With a Father's Heart: Celebrating the Year of Saint Joseph

Despite the very limited details given in the Holy Bible, Saint Joseph has a special place in the hearts and minds of every Catholic. He is a good and caring father, a just man, devout to God with an unflinching trust in God’s providence and guidance. For generations Saint Joseph has been the role model for every father. The very fact that his name is one of the most used Catholic names bears testimony to his exemplary life and faith.

This year let us together celebrate the Year of Saint Joseph.
sleeping stJoseph

The Devotion to Sleeping Saint Joseph

sleeping stJoseph

“Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the church! Yes! We know that he can do that. So when I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note and I put it underneath St. Joseph, so that he can dream about it! In other words I tell him: Pray for this problem!” Pope Francis said. “Do not forget St. Joseph who sleeps! Jesus slept with the protection of Joseph.”

The simplest yet effective devotion to ask for the help of Saint Joseph to intercede has gained mass popularity worldwide.

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Apostolic Letter – Patris Corde

What Pope Francis Says?

Pope Francis in his Apostolic Letter “Patris Corde” has given us all a unique perspective of Saint Joseph – the man who played an “incomparable role in the history of salvation.”

WITH A FATHER’S HEART: that is how Joseph loved Jesus, whom all four Gospels refer to as “the son of Joseph”.[1]

Matthew and Luke, the two Evangelists who speak most of Joseph, tell us very little, yet enough for us to appreciate what sort of father he was, and the mission entrusted to him by God’s providence.

We know that Joseph was a lowly carpenter (cf. Mt 13:55), betrothed to Mary (cf. Mt 1:18; Lk 1:27). He was a “just man” (Mt 1:19), ever ready to carry out God’s will as revealed to him in the Law (cf. Lk 2:22.27.39) and through four dreams (cf. Mt 1:20; 2:13.19.22). After a long and tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, he beheld the birth of the Messiah in a stable, since “there was no place for them” elsewhere (cf. Lk 2:7). He witnessed the adoration of the shepherds (cf. Lk 2:8-20) and the Magi (cf. Mt 2:1-12), who represented respectively the people of Israel and the pagan peoples.

Joseph had the courage to become the legal father of Jesus, to whom he gave the name revealed by the angel: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). As we know, for ancient peoples, to give a name to a person or to a thing, as Adam did in the account in the Book of Genesis (cf. 2:19-20), was to establish a relationship. In the Temple, forty days after Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary offered their child to the Lord and listened with amazement to Simeon’s prophecy concerning Jesus and his Mother (cf. Lk 2:22-35). To protect Jesus from Herod, Joseph dwelt as a foreigner in Egypt (cf. Mt 2:13-18). After returning to his own country, he led a hidden life in the tiny and obscure village of Nazareth in Galilee, far from Bethlehem, his ancestral town, and from Jerusalem and the Temple. Of Nazareth it was said, “No prophet is to rise” (cf. Jn 7:52) and indeed, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (cf. Jn 1:46). When, during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary lost track of the twelve-year-old Jesus, they anxiously sought him out and they found him in the Temple, in discussion with the doctors of the Law (cf. Lk 2:41-50).

After Mary, the Mother of God, no saint is mentioned more frequently in the papal magisterium than Joseph, her spouse. My Predecessors reflected on the message contained in the limited information handed down by the Gospels in order to appreciate more fully his central role in the history of salvation. Blessed Pius IX declared him “Patron of the Catholic Church”,[2] Venerable Pius XII proposed him as “Patron of Workers”[3] and Saint John Paul II as “Guardian of the Redeemer”.[4] Saint Joseph is universally invoked as the “patron of a happy death”.[5] Now, one hundred and fifty years after his proclamation as Patron of the Catholic Church by Blessed Pius IX (8 December 1870), I would like to share some personal reflections on this extraordinary figure, so close to our own human experience. For, as Jesus says, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mt 12:34). My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic, when we experienced, amid the crisis, how “our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history. Doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, and so very many others. They understood that no one is saved alone… How many people daily exercise patience and offer hope, taking care to spread not panic, but shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer. How many are praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all”.[6]

Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.

A beloved father

The greatness of Saint Joseph is that he was the spouse of Mary and the father of Jesus. In this way, he placed himself, in the words of Saint John Chrysostom, “at the service of the entire plan ofsalvation”.[7]

Saint Paul VI pointed out that Joseph concretely expressed his fatherhood “by making his life a sacrificial service to the mystery of the incarnation and its redemptive purpose. He employed his legal authority over the Holy Family to devote himself completely to them in his life and work. He turned his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of himself, his heart and all his abilities, a love placed at the service of the Messiah who was growing to maturity in his home”.[8]

Thanks to his role in salvation history, Saint Joseph has always been venerated as a father by the Christian people. This is shown by the countless churches dedicated to him worldwide, the numerous religious Institutes, Confraternities and ecclesial groups inspired by his spirituality and bearing his name, and the many traditional expressions of piety in his honour. Innumerable holy men and women were passionately devoted to him. Among them was Teresa of Avila, who chose him as her advocate and intercessor, had frequent recourse to him and received whatever graces she asked of him. Encouraged by her own experience, Teresa persuaded others to cultivate devotion to Joseph.[9]

Every prayer book contains prayers to Saint Joseph. Special prayers are offered to him each Wednesday and especially during the month of March, which is traditionally dedicated to him.[10]

Popular trust in Saint Joseph is seen in the expression “Go to Joseph”, which evokes the famine in Egypt, when the Egyptians begged Pharaoh for bread. He in turn replied: “Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do” (Gen 41:55). Pharaoh was referring to Joseph the son of Jacob, who was sold into slavery because of the jealousy of his brothers (cf. Gen 37:11-28) and who – according to the biblical account – subsequently became viceroy of Egypt (cf. Gen 41:41-44).

