The life of St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, is not recorded in sacred Scripture, but the meditations of an 18th-century Italian nun offer a glimpse into the daily life of the Holy Family from his perspective.
Servant of God Mother Maria Cecilia Baij’s personal revelation, as described in “The Life of Saint Joseph,” provides an intimate portrait of the Holy Family’s life of prayer, suffering, and joy.
Baij’s account allows the reader to imagine the scenes that may have made up Joseph’s life with Jesus and Mary, with a particular focus on his interior life.
The book begins with the birth of Joseph and provides a 75-page account of his life before meeting Mary.
It emphasizes how God prepared him with graces for the privilege of meeting the future Mother of God.
The reader accompanies Joseph as he exults in the Incarnation within Mary’s womb, endures trials on the way to Bethlehem, weeps for joy as he holds the Savior of the world in his arms, sings hymns of praise to God with Mary, works with the child Jesus in his workshop, and continually abandons himself to the will of God in the face of uncertainties.
The Church does not consider it obligatory to believe private revelations as a matter of faith, but the book has received an imprimatur and nihil obstat from the Vatican, officially declaring it free from doctrinal and moral error.
Pascal Parente, a professor at the Catholic University of America, translated the manuscript into English.
Baij’s manuscript was completed before her death in 1766 but remained unknown until a Benedictine monk found her writings in 1900 in St. Peter’s convent in Montefiascone, Italy, and published some excerpts.
A local priest, Msgr. Peter Bergamschi, presented Baij’s writings to Pope Benedict XV in a private audience on March 17, 1920, during the month of St. Joseph. The pope encouraged Bergamaschi to publish them.
Maria Cecilia Baij was born in 1694 in Montefiascone and took her religious vows with the Benedictine community of Montefiascone at the age of 20.
She was named abbess in 1743 and remained in the post until her death at the age of 72.
In her prayers at the convent, Baij received both attacks from the devil and mystical revelations about the life of Christ, St. Joseph, the Holy Family, and St. John the Baptist, which she wrote down in lengthy manuscripts in obedience to her confessor.
Throughout the text, Joseph is often depicted in prayer, speaking praises to God on his own and together with the Virgin Mary and Jesus.
Baij wrote about how he would approach Mary and ask her to sing a hymn in praise of God when he worked very strenuously.
Her singing was so delightful that Joseph often was carried into ecstasy.
Mary’s singing and hymns of divine exaltation were a great source of comfort and relief for Joseph.
Baij’s manuscript provides a new light on the most loving and lovable head of the Holy Family.
The manuscript has been preserved by the Benedictine convent of St. Peter and is still active today, welcoming pilgrims who walk the Via Francigena, a medieval pilgrimage route that passes through their town.