Beginning with Chapter 37, The Book of Genesis describes the adventures of Joseph, son of Jacob, sold into slavery and taken to Egypt. By way of his dreams, he was appointed Egypt’s prime minister, allowing him to save his family and the peoples of the world he knew from a lengthy, widespread famine. When his subjects cried out in their need, Pharaoh told them, “Go to Joseph” (Gen 41:55).
Similarly, Joseph the carpenter, by way of his dreams, fled to Egypt saving his family, including the Savior of the world, from a royal madman’s deadly rage.
Joseph, the model of a faithful husband and father, provided for Mary and Jesus and acted with loving vigilance and constancy. He remained at all times courageous and unquestioningly obedient to the commands of God.
In his Apostolic Letter Patris Corde (“With a Father’s Heart”) Pope Frances bids us turn to St. Joseph throughout this, the sesquicentennial of Blessed Pius IX proclaiming him Patron of the Universal Church. In this year, the Church points to the humble foster father of Jesus for his paternal protection and intercession especially during the virulent COVID-19 pestilence.
During 2021, special blessings are granted all Catholics participating in celebrating the Year of St. Joseph. They are encouraged to invoke the spiritual support of the steadfast and courageous head of the Holy Family. Most especially, a plenary indulgence may be gained under the usual conditions (going to Confession, receiving Holy Communion, and praying for the intentions of the pope).
Taking Part in the Year of St. Joseph
Pope Francis suggests the following activities for Catholics to gain indulgences during the Church’s extraordinary celebration of St Joseph and his virtuous life:
• Privately meditating for at least 30 minutes on our relationship with God as outlined in the Our Father;
• Participation in a spiritual retreat of at least one day which includes meditation on the life and vocation of St Joseph;
• Performing a corporal or spiritual work of mercy;
• Recitation of the Most Holy Rosary by families or engaged couples;
• Entrusting each workday’s activities to the protection of St Joseph;
• Invoking St. Joseph’s intercession to those seeking employment, that they may find it, and that all may be engaged in dignified work;
• Recitation of the Litany of St. Joseph (for those belonging to the Latin tradition), or the Akathistos of St. Joseph — in whole or in part (for those belonging to the Byzantine tradition), or some other prayer to St. Joseph (for those belonging to other liturgical traditions) asking his intercession to strengthen members of the persecuted Church, and to alleviate the miseries of all Christians suffering the anguish of any form of persecution, and;
• Recitation of any legitimately approved prayer, or taking part in any act of piety, in honor of St. Joseph, especially on his feast days, March 19 and May 1; St. Joseph’s Sunday (Byzantine tradition); the 19th day of each month; and on every Wednesday throughout the year.
The Church most especially extends the gift of this indulgence to “the elderly, the sick, the dying and all those who for legitimate reasons are unable to leave the house” in this time of pandemic, as long as they are detached from sin and intend to fulfill the usual conditions as soon as possible, as well as if they “recite an act of piety in honor of St. Joseph, comforter of the sick and patron of a happy death, offering with trust in God the pains and discomforts of their lives.” All priests are encouraged to make themselves more available for the dispensing of the sacraments to the sick and homebound.
Demonic forces are taking advantage of the pandemic. Research from the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care, shows the plague of COVID-19 has caused some 75,000 people to die from a “growing epidemic of deaths of despair”— from abuse of drugs and alcohol along with outright suicide. St. Faustina called St. Joseph “the terror of demons.” Pray that the good saint spiritually assists anyone driven to desolation and hopelessness by driving away the malicious devils using despair to drag souls to hell.
It would be of exceptional merit and a mighty act of piety to beg St. Joseph, the holy foster father of Jesus, for his aid in the spiritual warfare raised against forces which destroy families and ruin lives. First, by ending the satanic abortion industry, that those so employed will know the presence of God and turn from this catastrophic horror, a modern massacre of innocents.
Second, ask St. Joseph, the chaste spouse of the Holy Virgin Mary, to aid in the struggle against the human trafficking. Pray for those involved, the exploiters and the exploited participating in vile activities, that they may be freed from what is nothing other than a variant of the slave trade.
Third, call on St. Joseph, who recognized evil in the rulers of his own day, to pray God to bring about a change in the hearts of political, bureaucratic and civic officials who cause so much heartache to so many families by protecting, partaking or collaborating in any foul or loathsome practices.
When his subjects cried out in distress, Pharaoh told them, “Go to Joseph.” Echoing that recommendation St. Teresa of Avila suggested, “We can have recourse to many saints as our intercessors, but go especially to Joseph.” That’s still good advice.
St. Joseph’s Feast Days and Prayers
March 19 has been devoted to St. Joseph for over a millennium. On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, priests exchange the purple or violet vestments of Lent for the joyous colors of white or gold. The Gloria is sung or recited, as is the Creed.
A major feature of St. Joseph Day is the “St. Joseph’s Table” featuring spaghetti and fava beans, held in many Catholic parishes, usually freely offered or asking a donation for the poor. The following article gives the story: https://www.ncregister.com/blog/the-tradition-of-the-saint-joseph-s-day-table
And here are a few more recipes for the feast: https://www.cookingwithnonna.com/italian-cuisine/st-josephs-bread.html
Following World War II, Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, to be celebrated each year on May 1, as a way to Christianize the May Day celebrations of laborers made atheistic as the specter of godless Communism loomed large in Russia, China and Eastern Europe, while making inroads into Western Europe and South America. This political/economic system caused vast disruption of lives, education and commerce, not to mention the millions who suffered privation, torture and death for refusing to deny Christ.
Other Books and Resources for the Year of St. Joseph
• The Litany of St. Joseph:
• “Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father” by Father Donald Calloway MIC, brings to life the wonders, the power, and the ceaseless love of St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church and the Terror of Demons.
• “Joseph the Silent” by Michel Gasnier, O.P., an enlightening portrait of this man who remains one of the Church’s most extraordinary saints and intercessors.
• “St. Joseph and His World” by Mike Aquilina, newly published in January 2021. According to Dr. Scott Hahn, “You’ll learn about Nazareth . . . You’ll also find out how a carpenter worked in those days . . . where he got his training, and how he got to and from his job sites.”
(Editor’s note: Holy Apostles parishioner Zac Crippen recently interviewed Father Donald Calloway about the book “Consecration to St. Joseph” for his “Creedal Catholic” podcast. The episode can be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQF2huj3rro.)
(Sean M. Wright, an Emmy-nominated television writer, is a Master Catechist for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is also part of the RCIA team at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Santa Clarita, CA. He responds to comments sent him at Locksley69@aol.com.)
Six ways to earn a plenary indulgence during the Year of St. Joseph (diocs.org)