Sleeping Saint Joseph


Our parish has two of the largest Sleeping St. Joseph statues in the world.  One Sleeping St. Joseph is located inside the Mission Blvd entry vestibule of the church and is surrounded by votive candles.  The second is outdoors adjacent to the Holy family Picnic Area.  Both are illuminated at night.  Our Sleeping St. Joseph statues were made in Italy and funded by generous donations.

St. Joseph does not speak in the Gospels, but he dreams of heaven and acts decisively according to God’s divine plan. St Joseph’s dreams are painted on the walls of our outdoor Sleeping St. Joseph monument.

In Matthew’s Gospel, God speaks to St. Joseph in four dreams.  In the first dream, an angel tells him to bring Mary into his home as his wife, because the child was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20-21).  Putting his faith in God, Joseph took Mary as his wife.  

After the birth of Jesus, in a second dream an angel tells Joseph to leave Bethlehem and flee with his family to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:13).  And so Joseph took mother and baby on a perilous journey to an unknown country.  Joseph must have felt great anxiety.  But Joseph went because he trusted God.  

In a third dream, an angel tells Joseph to return from exile in Egypt to the land of Israel (Matthew 2:19-20).  Joseph and the Holy Family uproot themselves again and make the arduous journey back home.

And in his fourth dream, Joseph is asked to go instead to the town of Nazareth in Galilee and make a new home for his family there. This fulfilled the prophecy that Jesus would be called a Nazorean (Matthew 2:22). 


The Mission church was named in 1797 at its founding in honor of St. Joseph (“La Mision del Gloriosisimo Patriarch San Jose”), and when we became a diocesan parish in 1853 we became St. Joseph parish.  The Mission church was designated by Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J. as the Diocesan Shrine of St. Joseph on March 19, 2024.  You can read the proclamation here.

Together with Mission San Jose, our renovated St. Joseph church, and our covered statue of St. Joseph the Worker near Mission Blvd, our statues of Sleeping St. Joseph establish our parish as a devotional destination for honoring our patron saint. 

Patron and Protector of the Universal Church

St. Joseph is the father and patron of the Church because the title of patriarch falls by special right to him. The patriarchs were the heads of families of the Chosen People in the Old Testament, and theirs was the honor to prepare for the Savior’s incarnation.  St. Joseph belonged to this line of patriarchs, for he was one of the last descendants of the family of David and one of the nearest forebears of Christ according to the genealogy described in the beginning of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 1:1-9).

In addition to his role as Patron and Protector of the Universal Church, St. Joseph is the patron saint of families, fathers, expectant mothers, travelers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers and working people, among others.

So many people love St. Joseph!  He faced a number of seemingly hopeless situations, and he always triumphed over them. When he discovered that Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant with a child not his own, should he accept her and bring up her child as his own? How would the villagers react to such a scandal? Joseph chose the harder path and took Mary into his home.

Or think of how he undertook the census journey to Bethlehem with a very pregnant wife, or of the challenge of raising Jesus to embrace His calling as the Messiah.  Or when, not long after Jesus’s birth,  King Herod sent his men to kill every baby boy in Bethlehem, and Joseph had to flee with Mary and Jesus.  How could they evade trained soldiers?  Would he find enough work in Egypt to support his family?  In each situation, the odds always seemed stacked against him, but Joseph placed his faith in the Lord and found the grace to stand firm.

That’s the power of faith: it can sustain us and fill us with hope, no matter what we are facing. Financial hardship, family infighting, racial prejudice, chronic illness, you name it. We’ve all faced, or are facing now, situations that appear hopeless.  We’ve all faced, or are facing now, the temptation to give up. So thank God for this poor, silent carpenter from Nazareth. Thank God for St. Joseph’s witness of deep trust in the Lord. May we all follow in his footsteps and, through his intercession, find the grace to continue hoping against hope.  “St. Joseph, watchful guardian of the Holy Family, teach me to live in unwavering hope!”

Pope Francis and Sleeping St. Joseph

In 2015, during his trip to the Philippines, Pope Francis popularized the image of St. Joseph lying on his side, fast asleep.   “I like St. Joseph very much. He’s a strong man of silence.  On my desk, I have an image of St. Joseph sleeping.  Even when he is asleep, he looks after the Church.  Yes!  We know that he does that,” Pope Francis said, “So when I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note and I put it underneath Sleeping St. Joseph, so that he can dream about it!  In other words, I tell him: ‘Pray for this problem!’”

Certainly St. Joseph knows how to rest peacefully with God!  He rests with trust in God’s divine plan and acts with divine inspiration.  We can learn from him how to refrain from anxiety in the middle of our busy lives and work hard according to God’s plan, and not run the risk of being busy with things that do not matter much eternally.  Pope Francis says the way St. Joseph responded to his dreams — by rising and doing as God had asked — shows St. Joseph was a man who was willing to immediately do the will of God. “Those precious moments of repose, of resting with the Lord in prayer, are moments we might wish to prolong. But like St. Joseph, once we have heard God’s voice, we must rise from our slumber; we must get up and act.”Sleeping 

A Prayer to Sleeping Saint Joseph

O Saint Joseph, you are a man greatly favored by the Most High.  The angel of the Lord appeared to you in dreams, while you slept, to warn you and guide you as you cared for the Holy Family.  You were both silent and strong, a loyal and courageous protector.

Dear Saint Joseph, as you rest in the Lord, confident of his absolute power and goodness, look upon me. Please take my need (mention your request) into your heart, dream of it, and present it to your Son.  Help me then, good Saint Joseph, to hear the voice of God, to arise, and act with love.  I praise and thank God with joy.  Saint Joseph, pray for us.  Amen.