Inspired by the Gospel, the Fathers of the Church from the earliest centuries stressed that just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to the upbringing of Jesus, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s mystical body, that is, the Church.Saint Pope John Paul II
In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of Saint Joseph as the patron of the Universal Church, Pope Francis has proclaimed a Year of Saint Joseph. The year began on 8 December 2020 and concludes on 8 December 2021. In making this proclamation, Pope Francis said he was establishing this year so that “every member of the faithful, following St. Joseph’s example, may strengthen their life of faith daily in the fulfillment of God’s will”.
In his apostolic letter, Patris Corde, proclaiming the year, Pope Francis went on to say that the coronavirus pandemic has heightened his own desire to reflect on Saint Joseph, as so many people during the pandemic have made hidden sacrifices to protect others, just as Saint Joseph quietly protected and cared for Mary and Jesus. “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,” the pope wrote.
Throughout this Year we should strive to honour Saint Joseph as the guardian and protector of the Church with heartfelt prayer and devotion, encouraging each other to imitate his life of virtue as a way to fulfill our own personal call to holiness.
Why Honour Saint Joseph
Jesus entered our existence through a human family. He entered the world an an infant born into the home of Joseph and Mary. Although he was God, Jesus was obedient to them as a child, and under their watchful care “increased in wisdom and in years, and in favour with God and human beings” (Luke 2.51-52). In this Jesus gave us an example, that we too as his disciples are to entrust ourselves to Joseph and Mary, learning from them how to grow in holiness as the adopted children of God (see Ephesians 1.5).
As Christians we are blessed to have Mary as our spiritual mother and Joseph as our spiritual father. Just as Mary guides us from heaven with the loving devotion of a mother’s care, so too Saint Joseph provides for the needs of God’s family, the Church.
The Writings of the Popes regarding Saint Joseph
Patris Corde, 2020 (With a Father’s Heart) – The apostolic letter of Pope Francis proclaiming the Year of the Saint Joseph in recognition of the 150th anniversary of his patronage of the Universal Church.
Redemptoris Custos, 1989 (On the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church) – This apostolic exhortation of Saint Pope John Paul II reflects upon the meaning and purpose of Saint Joseph’s life as found in the Gospels as the guardian of Jesus and the faithful husband of Mary, the importance of work as an expression of love, and his patronage of the Church in our own time.
Bonum Sane, 1920 (Devotion to Saint Joseph, Patron of the Catholic Church for Half a Century) – This motu proprio of Pope Benedict XV reflects upon the 50th anniversary of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Church, and declares that all Wednesdays of the year and the month of March be dedicated to Saint Joseph so that devotion to him may continue to grow among the faithful.
Quamquam Pluries, 1889 (On Devotion to Saint Joseph) – The encyclical letter of Pope Leo XIII is the first major document by a pope on Saint Joseph. It explains why Saint Joseph was proclaimed patron of the Universal Church, and contains a prayer to Saint Joseph that Pope Leo XIII requested be added to the conclusion of the rosary.
Quemadmodum Deus, 1870 (Declaration of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church) – This decree of Pope Pius IX declared Saint Joseph the patron of the Universal Church, and raised his feast day of March 19 to a solemnity — the highest form of liturgical celebration in the Church.
Devotions to Saint Joseph
Times of Special Devotion
Throughout the liturgical calendar, there are times of special devotion to Saint Joseph including the month of March, Wednesdays and specific feast days.
As the principal feast day of Saint Joseph is celebrated on March 19, the entire month of March is dedicated to him. Various devotions in parishes and among families are encouraged during this time, especially the praying of the Litany of Saint Joseph and the celebration of certain traditions, such as St. Joseph’s Table.
Each day of the week calls us to focus on a certain mystery of the Faith. Sundays call to mind the Resurrection of Christ. Mondays, the Holy Spirit and the souls in purgatory. Tuesdays focus on the angels, while Thursdays are dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament and the priesthood. Fridays call to mind the passion of Jesus and his Sacred Heart, while Saturdays honour the Blessed Virgin Mary. Wednesdays are dedicated to Saint Joseph. As we mark the halfway point of the week, we pause to reflect upon our work so far and ask Saint Joseph to continue to guide and strengthen us to bring to fulfillment what we seek to accomplish. For fathers, it is a special day to reflect upon the meaning of fatherhood — biological and spiritual — and to imitate Saint Joseph in family life.
