The Solemnity of Saint Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of Mary, honors the foster-father of Jesus, St. Joseph. He is the patron saint of fathers, families, workers, and the Church. His main celebration falls on March 19.
Let us pray
That the Church will continue the saving work of Christ.
You entrusted our Savior to the care of St. Joseph,
By the help of his prayers
may the Church continue to serve its Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Despite the attention given to him today, Saint Joseph is a relatively minor figure in the New Testament. The four canonical gospels provide a few details about his life. He was probably a relatively old man when Jesus was born, since he does not appear in the gospels during Jesus’ active ministry. The non-canonical Protevangelium, from around the 2nd century, attests to Joseph’s advanced age.
The Protevangelium also asserts that Joseph was a widower, who had grown children from his previous marriage. This story is used by many early Church Fathers to explain Scriptural references to Jesus’ “brothers,” who would have been step-brothers, and not biologically related. Finally, we know from the Scriptures that Joseph was a carpenter by trade, and a descendant of the Old Testament King David.
St. Joseph was betrothed (basically, engaged) to a virgin named Mary, and when she became pregnant without sexual intercourse with him, he intended to divorce her secretly. However, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, telling him that Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit, and that Joseph was to take Mary as his wife. The angel also instructed Joseph to name the child Jesus. Joseph, being a humble man, obeyed the angel and took Mary as his wife.
Various legends have grown-up about St. Joseph, and while not scriptural, and historically suspect, they are nonetheless fascinating. One legend suggests that the high-priest Zechariah told Mary that he was instructed in a revelation to bring together marriageable men and have each man leave his staff in the temple overnight. The husband chosen by God would be revealed through a sign. In the morning, Joseph the Carpenter’s staff blossomed, while the other suitors’ staffs did not. This was a sign that Mary was to marry Joseph.
St. Joseph is a model of humility and holiness, and is a model for fathers everywhere. He cared for the Son of God, despite Jesus not being his own biological Son. His devotion to Mary, despite his suspicions of her infidelity, and his willingness to listen to the angel of God, demonstrate his humility.
St. Joseph is a popular patron saint. He is the patron saint of the universal Church, a happy death, workers, carpenters, expecting mothers, families, and more.
Many traditions and customs have developed around St. Joseph and his feast day. March 19th has been a traditional day to show hospitality in my culture which is the Italian culture. On this day, all who come to the door are invited to dinner. The family table is extended full-length, moved against the wall (like the Church altar), and a statue of St. Joseph surrounded by flowers and candles is made the centerpiece. After the guests, have enjoyed the bounteous feast (blessed by a priest prior to the meal), the guests leave so other guests may enter. What is left is given to the poor. On a variation of this theme, a table is set up in the town square, and all families bring food. After Mass, everyone comes and shares a meal, which consists of a variety of foods, including bread baked in the shape of scepters and beards.
Let us pray.
O Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition, and idle talk. (Prostration).
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. (Prostration).
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own transgressions and not to judge my brother, for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen. (Prostration).
Spiritual Communion Prayer (when not able to attend Mass)
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen!