The month of March is dedicated to St Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the foster-father of Jesus. Holy Scripture proclaims him as a “just man” and the Church has turned to St Joseph for his patronage and protection.
He is the patron of the Universal Church. He is the patron of the dying because Jesus and Mary were at his death-bed. He is also the patron of fathers, of carpenters, and of social justice. Many religious orders and communities are under his patronage.
The Church celebrates two feast days for St. Joseph: March 19 for Joseph the Husband of Mary, and May 1 for Joseph the Worker. March 19 has been the most commonly celebrated feast day for Joseph, and in 1955 Pope Pius XII established the Feast of "St. Joseph the Worker" to be celebrated on May 1 to reflect Joseph's status as the patron of workers.
The Church encourages us to be devoted to St. Joseph because he was a model in the heroic practice of all the virtues. The example of virtuous living he gave in the exact fulfillment of the duties of his state of life is worthy of our reflection. He was prudent in caring for his wife and the child Jesus; he showed great leadership in protecting them and assisting them. He was conspicuous for his fortitude and courage. He protected and defended Mary's virtue in the time of courtship and throughout their life together. They had made a promise of chastity, and because they were resolved to live it for God they were blessed above all others. While Mary inspired him to practice this virtue perfectly, he, as a real man, understood the profound meaning of her inspiration and how it came from a heart that was steeped in the love of God.
Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Quamquam Pluries (On the Devotion to St Joseph) in 1889 explains why we place so much trust in this saint:
“ Thus in giving Joseph the Blessed Virgin as spouse, God appointed him to be not only her life’s companion, the witness of her maidenhood, the protector of her honor, but also, by virtue of the conjugal tie, a participator in her sublime dignity. And Joseph shines among all mankind by the most august dignity, since by divine will, he was the guardian of the Son of God and reputed as His father among men.
Hence it came about that the Word of God was humbly subject to Joseph, that He obeyed him, and that He rendered to him all those offices that children are bound to render to their parents. From this two-fold dignity flowed the obligation which nature lays upon the head of families, so that Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was. And during the whole course of his life he fulfilled those charges and those duties.
…It is, then, natural and worthy that as the Blessed Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and girt it about with his protection, he should now cover with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.”
One hundred years later Pope John Paul II echoes his predecessor in his 1989 Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer), hoping "that all may grow in devotion to the Patron of the Universal Church and in love for the Savior whom he served in such an exemplary manner ... In this way the whole Christian people not only will turn to St. Joseph with greater fervor and invoke his patronage with trust, but also will always keep before their eyes his humble, mature way of serving and of "taking part" in the plan of salvation."
St. Joseph plays a prominent part in popular devotion:
· In the custom of reserving Wednesdays for devotion to St. Joseph — popular since the 17th century — which generated pious exercises including that of the Seven Wednesdays;
· In prayers such as that of Pope Leo XIII, Ad te, Beate Ioseph , which is daily
recited by the faithful;
· In the Litany of St. Joseph, approved by St. Pope Pius X;
· In the recitation of the Chaplet of St. Joseph, recollecting the Seven Agonies and Seven Joys of St. Joseph.
St. Teresa of Avila wrote, "Of all the people I have known with a true devotion and particular veneration for St. Joseph, not one has failed to advance in virtue; he helps those who turn to him to make real progress. For several years now, I believe, I have always made some request to him on his feast day, and it was always been granted; and when my request is not quite what it ought to be, he puts it right for my greater benefit.”
Daily Morning Prayer to St Joseph
Blessed Joseph, husband of Mary
Be with us this day.
You defended the Virgin
loving the Child Jesus as your son,
you rescued Him from danger of death.
Defend the Church, the household of God,
purchased by the blood of Christ.
Guardian of the Holy Family,
be with us in our trials,
may your prayers obtain for us
the grace to flee from error
and wrestle with the powers of corruption,
so that in life we may grow in holiness
and in death rejoice in the Crown of Victory. Amen.
Jennifer Gregory Miller
St. Joseph: a Theological Introduction by Michael D. Griffin, O.C.D.