March Devotion: Saint Joseph
The Dream of St Joseph
Georges de la Tour
Oil on canvas, 93 x 81 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes
Since the 16th century Catholic piety has assigned entire months to special devotions. Due to the solemnity of Saint Joseph on March 19, this month is devoted to this great saint, the foster father of Christ. “It greatly behooves Christians, while honoring the Virgin Mother of God, constantly to invoke with deep piety and confidence her most chaste spouse, Saint Joseph. We have a well grounded conviction that such is the special desire of the Blessed Virgin herself.” –Pope Leo XIII
FOR OUR WORK
Glorious Saint Joseph, pattern of all who are devoted to toil, obtain for me the grace to toil in the spirit of penance, in order thereby to atone for my many sins; to toil conscientiously, putting devotion to duty before my own inclinations; to labor with thankfulness and joy, deeming it an honor to employ and to develop, by my labor, the gifts I have received from Almighty God; to work with order, peace, moderation, and patience, without ever shrinking from weariness and difficulties; to work above all with a pure intention and with detachment from self, having always before my eyes the hour of death and the accounting which I must then render of time ill-spent, of talents unemployed, of good undone, and of my empty pride in success, which is so fatal to the work of God. All for Jesus, all through Mary, all in imitation of thee, 0 Patriarch Joseph! This shall be my motto in life and in death. Amen.
FOR THE INTERCESSION OF SAINT JOSEPH
O Joseph, virgin-father of Jesus, most pure spouse of the Virgin Mary, pray every day for us to the same Jesus, the Son of God, that we, being defended by the power of His grace and striving dutifully in life, may be crowned by Him at the hour of death.
Prayer Source: Prayer Book, The by Reverend John P. O’Connell, M.A., S.T.D. and Jex Martin, M.A., The Catholic Press, Inc., Chicago, Illinois, 1954
St. Joseph was an ordinary manual laborer although descended from the royal house of David. In the designs of Providence he was destined to become the spouse of the Mother of God. His high privilege is expressed in a single phrase, “Foster-father of Jesus.” About him Sacred Scripture has little more to say than that he was a just man-an expression which indicates how faithfully he fulfilled his high trust of protecting and guarding God’s greatest treasures upon earth, Jesus and Mary.
The darkest hours of his life may well have been those when he first learned of Mary’s pregnancy; but precisely in this time of trial Joseph showed himself great. His suffering, which likewise formed a part of the work of the redemption, was not without great providential import: Joseph was to be, for all times, the trustworthy witness of the Messiah’s virgin birth. After this, he modestly retires into the background of holy Scripture.
Of St. Joseph’s death the Bible tells us nothing. There are indications, however, that he died before the beginning of Christ’s public life. His was the most beautiful death that one could have, in the arms of Jesus and Mary. Humbly and unknown, he passed his years at Nazareth, silent and almost forgotten he remained in the background through centuries of Church history. Only in more recent times has he been accorded greater honor. Liturgical veneration of St. Joseph began in the fifteenth century, fostered by Sts. Brigid of Sweden and Bernadine of Siena. St. Teresa, too, did much to further his cult.
At present there are two major feasts in his honor. On March 19 our veneration is directed to him personally and to his part in the work of redemption, while on May 1 we honor him as the patron of workmen throughout the world and as our guide in the difficult matter of establishing equitable norms regarding obligations and rights in the social order.
Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.
St. Joseph is invoked as patron for many causes. 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 placed under his patronage.
Patron: Against doubt; against hesitation; Americas; Austria; Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; California; Belgium; Bohemia; bursars; cabinetmakers; Canada; Carinthia; carpenters; China; Church; confectioners; craftsmen; Croatian people (in 1687 by decree of the Croatian parliament) dying people; emigrants; engineers; expectant mothers; families; fathers; Florence, Italy; happy death; holy death; house hunters; immigrants; interior souls; Korea; laborers; Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin; Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky; Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire; Mexico; Diocese of Nashville, Tennessee; New France; New World; Oblates of Saint Joseph; people in doubt; people who fight Communism; Peru; pioneers; pregnant women; protection of the Church; Diocese of San Jose, California; diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota; social justice; Styria, Austria; travelers; Turin Italy; Tyrol Austria; unborn children Universal Church; Vatican II; Viet Nam; Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston West Virginia; wheelwrights; workers; working people.
