Raised in a farm family in Spain, Joseph entered the seminary in 1876 when he was only twelve years old. After ordination, he worked as a parish priest and was a professor at the seminary in Madrid.
After a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Joseph asked his bishop for permission to join the Society of Jesus. Becoming a Jesuit was something he had always wanted, but he delayed this dream for many years because as a young priest he took on the responsibility of caring for an elderly priest.
Fr. Joseph took his first vows as a Jesuit when he was 44. He became known as the “Apostle of Madrid.” People came from great distances to celebrate the sacrament of Penance with him because of his compassion and healing words. He helped people to change their lives and to live for Christ.
Joseph had a great love and concern for the poor and he preached often about our responsibility for our brothers and sisters. Many lay people came to Fr. Joseph to ask how they could help. He guided them to open tuition-free schools, to nurse the sick, to find housing for needy families and jobs for the unemployed. Fr. Joseph also provided for the spiritual needs of the poor by making the sacraments more available to them and by organizing missions where he preached about Jesus’ care for them.
At the center of Fr. Joseph’s life and ministry was his love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He told the people he ministered with that prayer must always come first. He said that it is through prayer that we receive the strength to serve others.
The Church honors Fr. Joseph as a saint. Pope John Paul II praised Joseph for following the example of Christ. Joseph’s motto was, “Do what God wants and want what God does!” Like Joseph, we can do what God wants by carrying on Christ’s work in the world. We can reach out to our brothers and sisters in need through prayer and action.