as evidence that St. Joseph possesses his body in Heaven:

“…we must nowise doubt that this glorious saint has great credit in Heaven with Him Who has so favored him as to raise him to it both body and soul; which is the more probable as we have no relic of him here below on earth; and it seems to me that no one can doubt this truth. For how could He who had been obedient to him all the time of his life, have refused this grace to St. Joseph?”

He continues: 

“And if it is true, as we must believe, that by virtue of the most Holy Sacrament which we receive, our bodies will rise again at the day of judgment, how can we doubt that our Lord caused to rise with Him to Heaven in body and soul the glorious St. Joseph who had had the honor and the grace of carrying Him so often in his blessed arms, in which our Lord took such pleasure? Oh, how many kisses He tenderly gave him with His blessed mouth, to reward, in some measure, his labor!”

He concludes in rather clear terms: “St. Joseph, then, is in Heaven in body and soul. There is no doubt of it.” And he is not alone. Centuries beforehand, St. Bernardine of Siena, the great promoter of the Holy Name of Jesus, asserted:

“We may piously believe, but not assert, that the Most Holy Son of God Jesus crowned His foster-father with the same privilege which He gave His Mother: that as He assumed Her into Heaven bodily and glorious in soul, so also on the day when He arose, He took Joseph up with Him in the glory of the Resurrection,”

Bernadine preached in one of his great sermons, adding, “So that as this glorious family, Christ, the Virgin and Joseph, had dwelt together on earth in the labors of life and in loving grace, so now they reign in Heaven in loving glory of both body and soul.”

Even in our own modern times, Pope John XXIII had said in 1960 that the faithful “so piously we can believe” that St. Joseph’s body was assumed into Heaven along with his soul. While this is not dogmatically defined, it is most certainly a pious belief which contains nothing contrary to the faith. Therefore, Catholics are free to believe this and gain spiritual profit from such a devotion.

Theological Reasoning

It has also been piously believed, and taught by many saints, that St. Joseph was never guilty of any personal sin. Scriptural support for this teaching is found in the description of St. Joseph as a “just man” (cf. Matthew 1:19), which essentially means he is ‘right with God.’ It also makes sense that since St. Joseph lived day in and day out with the Immaculate and Sinless Virgin and the Perfect and Sinless Incarnate Word, that God would have given him the superabundant graces necessary not to fall into personal venial or mortal sin.[1]

Tradition further maintains that St. Joseph was cleansed of original sin while still in the womb of his mother (similar to St. John the Baptist). Had he not been cleansed of original sin and given extraordinary graces to resist the effects of concupiscence, he would not have been able to persevere in life blameless and without sin.[2]

We know that death entered into the world through the sin of Adam (cf. Romans 5:12) and that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Thus, given St. Joseph’s personal sanctity, it is theologically consistent to maintain that God would have granted him the grace of assuming his body and soul into Heaven.

We can therefore – and should – pray to St. Joseph that he can help us know, observe, and love the Catholic Faith so that we may one day enter Heaven. And while there, we will await the day of the General Resurrection of the Dead and the reuniting of our own soul and our body in Paradise.

Prayer of Consecration to St. Joseph 

O Blessed Saint Joseph, I consecrate myself to thy honor, and give myself to thee that thou mayest always be my father, my protector, and my guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me a great purity of heart and a fervent love of the interior life. After thy example may I do all my actions for the greater glory of God, in union with the Divine Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. And do thou, O Blessed Saint Joseph, pray for me, that I may share in the peace and joy of thy holy death. Amen. 

 


ENDNOTES

[1] For those interested in learning more about St. Joseph, an excellent text is The Life and Glories of St. Joseph by Edward Healy Thompson, M.A. (TAN, 1980); the original publishing date is 1880. The first few chapters explain how St. Joseph was included in the Decree of the Incarnation and the Order of the Hypostatic Union as well as how Holy Scripture prefigures his name, his life, his glory and his virtues.

[2] Ibid. Chapter VII is titled “Joseph Sanctified Before His Birth” and Chapter VIII addresses his being freed from concupiscence, and having sanctification and superabundance of grace. The text provides numerous footnotes from the saints and Church Doctors.  Another helpful text is The Life of St. Joseph by Maria Cecilia Baij, OSB, Abbess of the Benedictine Convent of St. Peter in Montefisacone, Italy from 1743-1766 (The 101 Foundation, 1997).

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