Reverend James R. Joseph

Learn what led Fr. Joseph to the seminary.

Seminary attended: St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
College: William & Mary
Home parish: St. Agnes Parish

What did you do prior to entering seminary?

I was the Latin and Religion teacher at Our Lady of Hope School in Sterling. Before that, I did an M.A. in Church History at the University of Dayton.

What influenced your decision to apply for seminary entrance?

I came into the Catholic Church from Protestantism in 2013. When I went away to college at William & Mary, I would say I was searching for the real, capital-T True Church. I had always loved history and philosophy, and so as I learned more and more I began to read a lot of G.K. Chesterton and some of the early Church writers like St. Athanasius. As time went on, it became hard to deny or avoid that I needed to give the Catholic Church a chance. The Church seemed to have everything I had thought I was looking for. Through some good friends in the campus ministry, I was introduced to Catholic theology and practice, and it was not long before I decided to become a Catholic. I have never looked back since, and my desire to spend the rest of my life in the Church has only grown.

Why do you want to be a priest?

The priesthood attracted me early on. I was fascinated early on by the Mass and the liturgy, and especially by the Catholic culture of the Middle Ages. I think underlying that was my desire to find the meaning and purpose of life and of human history throughout my journey of conversion. God is the burning, transcendent meaning of history, and if He decided to enter the world as a man, the world He created must say something about Him. It is not some dead thing which means nothing. There is a meaning and a purpose to things. In becoming a Catholic, I have fallen in love with the reality I cannot see, but that I know is there. In the Church, I have found the meaning of human life and existence - the living God. I see becoming a priest as the fulfillment of my initial desire as a convert to be as close as possible to that central Mystery of life.

What are your favorite pastimes?

Reading or listening to books, talking or debating about history, watching old movies

What is your favorite quote?

“Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, "Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good--" At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark.”   -G.K. Chesterton, Heretics (1905)

Who is your favorite Saint and why?

Blessed Karl of Austria. I have been devoted to Blessed Karl, the last emperor of Austria-Hungary, for some time. In becoming a Catholic, I was initially attracted in part by the Church's strong objection to the evils of the modern world and of political and social life. Her strong stance against these things impressed me greatly, especially in the heavy and tragic period of the First World War. The actions of Blessed Emperor Karl was the only leader of a major power to attempt seriously an agreement of peace according to the plans and desires of Pope Benedict XV. In trying to end the war and standing for traditional values of peace and order, Blessed Karl remains a great example of a holy leader of a nation. He and his wife, Servant of God Empress Zita, are also outstanding examples and intercessors for holy and peaceful families and marriages, examples sorely needed in the Church today.

What advice would you give to a young man thinking about the seminary?

The most important step is to carve out time in your day for silent prayer - if you can manage it, the daily holy hour. Not only does this create time and space for God to speak to you, it also cuts out the dull noise of daily life and the media that seems to crowd our attention. To learn really to pray with Scripture, to bring up the concerns of your heart honestly to God and receive His love are all the essential first steps not only to discernment of vocation but also to a holy life in general.

Any other facts about yourself that people might find interesting?

I am a massive fan of the show Avatar: The Last Airbender.

I find most periods of history fascinating, but lately I've been reading about the end of the Qing dynasty in China. I highly recommend the autobiography of the last emperor, Puyi.

My mother's family has been in the United States a very long time. My 5x great-grandfather was Rev. James Francis Armstrong, a chaplain in the Revolutionary War. I am also related to an old Rhode Island family of Little Compton called the Wildbores (Wilbors), who came to America in 1621 and originate from England. My father's family are in part immigrants from the Wadi al-Nasara (Valley of the Christians) in Syria and I have a lot of family in the Syrian Orthodox Church.