As a descendant of David (cf. Mt 1:16-20), from whose stock Jesus was to spring according to the promise made to David by the prophet Nathan (cf. 2 Sam 7), and as the spouse of Mary of Nazareth, Saint Joseph stands at the crossroads between the Old and New Testaments.

Atender and loving father

Joseph saw Jesus grow daily “in wisdom and in years and in divine and human favour” (Lk 2:52). As the Lord had done with Israel, so Joseph did with Jesus: he taught him to walk, taking him by the hand; he was for him like a father who raises an infant to his cheeks, bending down to him and feeding him (cf. Hos 11:3-4).

In Joseph, Jesus saw the tender love of God: “As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him” (Ps 103:13).

In the synagogue, during the praying of the Psalms, Joseph would surely have heard again and again that the God of Israel is a God of tender love,[11] who is good to all, whose “compassion is over all that he has made” (Ps 145:9).

The history of salvation is worked out “in hope against hope” (Rom 4:18), through our weaknesses. All too often, we think that God works only through our better parts, yet most of his plans are realized in and despite our frailty. Thus Saint Paul could say: “To keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Cor 12:7-9).

Since this is part of the entire economy of salvation, we must learn to look upon our weaknesses with tender mercy.[12]

The evil one makes us see and condemn our frailty, whereas the Spirit brings it to light with tender love. Tenderness is the best way to touch the frailty within us. Pointing fingers and judging others are frequently signs of an inability to accept our own weaknesses, our own frailty. Only tender love will save us from the snares of the accuser (cf. Rev 12:10). That is why it is so important to encounter God’s mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we experience his truth and tenderness. Paradoxically, the evil one can also speak the truth to us, yet he does so only to condemn us. We know that God’s truth does not condemn, but instead welcomes, embraces, sustains and forgives us. That truth always presents itself to us like the merciful father in Jesus’ parable (cf. Lk 15:11-32). It comes out to meet us, restores our dignity, sets us back on our feet and rejoices for us, for, as the father says: “This my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (v. 24).

Even through Joseph’s fears, God’s will, his history and his plan were at work. Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties and our weaknesses. He also teaches us that amid the tempests of life, we must never be afraid to let the Lord steer our course. At times, we want to be in complete control, yet God always sees the bigger picture.

An obedient father

As he had done with Mary, God revealed his saving plan to Joseph. He did so by using dreams, which in the Bible and among all ancient peoples, were considered a way for him to make his will known.[13]

Joseph was deeply troubled by Mary’s mysterious pregnancy. He did not want to “expose her to public disgrace”,[14] so he decided to “dismiss her quietly” (Mt 1:19).

In the first dream, an angel helps him resolve his grave dilemma: “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:20-21). Joseph’s response was immediate: “When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” (Mt 1:24). Obedience made it possible for him to surmount his difficulties and spare Mary. In the second dream, the angel tells Joseph: “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Mt 2:13). Joseph did not hesitate to obey, regardless of the hardship involved: “He got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod” (Mt 2:14-15).

In Egypt, Joseph awaited with patient trust the angel’s notice that he could safely return home. In a third dream, the angel told him that those who sought to kill the child were dead and ordered him to rise, take the child and his mother, and return to the land of Israel (cf. Mt 2:19-20). Once again, Joseph promptly obeyed. “He got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel” (Mt 2:21).

During the return journey, “when Joseph heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. After being warned in a dream” – now for the fourth time – “he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth” (Mt 2:22-23).

The evangelist Luke, for his part, tells us that Joseph undertook the long and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be registered in his family’s town of origin in the census of the Emperor Caesar Augustus. There Jesus was born (cf. Lk 2:7) and his birth, like that of every other child, was recorded in the registry of the Empire. Saint Luke is especially concerned to tell us that Jesus’ parents observed all the prescriptions of the Law: the rites of the circumcision of Jesus, the purification of Mary after childbirth, the offering of the firstborn to God (cf. 2:21-24).[15]

In every situation, Joseph declared his own “fiat”, like those of Mary at the Annunciation and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

In his role as the head of a family, Joseph taught Jesus to be obedient to his parents (cf. Lk 2:51), in accordance with God’s command (cf. Ex 20:12).

During the hidden years in Nazareth, Jesus learned at the school of Joseph to do the will of the Father. That will was to be his daily food (cf. Jn 4:34). Even at the most difficult moment of his life, in Gethsemane, Jesus chose to do the Father’s will rather than his own,[16] becoming “obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). The author of the Letter to the Hebrews thus concludes that Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered” (5:8).

