Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Saint Joseph the Worker
Detail from the right wing of Triptych of the Annunication - Robert Campin, Netherlands (Bruges), ca 1378-1444 (Oil on Panel)
The Cloisters Collection, 1956 - The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Christ the Lord allowed Himself to be considered the son of a carpenter: come, let us adore Him, Alleluia
-- Invitiatory Antiphon for Saint Joseph the Worker
Pope John Paul II, in his Angelus Message on March 17, 2002, stressed that Saint Joseph is a model of fatherhood in the following excerpts:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The day after tomorrow, March 19, we will celebrate the solemnity of Saint Joseph, spouse of the Virgin Mary and patron of the universal Church. The extreme discretion with which Joseph carried out the role entrusted to him by God highlights his faith even more, which consisted in always listening to the Lord, seeking to understand his will and to obey it with his whole heart and strength. This is why the Gospel describes him as a "just" man (Mt 1,19). In fact, the just man is the person who prays, lives by faith, and seeks to do good in every concrete circumstance of life.
Saint Joseph and fathers
Faith nourished by prayer: this is the most precious treasure that Saint Joseph transmits to us. Generations of fathers have followed in his footsteps who, with the example of a simple and laborious life, imprinted on their children's souls the inestimable value of faith, without which every other good runs the risk of being in vain. So even now, I am happy to assure all fathers of a special prayer, on the day dedicated to them: I ask God that they be men of a robust interior life, in order to fulfil their mission in the family and society in an exemplary way.
What we know about the life of Saint Joseph is contained in the gospels of Saint Matthew and Saint Luke. He has become known as the "Just man".
The name foster-father of Our Lord appears in local martyrologies of the ninth and tenth centuries. The first church dedicated in his honor was in 1129 in Bologna. Pope Sixtus IV(1471-84) added the feast of Saint Joseph to the Roman Calendar. Pope Pius IX placed the whole Church under the Patronage of Saint Joseph in 1870.
In 1989, Pope John Paul II reflected deeply on the life and witness of Saint Joseph in Redemptoris Custos "Guardian of the Redeemer" (q.v).
Among the saints known to have had particular devotions to Saint Joseph are Saint Bernard, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Gertrude, Saint Bridget of Sweden, Saint Alphonsus and Saint Teresa of Avila.
As the Bible tells us, Saint Joseph was descended from the royal house of David. A village carpenter of Nazareth, he was chosen among all men to be the husband and protector of the Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ. To his loving care was entrusted the childhood and youth of the Redeemer of the world. He reveals to us the perfect model of Christianity through his purity of heart, patience, and fortitude.
Poor in worldly possessions, he was rich in grace. Devotion to Saint Joseph, was fervent in the East from the early ages, and has spread and increased. Today, Catholics of all nations honor him.
There are many stories about the miraculous intervention of Saint Joseph. One is a medieval account of how a famine in Sicily was ended after a Novena to Saint Joseph. A more recent story is of the mysterious "itinerant carpenter" who volunteered to build an architecturally unique spiral staircase in a convent chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is as sound today as when it was first built, and has never needed repair.
According to ancient tradition, Saint Joseph watches over and protects the Church. He is considered the model of perfect Christian life and the patron of a happy death. His patronage extends over the Mystical Body of Christ, over the Christian family and schools, carpenters, fathers, laborers, and all individuals who appeal to his charity and intercession, especially in the hour of death. Joseph, when dying, received the loving ministry of his foster Son, Jesus, and his spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary, so it is believed that his intercession may well obtain the mercy of God and the grace of a peaceful and holy death.
His feast is celebrated on March 19, and a special memorial to Saint Joseph the Worker is observed on May 1.
Readings for the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that by Saint Joseph's intercession
your Church may constantly watch over
the unfolding of the mysteries of human salvation,
whose beginnings you entrusted to his faithful care.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.
