A Catholic Monthly Magazine

“Love St Joseph”

By Tricia O’Donnell

The Year of St Joseph

8 December 2020 – 8 December 2021

Love St Joseph a lot. Love him with all your soul, because he, together with Jesus, is the person who has most loved our Blessed Lady and been closer to God. He is the person who has most loved God, after our Mother. He deserves your affection, and it will do you good to get to know him, because he is the Master of the interior life, and has great power before the Lord and before the Mother of God. St Josemaría Escrivá

On 8 December 2020, Pope Francis declared this to be the Year of St Joseph. It was to begin on that day, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, until 8 December 2021.

The year 2020 marked the 150th anniversary of St Joseph becoming the Patron of the Universal Church. For centuries, although he was revered among Christians and theologians and many saints were devoted to him, it took the action of Pope Pius IX in 1870 to sow the seeds which resulted in the true recognition of this remarkable man and the role he played in Our Lord’s life. This anniversary is a timely reminder of the huge debt we owe St Joseph for that role and for his part in sustaining the Church.

What we know about St Joseph is through the scant information contained in the pages of the Bible. However, we learn enough to discern he was a faithful husband to Mary and devoted father to Jesus. He worked hard to provide for his family, he taught Jesus his craft of carpentry and he did everything in his power to keep Mary and their precious Son safe. There’s no-one better to turn to in these turbulent times when marriage and the family are under such serious attack. “The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage and the family” -- so said Sr Lúcia dos Santos, the longest-surviving visionary of Fatima. Over the last several decades there has been a constant increase in the undermining of both of these institutions, but it’s also heartening to know that since that first patronage being bestowed upon him, devotions to St Joseph have also multiplied.

St Teresa of Avila had a great devotion to St Joseph. She commented that while God gave other saints certain graces to help us in our needs, in her experience he gave everything to St Joseph. “I do not remember even now that I have ever asked anything of him that he has failed to grant,” she said. Perhaps she was echoing the words of St Thomas Aquinas who said, “There are many saints to whom God has given the power to assist us in the necessities of life, but the power given to St Joseph is unlimited. It extends to all our needs, and those who invoke him are sure to be heard.”

St Josemaría Escrivá

Blessed Pope Pius IX

Servant of God Sr Lúcia dos Santos

In the decades following the Pope’s declaration in 1870, awareness and devotion to St Joseph gathered momentum. By the early twentieth century, communism was casting a long shadow over the world and the Church invoked the help of the saint in fighting this evil oppression.

Pope Pius XI wrote that he had placed the “vast campaign of the Church against world communism under the standard of St Joseph, her mighty protector.” The struggles continued in the years that came after. Amid soaring unemployment and abysmal working conditions, the Church once again turned to this industrious saint. The culmination came on 1 May 1955, when Pius XII declared this day the feast of St Joseph the Worker. “The humble workman of Nazareth,” he said, “not only personifies before God and the Church the dignity of the man who works with his hands, but is always the provident guardian of you and your families.”

Pope Pius XI

Venerable Pope Pius XII

St Padre Pio

Venerable Fulton Sheen

St Joseph will also guard our soul, according to St Pio of Pietrelcina. Just as he defended Jesus from Herod, so will he defend our souls, “from the fiercest Herod: the devil. All the care that the Patriarch St Joseph has for Jesus, he has for you, and will always help you with his patronage.” Once again we hear the words from St Pio spoken by St Teresa: “go to Joseph with extreme confidence, because I do not remember having asked anything from St Joseph without having obtained it readily.”

It can’t be stressed enough. When we truly consider Joseph’s life, his faithfulness to Mary, his guardianship of our Saviour and how seriously he took his role as protector of the Holy Family, how can we help but honour him? It is his due. God gave him his special status when he chose him, of all men, to be his Son’s earthly father.

It’s interesting to compare St Joseph with the earlier Joseph of the Old Testament. That Joseph was the son of Israel and his brothers sold him into slavery. He was taken to Egypt, eventually becoming part of the Pharaoh’s household, which gave him special privileges, one of which was overseeing the storage of grain. He was hugely successful and when Egypt was in the grip of famine, the Pharaoh told the people: “Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you.” (Genesis 41:55). When the brothers arrived they didn’t recognise Joseph but he took pity on them, disclosed who he was and forgave them. They returned to their father with an abundance of grain. God turned an act of cruel betrayal into good. Had it not been for Joseph’s management of the grain storage, loss of life during the famine would have been much higher.

So when God chose St Joseph to look after his Son, He was effectively placing him in charge of another kind of Bread – that of Heaven. The Bread he was chosen to nurture, would feed people way beyond the land of Egypt, long after Jesus’ death and resurrection, far into the future multitudes of people throughout the world would continue to be fed. Each time we’re given the spiritual sustenance we need through the Eucharist, St Joseph’s devotion to our Saviour resonates. Venerable Fulton J. Sheen said that “St Joseph is still charged with guarding the Living Bread!” Pretty amazing!

As the saints have said, there truly is no limit to the powers given to this special saint. An order of nuns in New Mexico in 1878 witnessed something extraordinary. The Sisters of Loretto in Santa Fe had built a new chapel which, once completed, had no provision for a staircase to the choir loft. At almost seven metres from floor to loft, a ladder was too steep for the sisters to use and there was no room in the main body of the church for a normal staircase. As the builder of the chapel had died, they had no way of resolving this, so the sisters turned to St Joseph for his help. They began a novena to him asking him to send the right person to them. On the last day of the novena a man, carrying only a few tools, arrived and offered to build the staircase.

Loretto Chapel's spiral staircase, the 'Miracle stair,' in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Three months later the work was finished, but before the sisters had a chance to thank the man, he had gone. Despite all attempts to trace him they failed. But it was the staircase itself that astonished all who saw it. Its spiral design not only had no load bearing pillar but no support through its centre – it looked as though it was suspended almost in mid-air! It fitted perfectly into the space allowed in the chapel and on further examination not a single nail had been used, just square wooden pegs. The sisters believed St Joseph had done the work himself. The perfect workmanship of an expert craftsman!

A few years after its construction a bannister was constructed for added safety.

There are plenty of ‘experts’ around today, whether it’s climate change or Covid-19, we’ve heard them all. However, St Joseph personifies the word ‘expert.’ There is nothing we can ask him that he’s not qualified to answer. Looking for work? Go to Joseph. House buying/selling? Go to Joseph. Praying for a loved one who is dying? Go to Joseph. Worried about family issues? Go to Joseph. As Head of the Holy Family, he knows about the anxieties that affect us all, in every sphere of family life. 

This very special man deserves all the recognition we can give him and in this, the year of St Joseph, there will never be a better time to ask him for his intercession.

Remember, most chaste spouse of the Virgin Mary, that never has it been known that anyone who asked for your help and sought your intercession was left unaided. Do not, foster father of my Redeemer, despise my petitions, but graciously receive them. Amen.  

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