St. Joseph in Art: The Ultimate Multi-Tasker

Fleur Dorrell takes a look at some of the less well-known texts and images that have influenced how St Joseph has been portrayed in art. For a man of biblical times, he is refreshingly modern.

Prayer to St Joseph by Pope Francis in this special year of St Joseph.

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage,
and defend us from every evil. 

​Today, St Joseph is venerated as the patron saint of workers, pilgrims, fathers, and carpenters. Yet we know very little about him since the Bible has so few references to his character and life. This seems remarkable given his role in Jesus’ birth and early years. If Joseph is Jesus’ human father, why is he not mentioned in the gospels of Mark and John? Luke mentions him by name only in the genealogy of Jesus and once in the narrative of Jesus’ birth. Therefore, most of our ideas about Joseph come from Matthew’s Gospel, the 2nd-century Protoevangelium of James and the Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine.

How Joseph and Mary came to be betrothed in the first place is described in the Proto-evangelium. An angel tells the priests to call all the widowers to come to the Temple with their rods; God will provide a sign to show which widower should be betrothed to Mary. Joseph is chosen because a dove flies out of his rod. In the Golden Legend, a flower grows out of the rod before the dove alights upon it. This symbol recalls the imagery of the flowering staff of Aaron showing he had been chosen by God in Numbers 17:23, and the Jesse rod in Isaiah 11:1-2. The episode of the rods and the marriage are painted by Giotto in his Scrovegni Chapel frescoes below.

Since the 17th century, the most enduring image of St Joseph has been as a carpenter, perhaps in some ways, influenced and associated with the rise of the Industrial Revolution and Catholic Social teaching documents on the dignity and rights of workers. So we now celebrate two feast days for Joseph:

19th March for Joseph the Husband of Mary.
1st May for Joseph the Worker.

19th March has been the most commonly celebrated feast day for St Joseph instituted by Pope Sixtus IV in 1479 but it wasn’t until 1955 that Pope Pius XII established the Feast of ‘St Joseph the Worker’ on 1st May. This is also May Day (International Workers’ Day) and believed to reflect Joseph’s status as the patron saint of workers.

What is interesting from the 17th century onwards, is that Joseph is no longer portrayed as an old man with a beard, asleep, dreaming or in the background only as guardian or protector, but is now painted as youthful, vigorous and very practical. Joseph is called a tekton in the gospels, which is usually translated from the Greek as carpenter but more likely was a general craftsman. What a wonderful father and multi-tasker.

Joseph is painted on his own, centre stage at last, combining humility and honour with highly skilled credentials that speak loudly to the modern age. Around him are a selection of tools and work in progress. Sometime the boy Jesus is with him, being shown the ropes; sometimes, Joseph is with fellow workers, but very often he is on his own, busy working in the service of God.

Here we see a series of wonderful linocuts illustrating this new interpretation of Joseph by Ade Bethune (1914 – 2002) who was an American Catholic liturgical artist. She was associated with the Catholic Worker Movement, and was a designer and iconographer.

Radio Wales


‘When Pope John Paul II came to Wales’

Radio Wales: Thu 4 Mar 2021, 6:30pm

Mai Davies reunites those who could say ‘I Was There’ at a moment in Welsh history. She asks her guests to recall the Papal visit of John Paul II in 1982.

Huge crowds gathered in Cardiff on June 2nd, 1982 to see the Pontiff become the first reigning Pope to visit Wales. Addressing 150,000 people at Pontcanna Fields, the Polish-born pontiff began the Mass in Welsh. The Pope’s message: “Bendith Duw arnoch” – “the blessing of God be on you” – was received with rapturous applause.

Three people who were there on that historic day share their memories and reflections. Broadcaster and singer-songwriter Frank Hennessy recalls how he was asked to compose and perform an official song of welcome for the Pope.

“For me it was a great day,” Frank remembers. “There was a lot of excitement running up, and relief that it went well. I can still remember every minute, every second of the day. I suppose it was the highlight of my career.”

Retired teacher Carys Whelan recalls how she was asked to give a reading at the Papal Mass: “It gave me goose pimples, I couldn’t believe they wanted me to do it,” she says. “I lost so much sleep before the big day. I went to a boutique in Bridgend to get myself a good dress. It usually did wedding dresses. They were fascinated with me as I had to get a smart dress for the Pope! I did the Welsh reading – from the Second Epistle of Peter, about coming to the mountain of God. Another time I had to read it at Mass a few years later and I couldn’t read it. I was overcome with emotion. It all came flooding back to me.”

And Canon Mike Evans – then a young Deacon – remembers how he served on the altar that day right next to the Pontiff: “I was there at the Pope’s side the whole way through. I have really happy memories of the day – the youth mass at Ninian Park was incredible.”

The God Who Speaks

“The God Who Speaks”:  A Year of the Word – Scripture Study 

‘Everyone should carry a small Bible or pocket edition of the Gospels and should find at least a few minutes every day to read the word of God.’ (Pope Francis, 2014)

With the programme of events being disrupted due to Covid 19, our planned talks in the Archdiocese of Cardiff are set to resume online this month with Fr. Tim McGrath giving a talk on “Encountering Jesus as the Messiah in Matthew’s Gospel” on Saturday, April 24th from 11am-12.30pm.