First Reading - 2 Samuel 7: 4-5a, 12-14a, 16
The word of the Lord came to Nathan:
"Go and tell My servant David, 'Thus says the Lord: Would you build Me a house to dwell in? When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men. And your house and our kingdom shall be made sure for ever before Me; your thorne shall be established for ever.'"
Second Reading - Romans 4: 13, 16-18, 22
A promise to Abraham and his descendants, that they should inherit the world, did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendents -- not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all, as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations" -- in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. That is why his faith was "reckoned to him as righteous".
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29
R. The son of David will live for ever.
I will sing of thy steadfast love, O LORD,
for ever; with my mouth I will proclaim thy
faithfulness to all generations.
For thy steadfast love was established for ever,
thy faithfulness is firm as the heavens.
R. The son of David will live for ever.
Thou hast said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
'I will establish your descendants for ever,
and build your throne for all generations.'"
R. The son of David will live for ever.
He shall cry to me, 'Thou art my Father, my God,
and the Rock of my salvation.'
My steadfast love I will keep for him for ever,
and my covenant will stand firm for him.
R. The son of David will live for ever.
Gospel - Matthew 1: 16, 18-21, 24a
Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with Child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a Son; and he called His name Jesus.
Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing Him to be in the company they went a day's journey, and they sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. And when they saw Him they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, Your father and I have been looking for You anxiously." And He said to them, "How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father's house?" And they did not understand the saying which He spoke to them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.
Readings for the Memorial of Saint Joseph, the Worker
O God, Creator of all things,
who laid down for the human race the law of work,
that by the example of Saint Joseph and under his patronage
we may complete the works you set us to do
and attain the rewards you promise.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns wiht you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.
First Reading - Genesis 1:26 - 2:3
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all His work which He had done in creation.
or Col 3:14-15, 17, 23-24
Gospel Reading - Matthew 13: 54-58
Coming to His own country Jesus taught them in the synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And are not His brethen James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all His sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?" And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house." And He did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
(Revised Standard Version - Catholic edition)
Prayers to Saint Joseph
Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St. Joseph
Prayer to Saint JosephIn his encyclical on devotion to St. Joseph, Pope Leo XIII said, "We prescribe that during the whole month of October, after the recitation of the Rosary, a prayer to St. Joseph be added, and that this custom should be repeated every year."
To thee, O Blessed Joseph, we have recourse in our affliction, and having implored the help of thy most holy Spouse, we seek with confidence thy patronage also. By that affection wherewith thou wast united to the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God; by the fatherly love with which thou didst embrace the Child Jesus, we humbly beseech thee to look down with gracious eye upon that inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased for us by His Blood, and to help us in our need by thy powerful intercession.
Defend, O thou most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen offspring of Jesus Christ. Keep from us, O most loving father, all blight of error and corruption. Aid us from on high, O thou our most valiant defender, in this conflict with the powers of darkness. And even as of old thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from the peril of His life, so now defend God's Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Shield us ever under thy patronage, so that imitating thy example and strengtheded by thy help, we may live a holy life, die a happy death, and attain to everlasting bliss in heaven. 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 whil 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)
Family activities for Saint Joseph's Day
* Because a Novena to Saint Joseph resulted in deliverance from a famine in Sicily, the saint is particularly revered in Italy. It became a custom to make "Saint Joseph altars" in family houses, and to have children dressed as Mary and Joseph go from door to door seeking admittance to the "inn".
Italian-American parishes often have special observances on this day -- usually involving blessed loaves of bread that are given to the people after Mass.
*In recent years the practice has arisen of burying a statuette of Saint Joseph in the yard of property that is for sale in the belief that the sale will be concluded quickly. (Probably because of the saint's association with building and carpentry he has been adopted as the patron of real estate agents.)
But for Catholics to bury an image of Saint Joseph to effect a quick sale is not a worthy remembrance of this saint! In fact, it is superstitious. To help distinguish true intercessory prayer from superstitious actrions, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says this:
§2110: Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition. (emphasis added)
§2138: Superstition is a departure from the worship that we give to the true God. It is manifested in idolatry, as well as in various forms of divination and magic.
