Devotion to Saint Joseph
"Some Saints are privileged to extend to us their patronage with particular efficacy in certain needs, but not in others; but our holy patron St. Joseph has the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, in every undertaking."
~ St. Thomas Aquinas
JOSEPH was "a just man". This praise bestowed by the Holy Ghost, and the privilege of having been chosen by God to be the foster-father of Jesus and the spouse of the Virgin Mother, are the foundations of the honor paid to St. Joseph by the Church.
"Who, in fact, was St. Joseph? And what were the offices he filled and the privileges he enjoyed? He was predestined to be the virgin spouse of the Virgin Mother of the Son of God, and was to be His and her guardian and protector; he was the chosen minister of the counsels of the Most High in the mystery of the Incarnation; he was for years the habitual companion of both Mary and Jesus; he bore the Divine Child constantly in his arms, lovingly caressed Him and received His caresses in return; to him, as to His Blessed Mother, Jesus was subject in the house and workshop of Nazareth; he was as a father and a tutor to Him; he was the daily witness of His hidden life and heard the sacred words that fell from His lips, all through His boyhood, youth and early manhood; and he had the unspeakable blessedness of dying in His embrace. But further: with this sublime vocation and these incomparable privileges the graces and virtues of Joseph fully corresponded; his merits were commensurate with his dignity; and therefore it is that he ranks next to Mary in the Court of Heaven and is seated in glory so nigh unto the throne of the Incarnate Word."
"It is no uncommon idea, even among Catholics, that the devotion paid to St. Joseph and the lofty estimate of his prerogatives now prevailing in the Church are innovations of comparatively modern date, and that they have no precedent or sanction in antiquity. But this is far from being the case. In the writings of the ancient Fathers are to be found, not only what may be called prolific germs, but also positive and explicit statements of doctrine, which sufficiently show how deep in the consciousness of the Church lay the belief of St. Joseph's exalted dignity and sanctity, and how definite a shape it had assumed even in the early ages. The devotion paid to him has, it is true, been much more distinctly formulated in later centuries, when his place in the celestial hierarchy came to be more fully recognized; but from the first this great Saint had a peculiar attraction for many holy and gifted souls, who o regarded him with singular veneration and affection...
"The Church brings out of her treasury things both old and new, according as the exigencies of the time require; and this is especially true of the devotions which have arisen from age to age and have received her ready sanction, or, rather, have been joyfully welcomed and embraced as the fulfillment of her heart's desire. Thus [for example], the devotion to our Blessed Lady, though dating from Apostolic times, received a powerful impulse at the Council of Ephesus (431), where the dogma of the Divine Maternity was proclaimed in opposition to the heresy of Nestorius...among other instances may be mentioned... public and solemn adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which found its satisfaction in the Feast of Corpus Christi and the Rite of Benediction; and at later epochs, the devotion to the Sacred Heart... etc.
"But what is most remarkable about the devotion to St. Joseph is that, after centuries of obscurity and apparent oblivion, it received a sudden and mighty impulse, which carried it, as it were, at a bound into the hearts of the Christian populations and disseminated and planted it in every clime. Or, rather, we may say that the breath of God's Holy Spirit quickened into life and energy the devotion which lay, as it were, dormant and passive in the hearts of the faithful, and rapidly stirred the smoldering fire into a blaze..."
~ From The Life and Glories of Saint Joseph, Edward Healy Thompson, M.A.
Although St. Joseph, as St. Thomas mentions, can be called upon in any need, these are particular areas of life over which Holy Mother Church has given St. Joseph as our support and helpful patron.
Patron of a Happy Death
St. Joseph is special patron a happy death and of the dying. The reason why Joseph is chosen by the Church for this role is because he passed from this life with Jesus and Mary by his side. Though Jesus is the Savior of the world, He and his family tasted the pain of separation; death is not a friend but an “enemy to be destroyed” (1 Corinthians 15:26). St. Joseph is considered the model of the pious believer who receives grace at the moment of death, and thus became the patron of a happy death.