All this makes it clear that “Saint Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood” and that in this way, “he cooperated in the fullness of time in the great mystery of salvation and is truly a minister of salvation.”[17]

An accepting father

Joseph accepted Mary unconditionally. He trusted in the angel’s words. “The nobility of Joseph’s heart is such that what he learned from the law he made dependent on charity. Today, in our world where psychological, verbal and physical violence towards women is so evident, Joseph appears as the figure of a respectful and sensitive man. Even though he does not understand the bigger picture, he makes a decision to protect Mary’s good name, her dignity and her life. In his hesitation about how best to act, God helped him by enlightening his judgment”.[18]

Often in life, things happen whose meaning we do not understand. Our first reaction is frequently one of disappointment and rebellion. Joseph set aside his own ideas in order to accept the course of events and, mysterious as they seemed, to embrace them, take responsibility for them and make them part of his own history. Unless we are reconciled with our own history, we will be unable to take a single step forward, for we will always remain hostage to our expectations and the disappointments that follow.

The spiritual path that Joseph traces for us is not one that explains, but accepts. Only as a result of this acceptance, this reconciliation, can we begin to glimpse a broader history, a deeper meaning. We can almost hear an echo of the impassioned reply of Job to his wife, who had urged him to rebel against the evil he endured: “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (Job 2:10).

Joseph is certainly not passively resigned, but courageously and firmly proactive. In our own lives, acceptance and welcome can be an expression of the Holy Spirit’s gift of fortitude. Only the Lord can give us the strength needed to accept life as it is, with all its contradictions, frustrations and disappointments.

Jesus’ appearance in our midst is a gift from the Father, which makes it possible for each of us tobe reconciled to the flesh of our own history, even when we fail to understand it completely.Just as God told Joseph: “Son of David, do not be afraid!” (Mt 1:20), so he seems to tell us: “Donot be afraid!” We need to set aside all anger and disappointment, and to embrace the way thingsare, even when they do not turn out as we wish. Not with mere resignation but with hope andcourage. In this way, we become open to a deeper meaning. Our lives can be miraculously rebornif we find the courage to live them in accordance with the Gospel. It does not matter if everythingseems to have gone wrong orsome things can no longer be fixed. God can make flowers springup from stony ground. Even if ourheart condemns us, “God is greater than our hearts, and heknows everything” (1 Jn 3:20).

Here, once again, we encounter that Christian realism which rejects nothing that exists. Reality, inits mysterious and irreducible complexity, is the bearer of existential meaning, with all its lights andshadows. Thus, the Apostle Paul can say: “We know that all things work together for good, forthose who love God” (Rom 8:28). To which Saint Augustine adds, “even that which is called evil(etiam illud quod malum dicitur)”.[19] In this greater perspective, faith gives meaning to everyevent, however happy or sad.Nor should we ever think that believing means finding facile and comforting solutions.The faithChrist taught us is what we see in Saint Joseph. He did not look for shortcuts, butconfrontedreality with open eyes and accepted personal responsibility for it.

Joseph’s attitude encourages us to accept and welcome others as they are, without exception,and to show special concern for the weak, for God chooses what is weak (cf. 1 Cor 1:27). He isthe “Father of orphans and protector of widows” (Ps 68:6), who commands us to love the strangerin ourmidst.[20] I like to think that it was from Saint Joseph that Jesus drew inspiration for theparable of the prodigal son and the merciful father (cf. Lk 15:11-32).

A creatively courageous father

If the first stage of all true interior healing is to accept our personal history and embrace even thethings in life that we did not choose, we must now add another important element: creativecourage. This emerges especially in the way we deal with difficulties. In the face of difficulty, wecan either give up and walk away, or somehow engage with it. At times,difficulties bring outresources we did not even think we had.

As we read the infancy narratives, we may often wonder why God did not act in a more direct andclear way. Yet God acts through events and people. Joseph was the man chosen by God to guidethe beginnings of the history of redemption. He was the true “miracle” by which God saves thechild and his mother. God acted by trusting in Joseph’s creative courage.Arriving in Bethlehemand finding no lodging where Mary could give birth, Joseph took a stable and, as best he could, turned it into a welcoming home for the Son of God come into the world (cf. Lk 2:6-7). Faced withimminent danger from Herod, who wanted to kill the child, Joseph was warned once again in adream to protect the child, and rose in the middle of the night to prepare the flight into Egypt (cf. Mt2:13-14).

A superficial reading of these stories can often give the impression that the world is at the mercy ofthe strong and mighty,but the “good news” of the Gospel consists in showing that, for all thearrogance and violence of worldly powers, God always finds a way to carry out his saving plan. Sotoo, our lives may at times seem to be at the mercy of the powerful, but the Gospel shows us whatcounts. God always finds a way to save us, provided we show the same creative courage as thecarpenter of Nazareth, who was able to turn a problem into a possibility by trusting always indivine providence.

If at times God seems not to help us, surely this does not mean that we have been abandoned,but instead are being trusted to plan, to be creative, and to find solutions ourselves.That kind of creative courage was shown by the friends of the paralytic, who lowered him from theroof in order to bring him to Jesus (cf. Lk 5:17-26). Difficulties did not stand in the way of thosefriends’ boldness and persistence. They were convinced that Jesus could heal the man, and“finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him downwith his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. When he saw theirfaith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you’” (vv. 19-20). Jesus recognized the creative faithwith which they sought to bring their sick friend to him.

The Gospel does not tell us how long Mary, Joseph and the child remained in Egypt. Yet theycertainly needed to eat, to find a home and employment. It does not take much imagination to fill inthose details. The Holy Family had to face concrete problems like every other family, like so manyof our migrant brothers and sisters who, today too, risk their lives to escape misfortune andhunger. In this regard, I consider Saint Joseph the special patron of all those forced to leave their native lands because of war, hatred, persecution and poverty.At the end of every account in which Joseph plays a role, the Gospel tells us that he gets up, takesthe child and his mother, and does what God commanded him (cf. Mt 1:24; 2:14.21).Indeed,Jesus and Mary his Mother are the most precious treasure of our faith.[21]

In the divine plan of salvation, the Son is inseparable from his Mother, from Mary, who “advancedin her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son until she stood at thecross”.[22]

We should always consider whether we ourselves are protecting Jesus and Mary, for they are alsomysteriously entrusted to our own responsibility, care and safekeeping. The Son of the Almightycame into our world in a state of greatvulnerability. He needed to be defended, protected, caredfor and raised by Joseph. God trusted Joseph, as did Mary, who found in him someone who wouldnot only save her life, but would always provide for her and her child. In this sense, Saint Josephcould not be other than the Guardian of the Church, for the Church is the continuation of the Bodyof Christ in history, even as Mary’s motherhood is reflected in the motherhood of the Church.[23]

In his continued protection of the Church, Joseph continues to protect the child and his mother,and we too, by our love for the Church, continue to love the child and his mother.That child would go on to say: “As you did it to one of the least ofthese who are members of myfamily, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). Consequently, every poor, needy, suffering or dyingperson,every stranger, every prisoner, every infirm person is “the child” whom Joseph continues toprotect. For this reason, Saint Joseph is invoked as protector of the unfortunate, the needy, exiles,the afflicted, the poor and the dying. Consequently, the Church cannot fail to show a special lovefor the least of our brothers and sisters, for Jesus showed a particular concern for them andpersonally identified with them. From Saint Joseph, we must learn that same care andresponsibility. We must learn to love the child and his mother, to love the sacraments and charity,to love the Church and the poor. Each of these realities is always the child and his mother.

A working father

An aspect of Saint Joseph that has been emphasized from the time of the first social Encyclical, Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, is his relation to work. Saint Joseph was a carpenter who earned an honest living to provide for his family. From him, Jesus learned the value, the dignity and the joy of what it means to eat bread that is the fruit of one’s own labour.

In our own day, when employment has once more become a burning social issue, and unemployment at times reaches record levels even in nations that for decades have enjoyed a certain degree of prosperity, there is a renewed need to appreciate the importance of dignified work, of which Saint Joseph is an exemplary patron.

Work is a means of participating in the work of salvation, an opportunity to hasten the coming of the Kingdom, to develop our talents and abilities, and to put them at the service of society and fraternal communion. It becomes an opportunity for the fulfilment not only of oneself, but also of that primary cell of society which is the family. A family without work is particularly vulnerable to difficulties, tensions, estrangement and even break-up. How can we speak of human dignity without working to ensure that everyone is able to earn a decent living?

Working persons, whatever their job may be, are cooperating with God himself, and in some way become creators of the world around us. The crisis of our time, which is economic, social, cultural and spiritual, can serve as a summons for all of us to rediscover the value, the importance and necessity of work for bringing about a new “normal” from which no one is excluded. Saint Joseph’s work reminds us that God himself, in becoming man, did not disdain work. The loss of employment that affects so many of our brothers and sisters, and has increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, should serve as a summons to review our priorities. Let us implore Saint Joseph the Worker to help us find ways to express our firm conviction that no young person, no person at all, no family should be without work!

A father in the shadows

The Polish writer Jan Dobraczyński, in his book The Shadow of the Father,[24] tells the story of Saint Joseph’s life in the form of a novel. He uses the evocative image of a shadow to define Joseph. In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way. We can think of Moses’ words to Israel: “In the wilderness… you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as one carries a child, all the way that you travelled” (Deut 1:31). In a similar way, Joseph acted as a father for his whole life.[25]

Fathers are not born, but made. A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child. Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person.

Children today often seem orphans, lacking fathers. The Church too needs fathers. Saint Paul’s words to the Corinthians remain timely: “Though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers” (1 Cor 4:15). Every priest or bishop should be able to add, with the Apostle: “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (ibid.). Paul likewise calls the Galatians: “My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!” (4:19).

Being a father entails introducing children to life and reality. Not holding them back, being overprotective or possessive, but rather making them capable of deciding for themselves, enjoying freedom and exploring new possibilities. Perhaps for this reason, Joseph is traditionally called a “most chaste” father. That title is not simply a sign of affection, but the summation of an attitude that is the opposite of possessiveness. Chastity is freedom from possessiveness in every sphere of one’s life. Only when love is chaste, is it truly love. A possessive love ultimately becomes dangerous: it imprisons, constricts and makes for misery. God himself loved humanity with a chaste love; he left us free even to go astray and set ourselves against him. The logic of love is always the logic of freedom, and Joseph knew how to love with extraordinary freedom. He never made himself the centre of things. He did not think of himself, but focused instead on the lives of Mary and Jesus.

