The back cover of the book suggests that reading this “contemplative book is like going on retreat.” That was not my experience of it. I found both the tone of the chapters and the “Study Questions” that followed each chapter to be more suited for study group discussion than for meditative contemplation. Many of the questions seemed to be more in the nature of reading comprehension questions than invitations to reflection. The description of the book had led me to expect that latter.
With respect to content, there are many valuable insights contained in the book that will enrich one’s appreciation of Joseph and of the Holy Family. I was particularly struck by the linkage of St. Joseph with Joseph of the Old Testament, and the discussion of the parallels in their experiences. And I have already in a separate post talked about the image of Joseph traveling with Mary, the “living monstrance.” There are also beautiful images of the father who raised his son, Jesus, loving and protecting him. Finally, this was my first exposure to what the book refers to as the Seven Sorrows of St. Joseph (and you can be sure I will spend some time with those in my prayer).
Mixed in with the valuable insights and images were ones I found more questionable. For example, I, for one, find it hard to credit the notion expressed by the author that Joseph had not even a moment’s doubt about Mary’s purity…that he had not a scintilla of suspicion that Mary had been unfaithful. Similarly, being unconvinced of the importance of whether Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus, I find it hard to be swayed by claims that Joseph was a perpetual virgin.
The book is rich in selections from various papal documents talking about St. Joseph, some in very beautiful terms and an appendix contains a list of sources that include these documents. Another appendix contains a number of prayers to St. Joseph, some of which I had not before been familiar with.
In short, my disappointment with the book was largely that it was not what I expected it to be from the description. Nonetheless, there is much here that readers will benefit from.