“No man or woman ever had such a privilege as that of dying in the company of Jesus and Mary,” observed Francis Filas, S.J. “No deathbed could ever have been attended by witnesses who were more consoling. It has been logical, then, to ask St. Joseph to intercede for us that we, too, might imitate his death by breathing our last in the friendship of Jesus and Mary."
Patron of Families
As head of the Holy Family, St. Joseph received from God the wisdom, light, prudence and all other virtues he so greatly needed to lead and protect his family. We, being members of Jesus Christ, share in the blessing of having such a father as our own. We also share in the dependence and filial respect, honor and love which Our Lord had for his father on earth, foster-father.
Protector of Holy Mother Church
Pope Pius IX proclaimed Saint Joseph the patron of the Universal Church in 1870. Having been head of the Holy Family on earth, it is natural to find in him a suitable leader and father to protect God's family on earth, the Mystical Body of Christ
Patron of Workers
Since St. Joseph the carpenter supported his family by constant labor, he also is the model of those who must work - nearly the entire population of the world! The beautiful prayer of Pope St. Pius X in honor of and invoking St. Joseph's patronage as a laborer, reveals the many virtues of work worthy and pleasing before God.
History of the Devotion
So well-grounded are these foundations of devotion to St. Joseph that it is not a little surprising that the cult of St. Joseph was so slow in winning recognition. Foremost among the causes of this is the fact that "during the first centuries of the Church's existence, it was only the martyrs who enjoyed veneration" (Kellner).
Far from being ignored or passed over in silence during the early Christian ages, St. Joseph's prerogatives were occasionally praised by the Fathers; these eulogies bear witness that the ideas and devotion expressed therein were familiar not only to the theologians and preachers, but must also have been readily welcomed by the people. The earliest traces of public recognition of the sanctity of St. Joseph are to be found in the East. His feast was kept by the Church of Alexandria as early as the beginning of the fourth century. It is certain that a feast in honor of St. Joseph was kept in the Byzantine church as early as the eighth and ninth.
In the West, the name of the foster-father of Our Lord ("Nutritor Domini") appears in local martryrologies of the ninth and tenth centuries, and we find in 1129, for the first time, a church dedicated to his honor at Bologna. The devotion, then merely private, as it seems, gained a great impetus owing to the influence and zeal of such saintly persons as St. Bernard, St. Thomas, St. Gertrude (d. 1310), and St. Bridget of Sweden (d. 1373). Only under the pontificate of Sixtus IV (1471-84), was St. Joseph's feast entered into the Roman Calendar (19 March). From that time, the devotion acquired greater and greater popularity, the dignity of the feast keeping pace with his steady growth. Further, Benedict XIII, in 1726, inserted the name into the Litany of the Saints.
This one feast in the liturgical year was not enough for many Christians of the world, and so other local feasts were permitted. It is interesting to note that the reformed Order of Carmelites into which St. Teresa had infused her great devotion to the foster-father of Jesus, chose him, in 1621, for their patron, and in 1689, were allowed to celebrate the feast of his Patronage on the third Sunday after Easter. This feast, soon adopted throughout the Spanish Kingdom, was later on extended to all states and dioceses which asked for the privilege. No devotion, perhaps, has grown so universal, none seems to have appealed so forcibly to the heart of the Christian people, and particularly of the laboring classes, during the nineteenth century, as that of St. Joseph.
This wonderful and unprecedented increase of popularity called for a new luster to be added to the cult of the saint. Accordingly, one of the first acts of the pontificate of Pius IX, himself singularly devoted to St. Joseph, was to extend to the whole Church the Feast of the Patronage (1847), and in December, 1870, according to the wishes of the bishops and of all the faithful, he solemnly declared the Holy Patriarch Joseph, Patron of the Catholic Church, and enjoined that his feast (19 March) should henceforth be celebrated as a major feast of the liturgical year. Successive popes, following the footsteps of their predecessor, showed an equal desire to add their own jewel to the crown of St. Joseph.