Joseph found happiness not in mere self-sacrifice but in self-gift. In him, we never see frustration but only trust. His patient silence was the prelude to concrete expressions of trust. Our world todayneeds fathers. It has no use for tyrants who would domineer others as a means of compensatingfor their own needs. It rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service withservility,discussion with oppression, charity with a welfare mentality, power with destruction. Everytrue vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice. The priesthood andconsecrated life likewise require this kind of maturity. Whatever our vocation, whether to marriage,celibacy or virginity, our gift of self will not come to fulfilment if it stops at sacrifice; were that thecase, instead of becoming a sign of the beauty and joy of love, the gift of self would risk being anexpression of unhappiness, sadness, and frustration.

When fathers refuse to live the lives of their children for them, new and unexpected vistas openup. Every child is the bearer of a unique mystery that can only be brought to light with the help of afather who respects that child’s freedom. A father who realizes that he is most a father andeducator at the point when he becomes “useless”, when he sees that his child has becomeindependent and can walk the paths of life unaccompanied. When he becomes like Joseph, whoalways knew that his child was not his own but had merely been entrusted to his care. In the end,this is what Jesus would have us understand when he says: “Call no man your father on earth, foryou have one Father, who is in heaven” (Mt 23:9).

In every exercise of our fatherhood, we should always keep in mind that it has nothing to do withpossession,but is rather a “sign” pointing to a greater fatherhood. In a way, we are all like Joseph:a shadow of the heavenly Father, who “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sendsrain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:45). And a shadow that follows his Son.

“Get up, take the child and his mother” (Mt 2:13), God told Saint Joseph.

The aim of this Apostolic Letter is to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal.

Indeed, the proper mission of the saints is not only to obtain miracles and graces, but to intercede for us before God, like Abraham[26] and Moses[27], and like Jesus, the “one mediator” (1 Tim 2:5), who is our “advocate” with the Father (1 Jn 2:1) and who “always lives to make intercession for [us]” (Heb 7:25; cf. Rom 8:34).

The saints help all the faithful “to strive for the holiness and the perfection of their particular state of life”.[28] Their lives are concrete proof that it is possible to put the Gospel into practice.

Jesus told us: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Mt 11:29). The lives of the saints too are examples to be imitated. Saint Paul explicitly says this: “Be imitators of me!” (1 Cor 4:16).[29] By his eloquent silence, Saint Joseph says the same.

Before the example of so many holy men and women, Saint Augustine asked himself: “What they could do, can you not also do?” And so he drew closer to his definitive conversion, when he could exclaim: “Late have I loved you, Beauty ever ancient, ever new!”[30]

We need only ask Saint Joseph for the grace of graces: our conversion.

Let us now make our prayer to him:

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust; with you Christ became man. Blessed Joseph, to us too, show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life. Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen.

Given in Rome, at Saint John Lateran, on 8 December, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the year 2020, the eighth of my Pontificate.

Franciscus

References

[1] Lk 4:22; Jn 6:42; cf. Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3. [2] S. RITUUM CONGREGATIO, Quemadmodum Deus (8 December 1870): ASS 6 (1870-71), 194. [3] Cf. Address to ACLI on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph the Worker (1 May 1955): AAS 47 (1955), 406. [4] Cf. Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos (15 August 1989): AAS 82 (1990), 5-34. [5] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1014. [6] Meditation in the Time of Pandemic (27 March 2020): L’Osservatore Romano, 29 March 2020, p. 10. [7] In Matthaeum Homiliae, V, 3: PG 57, 58. [8] Homily (19 March 1966): Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, IV (1966), 110. [9] Cf. Autobiography, 6, 6-8. [10] Every day, for over forty years, following Lauds I have recited a prayer to Saint Joseph taken from a nineteenth-century French prayer book of the Congregation of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary. It expresses devotion and trust, and even poses a certain challenge to Saint Joseph: “Glorious Patriarch Saint Joseph, whose power makes the impossible possible, come to my aid in these times of anguish and difficulty. Take under your protection the serious and troubling situations that I commend to you, that they may have a happy outcome. My beloved father, all my trust is in you. Let it not be said that I invoked you in vain, and since you can do everything with Jesus and Mary, show me that your goodness is as great as your power. Amen.” [11] Cf. Deut 4:31; Ps 69:16; 78:38; 86:5; 111:4; 116:5; Jer 31:20. [12] Cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 88, 288: AAS 105 (2013), 1057, 1136-1137. [13] Cf. Gen 20:3; 28:12; 31:11.24; 40:8; 41:1-32; Num 12:6; 1 Sam 3:3-10; Dan 2, 4; Job 33:15. [14] In such cases, provisions were made even for stoning (cf. Deut 22:20-21). [15] Cf. Lev 12:1-8; Ex 13:2. [16] Cf. Mt 26:39; Mk 14:36; Lk 22:42. [17] SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos (15 August 1989), 8: AAS 82 (1990), 14. [18] Homily at Mass and Beatifications, Villavicencio, Colombia (8 September 2017): AAS 109 (2017), 1061. [19] Enchiridion de fide, spe et caritate, 3.11: PL 40, 236. [20] Cf. Deut 10:19; Ex 22:20-22; Lk 10:29-37. [21] Cf. S. RITUUM CONGREGATIO, Quemadmodum Deus (8 December 1870): ASS 6 (1870-1871), 193; BLESSED PIUS IX, Apostolic Letter Inclytum Patriarcham (7 July 1871): l.c., 324-327. [22] SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 58. [23] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 963-970. [24] Original edition: Cień Ojca, Warsaw, 1977. [25] Cf. SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos, 7-8: AAS 82 (1990), 12- 13 [26] Cf. Gen 18:23-32. [27] Cf. Ex 17:8-13; 32:30-35. [28] SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 42. [29] Cf. 1 Cor 11:1; Phil 3:17; 1 Thess 1:6. [30] Confessions, VIII, 11, 27: PL 32, 761; X, 27, 38: PL 32, 795. © Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Plenary Indulgences

The gift of the Indulgences that the Apostolic Penitentiary kindly bestows during the Year of Saint Joseph, through this Decree issued according to Pope Francis’ wish, will contribute greatly to the perfect accomplishment of the designated purpose.

