Sunday, March 19, 2006
St. Joseph's Day: Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary


Solemnity (1969 Calendar): March 19
I Class (1962 Calendar): March 19
Double of I Class (1954 Calendar): March 19
If March 19 falls on a Sunday, then St. Joseph's Day is transferred to March 20

St. Joseph is one of the greatest saints. His life is recorded partially in Scripture, and we see a man dedicated to the Lord. He was a man eager to do the will of God. 

What we know of St. Joseph comes from the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke. And what the scriptures tell us is that St. Joseph was a silent servant of God. St. Joseph owned little possessions but he was a descendant of David and full of the grace of God. There is not one recorded sentence spoken by St. Joseph, but the Gospels are clear that he acted kindly towards Mary and Jesus. He cared for them when Herod sought to kill Our Lord, and after the threat passed, he quietly passed away. For that reason, he is frequently recognized as the patron of a peaceful death. In the words of Pope Leo XIII: “Workman and all those laboring in conditions of poverty will have reasons to rejoice rather than grieve, since they have in common with the Holy Family daily preoccupations and cares.”

According to tradition, St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, watches over and guards the Church. Numerous saints also had devotions to St. Joseph including Saint Bernard, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Gertrude, Saint Bridget of Sweden, Saint Alphonsus and Saint Teresa of Avila.

St. Joseph is truly the universal protector of the Church. In The Man Nearest to Christ: The Nature and Historic Development of Devotion to Saint Joseph, Fr. Francis L Filas recounts the origin of devotion in the United States to St. Joseph. As you will see, this devotion predates the foundation of the country!

On the North American missions the name of Saint Joseph appeared frequently. In Canada, he was regarded as patron of the land ever since it was called New France. In 1633, Saint John de Brebeuf founded the first mission among the Hurons and dedicated it to Saint Joseph. The first Algonquin mission was likewise placed under his care. Both the Recollect Fathers and the Jesuits often named islands and rivers in his honor. In 1675, Fr. Allouez called Lake Michigan Lake Saint Joseph. At Montreal the Sulpician Fathers followed in the steps of their founder, Fr. Olier, by inspiring the faithful to turn to the spouse of Mary in their need. The Ursulines and Grey Nuns always paid him exceptional veneration…

For more prayers, devotional items, and customs for this Feast of St. Joseph, please visit Fish Eaters. Also, make an Act of Consecration to St. Joseph today.

This feastday is distinct from both the Patronage of St. Joseph (Eastertide Feast) and St. Joseph the Worker.

St. Joseph’s Day As A Holy Day of Obligation

The first catalog of Holy Days comes from the Decretals of Gregory IX in 1234, which listed 45 Holy Days. In 1642, His Holiness Pope Urban VIII issued the papal bull "Universa Per Orbem" which altered the required Holy Days of Obligation for the Universal Church to consist of 35 such days as well as the principal patrons of one's one locality. St. Joseph's Day is on that list.

However, due to dispensations, differences ranged drastically as to which days were kept as holy days throughout the world. In some parts of the world, St. Joseph's Day on March 19th was a Holy Day of Obligation whereas in others it was not. For instance, St. Joseph's Day was a Holy Day of Obligation in Quebec in the late 1600s and also in the British Colonies in what is now the United States of America. It was also a holy day of Obligation in what is now Florida, among other places. But changes abounded as the number of holy days gradually weakened over the centuries. 

At America's birth, the Holy Days of Obligation, in addition to every Sunday, were as follows: the feasts of Christmas, Circumcision, Epiphany, Annunciation, Easter Monday, Ascension, Corpus Christi, Ss. Peter and Paul, Assumption, and All Saints. St. Joseph's Day had ceased being a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States. However, it remained a holy day in some other parts of the world.

In 1911, Pope St. Pius X issued Supremi disciplinæ which drastically reduced the number of Holy Days of Obligation in the Universal Church to only 8. St. Joseph's Day did not make the list. Shortly thereafter in 1917, however, Corpus Christi and St. Joseph were added back by his successor, bringing the total to 10. The 10 currently observed on the Universal Calendar are the same as from 1917.