There are several feast days in the liturgical calendar that honour Saint Joseph. The principal feast day is March 19 under the titles of Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patron of the Universal Church, and Patron of Canada. This day is a solemnity, the highest form of liturgical celebration in the Church. May 1 is dedicated to Saint Joseph the Worker, and calls to mind the purpose of work. The feast of the Holy Family, which falls on the Sunday after Christmas reflects on the special role Saint Joseph had as the foster father of Jesus.
The Seven Sorrows and Joys of Saint Joseph
This devotion is observed over the course of seven consecutive Sundays, by reciting the prayers of the Seven Sorrows and the Seven Joys of Saint Joseph. This devotion can be practiced at any time of the year, yet especially in the weeks leading up to his feast day on March 19. The prayers of the devotion may be found by clicking here.
The Rosary of Saint Joseph
The Rosary of Saint Joseph is prayed using regular rosary beads following the pattern of the Rosary of Our Lady, substituting the following prayer for the Hail Mary:
Joseph, Son of David, and husband of Mary; we honour you, guardian of the Redeemer, and we adore the child you named Jesus. Saint Joseph, patron of the universal Church, pray for us, that like you we may live totally dedicated to the interests of the Saviour. Amen.
The prayer composed by Pope Leo XIII (found below) concludes the Rosary of Saint Joseph.
The mysteries associated with Rosary of Saint Joseph are:
- The Betrothal to Mary (Matthew 1.18)
- The Annunciation to Joseph (Matthew 1.19-21)
- The Birth and Naming of Jesus (Matthew 1.22-25)
- The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2.13-15)
- The Hidden Life at Nazareth (Matthew 2.23; Luke 2.51-52)
The Chaplet of Saint Joseph
The Chaplet of Saint Joseph is prayed on a special chain of beads which are attached to a medal of Saint Joseph. The chaplet is divided into fifteen groups of four beads consisting of one white and three purple or blue beads. The white bead symbolizes Saint Joseph’s purity, and the purple or blue beads his saintly piety. Most religious good stores offer the Chaplet of Saint Joseph for sale.
The traditional mysteries of the rosary are announced on each white bead and two Hail Marys are then said. On the purple or blue beads the words “Praised and blessed be Jesus, Mary and Joseph” are said. The chaplet concludes with the following prayer:
Pray for us, O holy Saint Joseph. That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray. O God, who had predestined Saint Joseph for all eternity for the service of your eternal Son and his Blessed Mother, and made him worthy to be the spouse of the Blessed Virgin and the foster father of your Son: we beseech you, through all the services he has rendered to Jesus and Mary on earth, that you would make us worthy of his intercession and grant us to enjoy the happiness of his company in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Saint Joseph’s Table
The Feast of Saint Joseph, which always falls in the middle of Lent, is especially celebrated in Italy, and Sicily in particular, where St. Joseph has been long-regarded as the island’s Patron saint. It is there, among Sicilians, that the tradition of the “Tavola di San Giuseppe” or “St. Joseph’s Table” has its origins.
Legends from the Middle Ages attributed the end of a devastating drought to a prayer-devotion that the Sicilian people made to Saint Joseph. During a time of drought and famine, no rain fell on Sicily. Food crops withered and died. The people prayed to Saint Joseph for help. When the clouds opened, the desperately-needed rain poured down, and there was much rejoicing! After the harvest, to show their gratitude, they prepared a table with special foods to honour Saint Joseph and to share with the poor.
This celebration became an annual tradition. Each year, wealthy families prepared huge buffets. The less fortunate people of the community were invited, and all the remaining food and proceeds were given to the poor. Through the years, the tradition has remained throughout Italy, and spread throughout the world.
One devotion to Saint Joseph that is widespread in South America is Saint Joseph sleeping. While asleep, Saint Joseph received messages from God. First to not be afraid and to take Mary as his wife, for the child Jesus was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit, and later when he was warned in a dream about the danger posed by King Herod to Mary and the Baby Jesus.
Through dreams, Saint Joseph accepted his role to be the foster father of Jesus and spouse to Mary. Through dreams, Saint Joseph became the attentive and tender guardian of the Family, a just man who accepts and guards the mysteries of God, as he willingly chose to accept and protect Mary, the woman chosen by God to be the Most Holy and Immaculate Mother of His only Son.