*In addition to including the Prayer to Saint Joseph (above) either with the meal prayers on this day, or at bedtime, we like to include special foods traditionally associated with Saint Joseph.
*Both traditional recipes following are from A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz, originally published by Harper & Row in 1995, now available in paperback from Ignatius Press (see links page).
Saint Joseph's rice fritters
Frittelle Di San Giusepe
2 1/4 cups milk
1 cup raw rice
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons fruit brandy (optional)
Grated rind of 1 large orange
3 tablespoons golden raisins
3 tablespoons pine nuts
Oil for deep frying
Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan. Add the rice, salt, vanilla, and granulated sugar. Cover the pan, and simmer gently until the rice is fully cool.)
Mix the rice thoroughly with the eggs, flour, baking powder, brandy, orange rind, raisins, and pine nuts.
Heat the oil to 375° F. for deep-fat frying. Drop the Frittelle mixture 1 tablespoon at a time into the oil. Cook a few at a time, keeping the Frittelle separate. Fry until golden brown.
Drain the Frittelle on paper towels. Serve them hot, sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.
Yield: about 25 Frittelle
The pretzel represents the shape of the penitent's crossed arms, and was a traditional Lenten food in central European towns. Because the pretzel is shaped like arms folded in prayer, the German tribes who invaded Rome called the bracellæ "brezel'" or "prezel". Pretzels are traditionally eaten throughout Lent, and in some places are especially associated with Saint Joseph's Day [March 19] which usually falls within Lent. A recipe for soft pretzels follows:
This recipe is for a chewy soft pretzel, like those hot pretzel vendors sell.
Combine in a mixing bowl:
1 cup warm water
1 package (1 1 1/2 T) active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
Add and beat at least 3 minutes:
1 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
2 Tbsp soft butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
Stir in 1 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour and knead until the dough loses its stickiness.
Let the dough rise in a covered greased bowl until it is doubled in bulk (this is called "proofing" the dough). Punch down and divide it into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope and form it into a pretzel shape. Place the pretzels on a greased baking sheet and let them rise until almost doubled in bulk. Preheat oven to 475°F.
In a large non aluminum kettle, prepare a boiling solution of
4 cups water
5 tsp baking soda
With a slotted spoon, carefully lower the pretzels into the water and boil about 1 minute or until they float to the top. Return them to the greased sheet. Sprinkle them with coarse salt. (Sea salt or Kosher salt.) Bake the pretzels until they are nicely browned, about 10-12 minutes. Pretzels are best when eaten while still warm, but they may be stored in an air tight container for up to a week, or frozen. (Makes twelve 6 inch pretzels)
POPES ON ST. JOSEPH
Pope Benedict XVI
The silence of Saint Joseph is given a special emphasis. His silence is steeped in contemplation of the mystery of God in an attitude of total availability to divine desires. It is a silence thanks to which Joseph, in unison with Mary, watches over the Word of God, known through the Sacred Scriptures, continuously comparing it with the events of the life of Jesus; a silence woven of constant prayer, a prayer of blessing of the Lord, of the adoration of His holy will and of unreserved entrustment to his providence. It is no exaggeration to think that it was precisely from his "father" Joseph that Jesus learned -- at the human level -- that steadfast interiority which is a presupposition of authentic justice.... Let us allow ourselves to be "filled" with Saint Joseph's silence! In a world that is often too noisy, that encourages neither recollection nor listening to God's voice.