Pope Leo XIII, by his encyclical Quamquam Pluries, had the purpose of promoting the practice of imploring divine help by means of prayer, joining to the intercession of Mary that of St. Joseph, that God might be more willing to grant our petitions and that he might aid his Church more promptly and generously. Leo XIII therefore attached to his encyclical a special Prayer to St. Joseph ordering that it be added to the recitation of the rosary every year in perpetuity, during the month of October. To this prayer he attached an indulgence, which is fittingly preserved in the Raccolta. He also recommends dedicating to the holy Patriarch the month of March, with daily exercises of piety in his honor, and to observe at least a triduum of prayers preceding the Feast of St. Joseph. It was Pope St. Pius X who approved, in 1909, a Litany in honor of him whose name he had received in baptism (Joseph Sarto).
Words of St. Teresa of Avila
St. Teresa's "Guarantee"
"To other Saints Our Lord seems to have given power to succor us in some special necessity-but to this glorious Saint, I know by experience, He has given the power to help us in all. Our Lord would have us understand that as He was subject to St. Joseph on earth-for St. Joseph, bearing the title of father and being His guardian, could command Him-so now in Heaven Our Lord grants all his petitions. I have asked others to recommend themselves to St. Joseph, and they, too, know the same thing by experience . . ." - Autobiography, VI, 9
St. Teresa's "Plea"
“Would that I could persuade all men to be devoted to this glorious Saint, for I know by long experience what blessings he can obtain for us from God. I have never known anyone who was truly devoted to him and honored him by particular services who did not advance greatly in virtue: for he helps in a special way those souls who commend themselves to him. It is now very many years since I began asking him for something on his feast, and I have always received it. If the petition was in any way amiss, he rectified it for my greater good . . .
" I ask for the love of God that he who does not believe me will make the trial for himself—then he will find out by experience the great good that results from commending oneself to this glorious Patriarch and in being devoted to him.” - Autobiography, VI, 11-12
Prayers to St. Joseph
INDULGENCED PRAYER TO ST. JOSEPH TO BE
SAID ESPECIALLY AFTER THE ROSARY
TO thee, O blessed Joseph, do we come in our tribulation, and having implored the help of thy most holy Spouse, we confidently invoke thy patronage also. Through that charity which bound thee to the immaculate Virgin Mother of God and through the paternal love with which thou embraced the Child Jesus, we humbly beg thee to graciously regard the inheritance which Jesus Christ has purchased by his Blood, and with thy power and strength to aid us in our necessities.
Defend, O most watchful Guardian of the Holy Family, 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 propitious to us and from heaven assist us in our struggle with the power of darkness; and, as once thou 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 thy constant protection, so that, supported by thy example and thy aid, we may be able to live piously, to die holy, and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven. Amen.
PRAYER TO ST. JOSEPH THE LABORER
O Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my natural inclinations, to work with gratitude and joy, in a spirit of penance for the remission of my sins, 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, without ever shrinking from weariness and difficulties; to work above all with purity of intention and detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account that I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success, so fatal to the work of God.
All for Jesus, all through Mary, all after thine example, O Patriarch, St. Joseph. Such shall be my watch-word in life and in death. – Composed by St. Pius X
LITANY OF SAINT JOSEPH
(For public or private use.)
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 Spirit,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us .
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Illustrious son of David, etc.
Light of the patriarchs,
Spouse of the Mother of God,
Chaste guardian of the Virgin,
Foster-father of the Son of God,
Watchful defender of Christ,
Head of the Holy Family,
Joseph most just,
Joseph most chaste,
Joseph most prudent,
Joseph most valiant,
Joseph most obedient,
Joseph most faithful,
Mirror of patience,
Lover of poverty,
Model of workmen ,
Glory of domestic life,
Guardian of virgins,
Pillar of families,
Solace of the afflicted,
Hope of the sick,
Patron of the dying,
Terror of demons,
Protector of Holy Church,
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 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 choose Blessed Joseph to be the spouse of Thy most Holy Mother, grant that as we venerate him as our protector on earth, we may deserve to have him as our intercessor in Heaven, Thou Who livest and reignest forever and ever. R. Amen.
Sources: Catholic Encyclopedia, Roman Missal, The Life and Glories of Saint Joseph, Raccolta, St. Joseph & Daily Christian Living