Stories about Jesus’ foster father abound, and we can read them in ancient texts, such as the Protoevangelium of James, The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, The Gospel of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, the “Story of Joseph the Carpenter” and the “Life of Mary and Death of Joseph.” Later sources, such as “The Golden Legend,” which dates to the mid-13th century, tell of St. Joseph, as well. Closer to our own time, the 19th-century German mystic Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (beatified by St. John Paul II in 2004) experienced a number of ecstatic visions, in some of which she saw St. Joseph in his youth.

St. Matthew attests Joseph was “a just man” (1:19, RSV), and we may assume Joseph cared — and deeply — for Jesus and his mother. Beyond that, we know almost nothing, other than his occupation as a carpenter.

The Gospel accounts mention “brothers and sisters” of Jesus, and St. Paul refers to “James the Lord’s brother” (Gal 1:19, RSV), which has led scholars to surmise that Joseph was widowed, with a number of children by his first wife, when he and Mary wed. Some legends say Joseph was 90 when he married and 111 when he died!