Details of the full programme of talks for the year can be found on the Archdiocesan website / events.


How to Access the Online Talks                                                                                                                    

You can access the talks on the day via Zoom at:

Meeting ID: 824 0925 6453                                                                                                                   Passcode:  633303 

The talks will also appear on YouTube.  Please go to the ACES YouTube channel

Contacts for enquiries:  Madeleine Walters at or Kate Duffin at


GOOD TO SEE:  I sent notice of our talks to The God Who Speaks Team and they have published them nationally viz.


Join in with some great Scripture events and activities from:

Portsmouth:                                                                                                            Northampton:


Happy New Year – Focus on Mary

Saint of the Month

February 1st – St. Brigid

Saint Brigid, unknown author, illumination from the manuscript “Ruskin Hours”, c. 1300, ms. Ludwig IX 3, f. 106v, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

St. Brigid was devoted to the poor and many miracles are attributed to her involving the multiplication of food such as butter. For this reason, she is often depicted in icons with a cow lying at her feet. Another miracle attributed to her involves the changing of bath water into beer.

St. Brigid founded Kildare Abbey and several other Abbeys in Ireland. Next to St. Patrick, she is Ireland’s most beloved Saint.

The miracle of food multiplication can be found in several places in the Bible. You may want to read the account of Jesus multiplying the 5 loaves and 2 fish in the Gospels (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-14) or Elijah’s prophecy that the Widow at Zarephath’s flour and oil would not run out before the end of the drought (1 Kings 17:7-16).

She is the Patron Saint of (among others): Ireland, poets and dairymaids.

The God Who Speaks – Menevia’s programme of Scripture Talks for 2021

Saturday, February 20
Creation and the Revelation of the Trinity in Genesis
Fr. Liam Bradley

Saturday, March 20
Mary, the New Eve
Fr. Gabriel Avbenake, OP

Saturday, April 17
Scriptural Spirituality: Prayer in the Bible and the Bible in Prayer
Canon John Udris

Saturday, May 15
The Psalms: The Church’s Prayer Book and their place in her Liturgy
Fr. Paul Brophy

Saturday, June 19
The Sacramental Economy in Sacred Scripture
Fr. Robert Davies

Saturday, July 17
A Biblical Explanation of the Mass
Fr. Michael Akpoghiran OP

Saturday, August 21
Elijah for the 21st Century
Fr. Jerome Ituah OCD

Friday and Saturday, September 17 and 18
Diocesan Scripture Day/Scripture Tour and Art Exhibition

Saturday, October 16
The Role of Women in Salvation History
Sr. Nora Ryan

Saturday, November 20
Saul and Paul: A Story of Inner Conversion
Fr. Matthew Roche-Saunders

All of these dates can be found here, in this programme:

How to Access the Online Talks:
The Talks are live-streamed on YouTube.
To access the Talk on the day, please go to DOMSEC website and click “Livestream” on the top menu bar.





Staying together while apart

Staying Together While Apart – a new project to help the most vulnerable.

Dear All,

The past few months have been incredibly difficult, and I wish to start with thanking you for all the work you have been doing responding to the crisis in your parish and church.

At the same time, I would like to share some good news: we have been awarded a grant from the Welsh Government’s Voluntary Services Emergency Fund to expand the good work already taking place across the Archdiocese serving the wider community at this difficult time.

The ’Staying Together While Apart’ project will run for 6 months and has two specific objectives:

First, to improve mental health and wellbeing of older and vulnerable adults, reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, provide care to those suffering psychological distress, and foster a sense of belonging and community. We intend to use Zoom, Skype, live streaming, and YouTube podcasts along with the more traditional phone calls, letters, and even postcards to combat isolation and communicate messages of support to those in need.

Secondly, we intend to expand, ‘shop and drop’ home deliveries of food, care packages, and prescriptions organised for the most vulnerable who are self-isolating.

This is a fantastic project but can only be delivered with your help. Have you been involved in working with the elderly and vulnerable affected by the COVID-19? Then we wish to hear from you! Tell us about your experience and how we can assist you – please take a few moments and complete an online survey we created:!

I am happy to answer any questions you have, so please do get in touch:

Klavdija Erzen

STWA Project Manager.

Staying together While Apart

SVP charity shop

The local SVP charity shop is appealing for donations, in particular good condition women’s clothing and bric a brac.  Please bring any items to a weekend Mass or let Judy (Cowbridge) or Chris (Llantwit Major) know if you’d like items collected.


Praise & Worship

A group of people from several Parishes within the Archdiocese meet to Praise & Worship the Lord. My personal experience of this is that even when I go on occasion with a burdened heart, I leave with joy & peace. Interested? We meet twice a month 7pm – 8.30pm.
Every first Monday of the month at St. Helen’s RC Parish Hall, Court Road, Barry, CF63 4ET.
Every third Monday at Holy Family RC Church, Carter Place (off Keyston Road), Fairwater, Cardiff CF5 3NP.
All invited & welcome.
For more information contact Deirdre on 01446 793224.