The Plenary Indulgence is granted under the customary conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion andprayers according to the Holy Father’s intentions) to the faithful who, with a soul detached from any sin, shall participate in the Year of Saint Joseph, in the occasions and with the modalities indicated by this Apostolic Penitentiary.

— a. Saint Joseph, an authentic man of faith, invites us to rediscover our filial relationship with the Father, to renew ourdevotion to prayer, to dispose ourselves to listen and correspond with profound discernment to God’s will. The Plenary Indulgence is granted to those who shall contemplate the Lord’s Prayer for at least 30 minutes, or participate in a Spiritual Retreat of at least one day which involves a meditation on Saint Joseph;

— b. The Gospel attributes to Saint Joseph the appellation “just man” (cf. Mt 1:19): he, guardian of the intimate secret that ,lies right at the bottom of the heart and soul”[1], depository of the mystery of God and therefore an ideal patron of theinternal forum, spur us to rediscover the value of silence, prudence and integrity in carrying out our duties. The virtue ofjustice practiced by Saint Joseph in an exemplary manner is full adherence to divine law, which is the law of mercy, “for it is the very mercy of God that brings true justice to fulfilment”[2]. Therefore those who, after the example of Saint Joseph, shall fulfil a work of corporal or spiritual work of mercy, will likewise be able to attain the gift of the Plenary Indulgence;

— c. The primary aspect of Saint Joseph’s vocation was that of being guardian of the Holy Family of Nazareth, spouse ofthe Blessed Virgin Mary and legal father of Jesus. In order that all Christian families may be inspired to recreate the sameatmosphere of intimate communion, love and prayer that was lived by the Holy Family, the Plenary Indulgence is granted for the recitation of the Holy Rosary in families and among betrothed;

— d. The Servant of God Pius XII, on 1 May 1955 instituted the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker, “with the intent that thedignity of work be recognized by all, and that it inspires social life and laws, based on the fair distribution of rights andduties”[3]. Therefore the Plenary Indulgence may be obtained by those who shall daily entrust their life to the protection of Saint Joseph, and all faithful who shall invoke through prayer the intercession of the Worker of Nazareth, so that those in search of work may find employment and the work of all people may be more dignified;

— e. The flight of the Holy Family to Egypt “shows us that God is there where man is in danger, where man suffers, where he runs away, where he experiences rejection and abandonment”[4]. The Plenary Indulgence is granted to the faithfulwho shall recite the Litanies to Saint Joseph (for the Latin tradition), or the Akathistos to Saint Joseph, in theirentirety or at least some part of it (for the Byzantine tradition), or some other prayer to Saint Joseph, proper toother liturgical traditions, in favour of the Church persecuted ad intra and ad extra and for the relief of allChristians who suffer any form of persecution.

Saint Teresa of Ávila recognized in Saint Joseph the protector for all the circumstances of life: “To other saints, the Lordseems to have given grace to help us in some of our necessities. But my experience is that Saint Joseph helps us in them all”[5]. More recently, Saint John Paul II emphasized that the figure of Saint Joseph has acquired “a renewed relevance for the Church of our time, in relation to the new Christian millennium”[6].

To reaffirm the universality of Saint Joseph’s patronage over the Church, in addition to the aforementioned occasions the Apostolic Penitentiary grants the Plenary Indulgence to the faithful who shall recite any prayer legitimatelyapproved or act of piety in honour of Saint Joseph, for example, “To you, O Blessed Joseph”, especially on the occasions of 19 March and 1 May, on the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, on the Sunday of Saint Joseph (according to theByzantine tradition), on the 19th of every month and every Wednesday, the day dedicated to the Saint’s memory, according to the Latin tradition.

In the current context of the health emergency, the gift of the Plenary Indulgence extends particularly to the elderly, the sick, the suffering and all those who for legitimate reasons are unable to leave the house, and who with a soul detached from any sin and with the intention to fulfil, as soon as possible, the three customary conditions in their own home or wherever the impediment detains them, shall recite an act of piety in honour of Saint Joseph, Comfort of the Sick and Patron of a Happy Death, faithfully offering to God their suffering and the hardships of their life.

References

[1] Pius XI, Address on the occasion of the proclamation of the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Emilia de Vialar, in ‘L'Osservatore Romano’, year LXXV, n. 20-21 March 1935, 1.

[2] Francis, General Audience, 3 February 2016.

[3] Pius XII, Address on the occasion of the Solemnity of Saint Joseph the Worker, 1 May 1955, in Discorsi e Radiomessaggi di Sua Santità Pio XII, XVII, 71-76.