Symbols: Bible; branch; capenter’s square; carpenter’s tools; chalice; cross; hand tools; infant Jesus; ladder; lamb; lily; monstrance; old man holding a lily and a carpenter’s tool such as a square; old man holding the infant Jesus; plane; rod.
Prayer to St. Joseph
Pope Pius X composed this prayer to St. Joseph, patron of working people, that expresses concisely the Christian attitude toward labor. It summarizes also for us the lessons of the Holy Family’s work at Nazareth.
Glorious St. Joseph, model of all who devote their lives to labor, obtain for me the grace to work in the spirit of penance in order thereby to atone for my many sins; to work conscientiously, setting devotion to duty in preference to my own whims; to work with thankfulness and joy, deeming it an honor to employ and to develop by my labor the gifts I have received from God; to work with order, peace, moderation, and patience, without ever shrinking from weariness and difficulties; to work above all with a pure intention and with detachment from self, having always before my eyes the hour of death and the accounting which I must then render of time ill spent, of talents wasted, of good omitted, and of vain complacency in success, which is so fatal to the work of God.
All for Jesus, all through Mary, all in imitation of you, O Patriarch Joseph! This shall be my motto in life and in death, Amen.
Litany of Saint Joseph
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Joseph,pray for us.
Illustrious Son of David, pray for us.
Light of the Patriarchs, pray for us.
Spouse of the Mother of God, pray for us.
Chaste Guardian of the Virgin, pray for us.
Foster-Father of the Son of God, pray for us.
Faithful Protector of Christ, pray for us.
Head of the Holy Family, pray for us.
Joseph most just, pray for us.
Joseph most chaste, pray for us.
Joseph most prudent, pray for us.
Joseph most courageous, pray for us.
Joseph most obedient, pray for us.
Joseph most faithful, pray for us.
Mirror of patience, pray for us.
Lover of poverty, pray for us.
Model of working men, pray for us.
Ornament of the domestic life, pray for us.
Guardian of virgins, pray for us.
Pillar of the family, pray for us.
Consoler of the miserable, pray for us.
Hope of the sick, pray for us.
Patron of the dying, pray for us.
Terror of demons, pray for us.
Protector of the Holy Church,pray for us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.
V. He hath made him master of His house.
R. And ruler of all His possessions.
Let us pray.
O God, who in Thy ineffable providence didst vouchsafe to choose blessed Joseph to be the Spouse of Thy most holy Mother: grant, we beseech Thee, that we may have him for our intercessor in Heaven, whom on earth we venerate as out most holy Protector. Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.
Novena to Saint Joseph
O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.
O Saint Joseph, assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.
O Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath, Amen.
O Saint Joseph, hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. O Saint Joseph, pray for me. (mention your intention)
St. Joseph Novena
O good father Joseph! I beg you, by all your sufferings, sorrows and joys, to obtain for me what I ask.
(Here name your petition).
Obtain for all those who have asked my prayers, everything that is useful to them in the plan of God. Be near to me in my last moments, that I may eternally sing the praises of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Amen.
(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be)
Go to Joseph
Go to Joseph in thy joys, thou wilt rejoice the more.
Go to Joseph in thy grief, when death knocks at thy door.
Go to Joseph no matter when, thy refuge he will be.
He holds the key to Jesus’ Heart, Its treasures are for thee!
Saint Joseph in May
The month of May begins with a feast of Saint Joseph. It is significant that the commemoration of Saint Joseph both precedes and follows the heart of the whole liturgical year: the glorious Pasch of the Lord. We celebrated Saint Joseph on March 19th; he returns to us again today.
Saint Joseph is never far from the Blessed Virgin Mary, his immaculate spouse and, yes, his best friend, the friend of his heart, the love of his life, the unfailing cause of his joy in the midst of anxieties, hardship, and sorrow. Saint Joseph participated intimately in all those sorrows of hers that announced and prefigured the mysteries of Christ’s passion, death, and burial: the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the disappearance of the boy Jesus in Jerusalem. If you would empathize with the Heart of Mary, go to Joseph.
In a 2006 Regina Caeli address, Pope Benedict XVI explained the link between Paschaltide and the popular dedication of the month of May to the Blessed Virgin. The Holy Father said this:
In the days which followed the Lord’s resurrection, the Apostles remained amongst themselves, comforted by the presence of Mary, and after the Ascension they persevered together with her in prayer awaiting Pentecost. Our Lady was for them mother and teacher, a role she continues to develop for the Christians of every age. Each year in Paschaltide, we relive most intensely this experience and maybe for this reason the popular tradition has consecrated to Mary the month of May, which normally falls between Easter and Pentecost. This month . . . is useful for us to rediscover the maternal function which she develops in our lives, that we may always be docile disciples and courageous witnesses of the risen Lord.
Saint Joseph and the Mystical Body of Christ
Similarly, Paschaltide discloses for us the ongoing role of Saint Joseph in the economy of salvation. During Paschaltide we read the Acts of the Apostles, the continuation of the life of Jesus Christ in His Mystical Body, the Church. In the life of the infant Church, as in the life of the Infant Christ, Saint Joseph is present: vigilant, interceding, protecting the poor, the vulnerable, and the weak. This hidden but very real role of Saint Joseph continues through history.
Joseph, having held in his arms the Body of the Infant Christ, having nourished and protected Him, cannot forsake His Mystical Body, the Church. Even the Protestant theologian Karl Barth was compelled to write: “If I were a Roman Catholic theologian, I would lift Saint Joseph up. He took care of the Child; he takes care of the Church.” Saint Joseph watches over each member of the Mystical Body with the same devotion, the same tenderness, and the same strength with which he watched over the precious members of Our Lord’s Sacred Humanity.
Saint Joseph and Immigrants
We recommend immigrants to Saint Joseph. He knows their struggles. He knows their anxieties, their hardships, and the fears. Saint Joseph was, after all, an immigrant in Egypt. He arrived there, in a strange land, with his Virgin Spouse and her Infant Son. He had to find housing, to look for work, to endure the suspicion, the prejudice, and the slights that are the lot of immigrants in every time and place.
Saint Joseph and Priests
And we recommend priests to Saint Joseph. The Church, in her wisdom, proposes to her priests two prayers in honour of Saint Joseph each day, one before Holy Mass, and one after. Every priest can find in Saint Joseph a friend, a model, a protector. Saint Joseph stands ready at every moment to introduce priests into a deeper intimacy with his Spouse, the Virgin Mary.
If you want to help priests, entrust them to Saint Joseph. All priests, especially parish priests, are exposed to being criticized and judged. It is a particular form of suffering that accompanies every priest from the day of his first Mass until the day of his last. I believe it was Archbishop Fulton Sheen who said that all priests are lacerated by the tongues of the pious! He knew of what he spoke; his own biography was entitled The Passion of Fulton Sheen. An effective way of countering the sins against charity that wound and discourage all priests is to entrust them to Saint Joseph.
Saint Joseph and Work
We recommend workers and those without work to Saint Joseph. People without meaningful work — be it manual or intellectual — fall more easily into depression. They have no self-esteem. They go from one thing to the next never finding the satisfaction and fulfillment that come from having a responsibility and from a job well done. Today let us not forget those suffering from idleness and unemployment. There is nothing more degrading to a human person. Even the sick and the very old find joy in work, in rendering the little service, in having others count on them for something.
Saint Joseph and the Dying
Finally, we recommend the dying to Saint Joseph. We will all want Saint Joseph near us at the hour of our death. Saint Joseph visits the dying because they are so much like little infants. They are vulnerable, weak, and subject to the attacks of evil spirits. Saint Joseph, exquisitely tender for souls redeemed by the Blood of Christ, is the “terror of demons.” He is the defense of those in the throes of the final combat. If you want to die in the company of Saint Joseph, live in the company of Saint Joseph. Pray to him, seek his company every day.
Saint Joseph is very close to us on this first day of May. Be close to him. He will guide you into the heart of the Mystery. There you will find his beloved Spouse, the Virgin Mary. There you will find the very Body of Christ: His glorious Body made present in the Most Holy Eucharist, and His Mystical Body, the Church.