Pope Benedict XVI
December 18, 2005
Pope John Paul II
GENERAL AUDIENCE OF JOHN PAUL II
Solemnity of Saint Joseph
Wednesday, 19 March 2003
St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church
1. Today we are celebrating the Solemnity of St Joseph, the Husband of Mary (Mt 1,24; Lk 1,27). Scripture points him out to us as the "father" of Jesus (Lk 2,18.104.22.168.48), prepared to carry out the divine plan, even when it eluded human understanding. To him, "son of David" (Mt 1,20; Lk 1,27), God entrusted the safekeeping of the Eternal Word, made man by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. St Joseph is described in the Gospel as a "just man" (Mt 1,19), and for all believers he is a model of life in faith.
2. The word "just" evokes his moral rectitude, his sincere attachment to the practice of the law and his attitude of total openness to the will of the heavenly Father. Even in difficult and sometimes tragic moments, the humble carpenter of Nazareth never claimed for himself the right to dispute God's plan. He awaited the call from on High and in silence respected the mystery, letting himself be guided by the Lord. Once he received the mission, he fulfils it with docile responsibility. He listens attentively to the angel, when he is asked to take as his wife the Virgin of Nazareth (cf. Mt 1,18-25), in the flight into Egypt (cf. Mt 2,13-15) and in the return to Israel (cf. ibid., 2,19-23). In few, but significant strokes, the Evangelists describe him as the caring guardian of Jesus, an attentive and faithful husband, who exercises his family authority in a constant attitude of service.
Nothing else is said about him in the Sacred Scriptures, but this silence contains the special style of his mission: a life lived in the greyness of everyday life, but with steadfast faith in Providence.
3. Every day St Joseph had to provide for the family's needs with hard manual work. Thus the Church rightly points to him as the patron of workers.
Today's solemnity is also a wonderful occasion to reflect on the importance of work in the life of the human person, the family and the community.
The human being is the subject and the primary agent of work, and in the light of this truth, we can clearly perceive the fundamental connection between the person, work and society. Human activity - the Second Vatican Council recalls - proceeds from the human person and is ordered to the person. According to God's design and will, it must serve the true good of humanity and allow "man as an individual and as a member of society to cultivate and carry out his integral vocation" (cf. Gaudium et spes, n. 35).
In order to fulfil this mission, a "tested spirituality of human work" must be cultivated that is firmly rooted in the "Gospel of work" and believers are called to proclaim and to witness to the Christian meaning of work in their many activities and occupations (cf. Laborem exercens, n. 26).
4. May St Joseph, such a great and humble saint be an example that inspires Christian workers, who should call on him in every circumstance. Today I wish to entrust to the provident guardian of the Holy Family of Nazareth the young people who are training for their future profession, the unemployed, and those who are suffering from the hardship of the shortage of employment, families and the whole world of work, with the expectations and challenges, the problems and prospects that characterize it.
May St Joseph, the Patron of the universal Church, watch over the entire ecclesial community and, as the man of peace that he was, may he obtain for all humanity, especially for the peoples threatened at this time by war, the precious gift of harmony and peace.
Redemptoris Custos - St. Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer - Apostolic Exhortation, 1989, John Paul II
Pope Leo XIII
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII
ON DEVOTION TO ST. JOSEPH
To Our Venerable Brethren the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, and other Ordinaries, in Peace and Union with Holy See.
Although We have already many times ordered special prayers to be offered up in the whole world, that the interests of Catholicism might be insistently recommended to God, none will deem it matter for surprise that We consider the present moment an opportune one for again inculcating the same duty. During periods of stress and trial - chiefly when every lawlessness of act seems permitted to the powers of darkness - it has been the custom in the Church to plead with special fervour and perseverance to God, her author and protector, by recourse to the intercession of the saints - and chiefly of the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God - whose patronage has ever been the most efficacious. The fruit of these pious prayers and of the confidence reposed in the Divine goodness, has always, sooner or later, been made apparent. Now, Venerable Brethren, you know the times in which we live; they are scarcely less deplorable for the Christian religion than the worst days, which in time past were most full of misery to the Church. We see faith, the root of all the Christian virtues, lessening in many souls; we see charity growing cold; the young generation daily growing in depravity of morals and views; the Church of Jesus Christ attacked on every side by open force or by craft; a relentless war waged against the Sovereign Pontiff; and the very foundations of religion undermined with a boldness which waxes daily in intensity. These things are, indeed, so much a matter of notoriety that it is needless for Us to expatiate on the depths to which society has sunk in these days, or on the designs which now agitate the minds of men. In circumstances so unhappy and troublous, human remedies are insufficient, and it becomes necessary, as a sole resource, to beg for assistance from the Divine power.