[4] Francis, Angelus, 29 December 2013.

[5] Teresa D’Ávila, Life, VI, (translated from Italian, in ead., Tutte le opere, ed. M. Bettetini, Milan 2018, 67).

[6] John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos on the figure and mission of Saint Joseph in the life of Christ and of the Church (15 August 1989), 32.

Source: L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly edition in English, 11 December 2020.

Prayers to Saint Joseph

Prayer to Saint Joseph

To you, O blessed Joseph, do we come in our tribulation, and having implored the help of your most holy Spouse, we confidently invoke your patronage also.
Through that charity which bound you to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and through the paternal love with which you embraced the Child Jesus, we humbly beg you graciously to regard the inheritance which Jesus Christ has purchased by his Blood, and with your power and strength to aid us in our necessities. O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ; O most loving father, ward off from us every contagion of error and corrupting influence; O our most mighty protector, be kind to us and from heaven assist us in our struggle with the power of darkness.
As once you rescued the Child Jesus from deadly peril, so now protect God's Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity; shield, too, each one of us by your constant protection, so that, supported by your example and your aid, we may be able to live piously, to die in holiness, and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven. Amen.

Litany of St 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. St. Joseph, pray for us. Illustrious son of David, pray for us. Light of 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. Watchful defender 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 valiant, 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 workmen, pray for us. Glory of home life, pray for us. Guardian of virgins, pray for us. Pillar of families, pray for us. Solace of the afflicted, 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 Holy Church, pray for us.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord! Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord! Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us!
V. He made him the lord of His household, R. And prince over all His possessions. Let Us Pray

O God, Who in Thine ineffable Providence didst vouchsafe to choose Blessed Joseph to be the spouse of Thy most holy Mother, grant, we beseech Thee, that he whom we venerate as our protector on earth may be our intercessor in Heaven. Who lives and reigns forever and ever.

Amen.

Daily Novena Prayer to St. 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, do 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 experienced here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of fathers.

O Saint Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Hold Him close in my name and kiss His fine head from me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for me. Amen.

Prayer before work to St. Joseph the Worker

O Glorious Saint Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work in a spirit of penance for the expiation of my many sins; to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my natural inclinations; to work with thankfulness and joy, considering it an honor to employ and develop by means of labor the gifts received from God; to work with order, peace, moderation, and patience, never shrinking from weariness and trials; to work above all with purity of intention and detachment from self, keeping unceasingly before my eyes death and the account that I must give of time lost, talents unused, good omitted, and vain complacency in success, so fatal to the work of God.

All for Jesus, all through Mary, all after thy example, O Patriarch, Saint Joseph. Such shall be my watch-word in life and in death. Amen. (Composed by Pope St. Pius X)

Prayer before work to St. Joseph the Worker

Receive me, dear and chosen Father, and the offering of every movement of my body and soul, which I desire to present through thee to my blessed Lord.
Purify all! Make all a perfect holocaust! May every pulsation of my heart be a Spiritual Communion, every look and thought an act of love, every action a sweet sacrifice, every word an arrow of Divine love, every step an advance toward Jesus, every visit to Our Lord as pleasing to God as the errands of Angels, every thought of thee, dear Saint, an act to remind thee that I am thy child.
I recommend to thee the occasions in which I usually fail, particularly . . . [Mention these]. Accept each little devotion of the day, though replete with imperfection, and offer it to Jesus, Whose mercy will overlook all, since He regards not so much the gift as the love of the giver.

Amen.

Memorare to St. Joseph

Remember, O most pure spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, my great protector, Saint Joseph, that no one ever had recourse to your protection, or implored your aid without obtaining relief. Confiding therefore in your goodness, I come before you. Do not turn down my petitions, foster father of the Redeemer, but graciously receive them.

Amen.

Prayer Before Adoration, Invoking St Joseph

Dear Jesus, we believe that You are here, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament: that You see us, that You hear us. We adore You with profound reverence. We beg pardon for our sins and the grace to make this time of prayer fruitful.

Our Immaculate Mother, St. Joseph our Patron, our guardian angels, our patron saints, intercede for us during this time of prayer and adoration. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Consecration to St Joseph

O dearest St. Joseph, I consecrate myself to thy honor and give myself to thee, that thou mayest always be my father, my protector, and my guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me a great purity of heart and a fervent love of the interior life. After thine example, may I do all my actions for the greater glory of God, in union with the Divine Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary! And do thou, O Blessed St. Joseph, pray for me that I may share in the peace and joy of thy holy death Amen.

“Trintena” 30-day prayer to St. Joseph for a special intention

Ever blessed and glorious Joseph, kind and loving father, and helpful friend of all in sorrow! You are the good father and protector of orphans, the defender of the defenseless, the patron of those in need and sorrow. Look kindly on my request. My sins have drawn down on me the just displeasure of my God, and so I am surrounded with unhappiness. To you, loving guardian of the Family of Nazareth, do I go for help and protection.

Listen, then, I beg you, with fatherly concern, to my earnest prayers, and obtain for me the favors I ask.

I ask it by the infinite mercy of the eternal Son of God, which moved Him to take our nature and to be born into this world of sorrow.

I ask it by the weariness and suffering you endured when you found no shelter at the inn of Bethlehem for the holy Virgin, nor a house where the Son of God could be born. Then, being everywhere refused, you had to allow the Queen of Heaven to give birth to the world’s Redeemer in a cave.