As for the Holy Days observed in the United States, the Catholic Encyclopedia in referencing Supremi disciplinæ noted, "Where, however, any of the above feasts has been abolished or transferred, the new legislation is not effective. In the United States consequently the Epiphany and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul are not days of precept." The same is true of St. Joseph's Day in the changes in 1917. While the 1917 change did not add St. Joseph's Day back to the list of Holy Days of Obligation in the United States, it did elsewhere.

Presently, Indonesia, Lebanon, Malta, Spain, and the Diocese of Lugano in Switzerland keep St. Joseph's Day as a Holy Day.

Why have a Devotion to St. Joseph?

St. Teresa of Avila answered:

To the other Saints it appears that the Lord may have granted power to succor us on particular occasions; but to this Saint, as experience proves, He has granted power to help us on all occasions. Our Lord would teach us that, as he was pleased to be subject to Joseph upon the earth, so He is now pleased to grant whatever this Saint asks for in heaven. Others whom I have recommended to have recourse to Joseph, have known this from experience. I never knew any one who was particularly devout to him, that did not continually advance more and more in virtue. For the love of God, let him who believes not this make his own trial. And I do not know how any one can think of the Queen of Angels, at the time when she labored so much in the infancy and childhood of Jesus, and not return thanks to Joseph for the assistance which he rendered both to the Mother and to the Son"

For this reason, we can say that St. Joseph is the first among the saints after our Blessed Mother. We call this protodulia.

Sermon 2 "On St Joseph" by St. Bernardine of Siena:

This is the general rule that applies to all individual graces given to a rational creature. Whenever divine grace selects someone to receive a particular grace, or some especially favoured position, all the gifts for his state are given to that person, and. enrich him abundantly.

This is especially true of that holy man Joseph, the supposed father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and true husband of the queen of the world and of the angels. He was chosen by the eternal Father to be the faithful foster-parent and guardian of the most precious treasures of God, his Son and his spouse. This was the task which he so faithfully carried out. For this, the Lord said to him, "Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord."

A comparison can be made between Joseph and the whole Church of Christ. Joseph was the specially chosen man through whom and under whom Christ entered the world fittingly and in an appropriate way. So, if the whole Church is in the debt of the Virgin Mary, since, through her, it was able to receive the Christ, surely after her, it also owes to Joseph special thanks and veneration.

For he it is who marks the closing of the old testament. In him the dignity of the prophets and patriarchs achieves its promised fulfillment. Moreover; he alone possessed in the flesh what God in his goodness promised to them over and again.

It is beyond doubt that Christ did not deny to Joseph in heaven that intimacy, respect, and high honour which he showed to him as to a father during his own human life, but rather completed and perfected it. Justifiably the words of the Lord should be applied to him, "Enter into the joy of your Lord." Although it is the joy of eternal happiness that comes into the heart of man, the Lord prefers to say to him "enter into joy". The mystical implication is that this joy is not just inside man, but surrounds him everywhere and absorbs him, as if he were plunged in an infinite abyss.

Therefore be mindful of us, blessed Joseph, and intercede for us with Him Whom men thought to be your Son. Win for us the favour of the most Blessed Virgin your spouse, the mother of Him Who lives and reigns with the Holy Spirit through ages unending. Amen.


Quamquam Pluries:

"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 fervor 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" 

(Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII promulgated on August 15, 1889).

Prayer:

We beseech Thee, O Lord, that we may be helped by the merits of the Spouse of Thy most holy Mother: so that what we cannot obtain of ourselves, may be given to us through his intercession: Who livest and reignest.

Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal

2 comment(s):

del_button March 20, 2006 at 7:25 AM
Sharon said...

Amen!
Thank you. I think I am beginning to stop by every day and read the prayer/meditation. It's actually becoming part of my daily prayer. :)

del_button March 20, 2006 at 2:56 PM
Matthew said...

I'm so glad to hear that, Sharon. Thank you!

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