For this reason, it is common to place under a statue of Saint Joseph sleeping one’s prayers and petitions. By doing this, one invites Saint Joseph to “sleep on it,” and to intercede before God to assist in solving difficult situations and to help those in need. We turn to Saint Joseph and call upon his role as a father who is merciful and attentive to those he loves. Saint Joseph is truly a special saint, who protects and helps those who call upon him even while he sleeps.
Consecration to Saint Joseph
Many are familiar with the Consecration to Mary, in particular the method popularized by Saint Louis De Montfort which consists of 33 days of spiritual preparation. In recognition of the continued emphasis the Church has placed on Saint Joseph in the last 150 years, Fr. Donald Calloway has created a similar Consecration to Saint Joseph. This consecration follows the same pattern of 33 days of spiritual prayer leading up to the prayer of consecration usually recited on a feast day of Saint Joseph.
To make a 33-day consecration, Fr. Calloway’s book Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father will be an invaluable resource. If the cost of the book is prohibitive, one can recite a prayer to Saint Joseph for 33 days (such as those found below) and conclude on the last day with the act of consecration.
Some Saints are privileged to extend to us their patronage with particular efficacy in certain needs, but not in others; but our holy patron Saint Joseph has the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, in every undertaking.Saint Thomas Aquinas
Prayers through the Intercession of Saint Joseph
Prayer for the Year of Saint Joseph
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.
Litany of Saint Joseph
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
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.
Noble offspring 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.
Zealous 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 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 workers, pray for us.
Glory of domestic life, pray for us.
Guardian of virgins, pray for us.
Pillar of families, pray for us.
Comfort 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 the 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.
He has made him the lord of his household,
And prince over all his possessions.
Let us pray.
O God, who, in your loving providence, chose Blessed Joseph to be the spouse of your most holy Mother, grant us the favour of having him for our intercessor in heaven whom on earth we venerate as our protector. You, who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
Prayer to Saint Joseph (by Pope Leo XIII)
In his encyclical letter on devotion to Saint Joseph, Quamquam Pluries, Pope Leo XIII requested that the following prayer be recited at the conclusion of the rosary, especially during the month of October.
To you, O blessed Joseph, we have recourse in our affliction, and having implored the help of your most holy spouse, we now, with hearts filled with confidence, earnestly beg you to take us under your protection.
Through that sacred bond of charity which united you to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by that fatherly love with which you embraced the Child Jesus, we humbly beg you to look graciously upon the beloved inheritance which Jesus Christ has purchased by his blood, and to aid us in our necessities with your power and strength.
Defend, O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen children of Jesus Christ. Keep from us, O most loving father, all blight of error and corruption. Aid us from on high, most valiant defender, in this conflict with the powers of darkness.
And just as you once saved the Child Jesus from mortal danger, so now defend God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Shield us by your constant protection, so that, supported by your example and strengthened by your help, we may be able to live a virtuous life, die a happy death, and obtain everlasting bliss in heaven. Amen.
Prayer to Saint Joseph the Worker (by Saint Pope John XXIII)
O Saint Joseph, guardian of Jesus, chase spouse of Mary, you who passed your life in the perfect fulfillment of duty, sustaining the Holy Family of Nazareth with the work of your hands, kindly keep those who with total trust now come to you. You know their aspirations, their miseries, and their hopes. They come to you because they know that you understand and protect them.
You, too, have known trial, toil, and weariness. But even in the midst of worries about the material life, your soul was filled with profound peace, and it exulted in unerring joy through intimacy with the Son of God who was entrusted to you, and with Mary, his most sweet mother.
May those whom you protect understand they are not alone in their toil, but show them how to discover Jesus at their side, to receive him with grace, to guard him faithfully, as you have done. And with your prayers obtain that in every family, in every factory, in every workshop, wherever a Christian works, all may be satisfied in charity, in patience, in justice, in seeking righteousness, so that abundant gifts may shower upon them from heaven. Amen.
Memorare to Saint Joseph
Remember, O most chaste spouse of the Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, my spiritual father, and beg your protection. O foster father of the Redeemer, despise not my petitions, but in your goodness hear and answer me. Amen.
Act of Consecration to Saint Joseph
O dearest Saint Joseph, I consecrate myself to your honour and give myself to you, that you may always be my father, my protector, and my guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me a greater purity of heart and fervent love of the interior life. After your example, may I do all my actions for the greater glory of God, in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. O Blessed Saint Joseph, pray for me, that I may share in the peace and joy of your holy death. Amen.