I ask it by the loveliness and power of that sacred Name, Jesus, which you conferred on the adorable infant. I ask it by that painful torture you felt at the prophecy of holy Simeon, which declared the Child Jesus and His holy Mother future victims of our sins and of their great love for us.

I ask it through your sorrow and pain of soul when the angel declared to you that the life of the Child Jesus was sought by His enemies. From their evil plan you had to flee with Him and His Blessed Mother to Egypt. I ask it by all the suffering, weariness, and labors of that long and dangerous journey

I ask it by all your care to protect the Sacred Child and His Immaculate Mother during your second journey, when you were ordered to return to your own country. I ask it by your peaceful life in Nazareth where you met with so many joys and sorrows.

I ask it by your great distress when the adorable Child was lost to you and His Mother for three days. I ask it by your joy at finding Him in the Temple, and by the comfort you found at Nazareth, while living in the company of the Child Jesus. I ask it by the wonderful submission He showed in His obedience to you.

I ask it by the perfect love and conformity you showed in accepting the Divine order to depart from this life, and from the company of Jesus and Mary. I ask it by the joy which filled your soul, when the Redeemer of the world, triumphant over death and hell, entered into the possession of His kingdom and led you into it with special honors.

I ask it through Mary’s glorious Assumption, and through that endless happiness you have with her in the presence of God. O good father! I beg you, by all your sufferings, sorrows, and joys, to hear me and obtain for me what I ask.

(make your request)

Obtain for all those who have asked my prayers everything that is useful to them in the plan of God. Finally, my dear patron and father, be with me and all who are dear to me in our last moments, that we may eternally sing the praises of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Amen.

(Source: EWTN)

A Triduo to St. Joseph by St. John Henry Newman

FIRST DAY: Consider the Glorious Titles of St. Joseph

He was the true and worthy Spouse of Mary, supplying in a visible manner the place of Mary’s Invisible Spouse, the Holy Ghost. He was a virgin, and his virginity was the faithful mirror of the virginity of Mary. He was the Cherub, placed to guard the new terrestrial Paradise from the intrusion of every foe.

V. Blessed be the name of Joseph. R. Henceforth and forever. Amen

Let us pray.

God, who in Thine ineffable Providence didst vouchsafe to choose Blessed Joseph to be the husband of Thy most holy Mother, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may be made worthy to receive him for our intercessor in heaven, whom on earth we venerate as our holy Protector: who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

SECOND DAY: Consider the Glorious Titles of St. Joseph

His was the title of father of the Son of God, because he was the Spouse of Mary, ever Virgin. He was our Lord’s father, because Jesus ever yielded to him the obedience of a son. He was our Lord’s father, because to him were entrusted, and by him were faithfully fulfilled, the duties of a father, in protecting Him, giving Him a home, sustaining and rearing Him, and providing Him with a trade.

V. Blessed be the name of Joseph. R. Henceforth and forever. Amen

Let us pray. {prayer as on the First Day}

THIRD DAY: Consider the Glorious Titles of St. Joseph

He is Holy Joseph, because according to the opinion of a great number of doctors, he, as well as St. John the Baptist, was sanctified even before he was born. He is Holy Joseph, because his office, of being spouse and protector of Mary, specially demanded sanctity. He is Holy Joseph, because no other Saint but he lived in such and so long intimacy and familiarity with the source of all holiness, Jesus, God incarnate, and Mary, the holiest of creatures.

V. Blessed be the name of Joseph. R. Henceforth and forever. Amen

Let us pray. {prayer as on the First Day}

Source: Newman, John Henry. John Henry Newman: Prayers, Verses and Devotions. Ignatius, 2019, pp. 320-322. © 2019

Akathist Hymn to St. Joseph

The below prayer is the closing prayer from the Akathist Hymn to St. Joseph (Byzantine Catholic tradition).

O holy and righteous Joseph! While yet on earth, you did have boldness before the Son of God, Who was well pleased to call you His father, in that you were the betrothed of His Mother, and Who was well pleased to be obedient to you. We believe that as you do dwell now in the heavenly mansions with the choirs of the righteous, you are listened to, in all that you do request from our God and Savior.

Therefore, fleeing to your protection and defense, we beg and humbly entreat you: as you, yourself, were delivered from a storm of doubting thoughts, so also deliver us that are tempest-tossed by the waves of confusion and passions; as you did shield the all-Pure Virgin from the slanders of men, so shield us from all kinds of vehement calumny; as you did keep the incarnate Lord from all harm and affliction, so also by your defense preserve His Church and all of us from all affliction and harm.

You know, O Saint of God, that even the Son of God had bodily needs in the days of His incarnation, and you did attend to them. Therefore, we beseech you: tend, yourself, to our temporal needs through your intercession, granting us every good thing, which is needful in this life (for the sake of life of the age to come).

Especially, do we entreat you to intercede that we may receive remission of our sins from Him Who was called your Son, the only-begotten Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and be worthy of inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven, so that, abiding with you in the heavenly mansions, we may ever glorify the One God in three Persons: the † Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

For the complete prayer, click http://28hzum3oxr6o49c3kc44xkxw-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2021/01/Akathist-Hymn-to-St.-Joseph.pdf