2. This is the reason why We have considered it necessary to turn to the Christian people and urge them to implore, with increased zeal and constancy, the aid of Almighty God. At this proximity of the month of October, which We have already consecrated to the Virgin Mary, under the title of Our Lady of the Rosary, We earnestly exhort the faithful to perform the exercises of this month with, if possible, even more piety and constancy than heretofore. We know that there is sure help in the maternal goodness of the Virgin, and We are very certain that We shall never vainly place Our trust in her. If, on innumerable occasions, she has displayed her power in aid of the Christian world, why should We doubt that she will now renew the assistance of her power and favour, if humble and constant prayers are offered up on all sides to her? Nay, We rather believe that her intervention will be the more marvellous as she has permitted Us to pray to her, for so long a time, with special appeals. But We entertain another object, which, according to your wont, Venerable Brethren, you will advance with fervour. That God may be more favourable to Our prayers, and that He may come with bounty and promptitude to the aid of His Church, We judge it of deep utility for the Christian people, continually to invoke with great piety and trust, together with the Virgin-Mother of God, her chaste Spouse, the Blessed Joseph; and We regard it as most certain that this will be most pleasing to the Virgin herself. On the subject of this devotion, of which We speak publicly for the first time to-day, We know without doubt that not only is the people inclined to it, but that it is already established, and is advancing to full growth. We have seen the devotion to St. Joseph, which in past times the Roman Pontiffs have developed and gradually increased, grow into greater proportions in Our time, particularly after Pius IX., of happy memory, Our predecessor, proclaimed, yielding to the request of a large number of bishops, this holy patriarch the patron of the Catholic Church. And as, moreover, it is of high importance that the devotion to St. Joseph should engraft itself upon the daily pious practices of Catholics, We desire that the Christian people should be urged to it above all by Our words and authority.
3. The special motives for which St. Joseph has been proclaimed Patron of the Church, and from which the Church looks for singular benefit from his patronage and protection, are that Joseph was the spouse of Mary and that he was reputed the Father of Jesus Christ. From these sources have sprung his dignity, his holiness, his glory. In truth, the dignity of the Mother of God is so lofty that naught created can rank above it. But as Joseph has been united to the Blessed Virgin by the ties of marriage, it may not be doubted that he approached nearer than any to the eminent dignity by which the Mother of God surpasses so nobly all created natures. For marriage is the most intimate of all unions which from its essence imparts a community of gifts between those that by it are joined together. 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 honour, 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. He set himself to protect with a mighty love and a daily solicitude his spouse and the Divine Infant; regularly by his work he earned what was necessary for the one and the other for nourishment and clothing; he guarded from death the Child threatened by a monarch's jealousy, and found for Him a refuge; in the miseries of the journey and in the bitternesses of exile he was ever the companion, the assistance, and the upholder of the Virgin and of Jesus. Now the divine house which Joseph ruled with the authority of a father, contained within its limits the scarce-born Church. From the same fact that the most holy Virgin is the mother of Jesus Christ is she the mother of all Christians whom she bore on Mount Calvary amid the supreme throes of the Redemption; Jesus Christ is, in a manner, the first-born of Christians, who by the adoption and Redemption are his brothers. And for such reasons the Blessed Patriarch looks upon the multitude of Christians who make up the Church as confided specially to his trust - this limitless family spread over the earth, over which, because he is the spouse of Mary and the Father of Jesus Christ he holds, as it were, a paternal authority. 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.
