St. Joseph in the Basilica

If you come to visit us and spend some time in our historic Basilica, you can begin to admire the murals painted high on the walls of the Basilica. After Jesus and Mary, the next figure most depicted is Joseph. Indeed, St. Joseph is central in the devotional life of Conception monks. But not only us. In 1870, Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph the patron of the Universal Church.

I invite you to look at the six murals and a couple other paintings in the Basilica which depict St. Joseph. A brief explanation helps to understand what the artists were striving to present.

These six murals show the important role of Jesus in the life of Mary and Joseph and something about the spirituality of the artists, early monks of Conception. This devotion continues today.

In addition, there are two more pictures of St. Joseph in the Basilica. In the apse, below the famous figure of Mary as the Immaculate Conception, we find Joseph centrally located next to the parents of Mary.

Finally, we need to notice the icons in the minor apses which were written around 1995, in connection with the restoration of the Basilica. One understandably is of St. Benedict. But the other is an icon of St. Joseph. This is a favorite of monks and visitors. We “go to Joseph” with our needs and prayers.

May St. Joseph, who is the special patron of the Universal Church, continue to be a special patron to all of us. 

-Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB


in the year of St. Joseph

Prayer to 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 grew into manhood.

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. Amen.

From the Apostolic Letter Patris Corde
of Holy Father Francis, December 8, 2020


1. The Betrothal of Joseph and Mary
This reflects the traditional practice of the Jewish people at the time. The parents of the two young people made the arrangements for the future marriage. The picture shows that a priest would bless this engagement.

2. The Visitation
We know that the angel Gabriel told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant with the future John the Baptist. The Gospel says that Mary went in haste to go help her cousin. The Gospels do not mention Joseph going with her, but it is understandable that the artists would take this license. Would a teenager undertake such a challenging trip alone?

3. The Nativity
The very familiar story of Joseph and Mary where she gave birth in a stable to the Child Jesus who is destined to save the people of their sins, as His Name affirms.

4. The Adoration of the Magi
This is the Feast of the Epiphany. Jesus will come to save not only the people of Israel, but all the peoples of the world. St. Joseph is presented as the protector of Mary and the Child Jesus.

5. The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
This took place 40 days after the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. According to Jewish tradition, every newborn male child was to be presented to God in the Temple in Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph were faithful Jewish people. They treasured and honored their Jewish traditions.

6. The Flight into Egypt
Herod had decreed the slaughter of all the Innocents around Bethlehem. Joseph takes Mary and the Infant Jesus on a long, treacherous flight into Egypt. What else would a protective father and husband do?

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