4. You well understand, Venerable Brethren, that these considerations are confirmed by the ,opinion held by a large number of the Fathers, to which the sacred liturgy gives its sanction, that the Joseph of ancient times, son of the patriarch Jacob, was the type of St. Joseph, and the former by his glory prefigured the greatness of the future guardian of the Holy Family. And in truth, beyond the fact that the same name - a point the significance of which has never been denied - was given to each, you well know the points of likeness that exist between them; namely, that the first Joseph won the favour and especial goodwill of his master, and that through Joseph's administration his household came to prosperity and wealth; that (still more important) he presided over the kingdom with great power, and, in a time when the harvests failed, he provided for all the needs of the Egyptians with so much wisdom that the King decreed to him the title "Saviour of the world." Thus it is that We may prefigure the new in the old patriarch. And as the first caused the prosperity of his master's domestic interests and at the same time rendered great services to the whole kingdom, so the second, destined to be the guardian of the Christian religion, should be regarded as the protector and defender of the Church, which is truly the house of the Lord and the kingdom of God on earth. These are the reasons why men of every rank and country should fly to the trust and guard of the blessed Joseph. Fathers of families find in Joseph the best personification of paternal solicitude and vigilance; spouses a perfect example of love, of peace, and of conjugal fidelity; virgins at the same time find in him the model and protector of virginal integrity. The noble of birth will earn of Joseph how to guard their dignity even in misfortune; the rich will understand, by his lessons, what are the goods most to be desired and won at the price of their labour. As to workmen, artisans, and persons of lesser degree, their recourse to Joseph is a special right, and his example is for their particular imitation. For Joseph, of royal blood, united by marriage to the greatest and holiest of women, reputed the father of the Son of God, passed his life in labour, and won by the toil of the artisan the needful support of his family. It is, then, true that the condition of the lowly has nothing shameful in it, and the work of the labourer is not only not dishonouring, but can, if virtue be joined to it, be singularly ennobled. Joseph, content with his slight possessions, bore the trials consequent on a fortune so slender, with greatness of soul, in imitation of his Son, who having put on the form of a slave, being the Lord of life, subjected himself of his own free-will to the spoliation and loss of everything.
5. Through these considerations, the poor and those who live by the labour of their hands should be of good heart and learn to be just. If they win the right of emerging from poverty and obtaining a better rank by lawful means, reason and justice uphold them in changing the order established, in the first instance, for them by the Providence of God. But recourse to force and struggles by seditious paths to obtain such ends are madnesses which only aggravate the evil which they aim to suppress. Let the poor, then, if they would be wise, trust not to the promises of seditious men, but rather to the example and patronage of the Blessed Joseph, and to the maternal charity of the Church, which each day takes an increasing compassion on their lot.
6. This is the reason why - trusting much to your zeal and episcopal authority, Venerable Brethren, and not doubting that the good and pious faithful will run beyond the mere letter of the law - We prescribe that during the whole month of October, at the recitation of the Rosary, for which We have already legislated, a prayer to St. Joseph be added, the formula of which will be sent with this letter, and that this custom should be repeated every year. To those who recite this prayer, We grant for each time an indulgence of seven years and seven Lents. It is a salutary practice and very praiseworthy, already established in some countries, to consecrate the month of March to the honour of the holy Patriarch by daily exercises of piety. Where this custom cannot be easily established, it is as least desirable, that before the feast-day, in the principal church of each parish, a triduo of prayer be celebrated. In those lands where the 19th of March - the Feast of St. Joseph - is not a Festival of Obligation, We exhort the faithful to sanctify it as far as possible by private pious practices, in honour of their heavenly patron, as though it were a day of Obligation.
7. And in token of heavenly favours, and in witness of Our good-will, We grant most lovingly in the Lord, to you, Venerable Brethren, to your clergy and to your people, the Apostolic blessing.
Given from the Vatican, August 15th, 1889, the 11th year of Our Pontificate.
Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana
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