On December 8, 1870, Blessed Pope Pius IX proclaimed St. Joseph as the patron of the Universal Church. To commemorate this anniversary, Pope Francis declared a Year of St. Joseph, running from December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021. The Holy Father encouraged Catholics all over the world to spend the year learning more about St. Joseph and growing in devotion to him.
One of the most remarkable things about St. Joseph is how little we know about him, considering what an incredibly important role he played in the life of Our Lord and that of Our Lady. Very few verses of Sacred Scripture are dedicated to St. Joseph, and not a single word of his is recorded. And yet, because of his role in the Holy Family, the very foundations of the Church, he has become one of the most important patrons the Church has seen.
In recent years, there has been increased interest in St. Joseph, which has led to the production of many helpful resources. St. Joseph is widely recognized as an exemplary saint and patron for fathers, step-fathers, foster-fathers, workers, manual laborers, and much more. He is the patron of a happy death, because of the tradition that he died with the Blessed Virgin Mary and Our Blessed Lord at his side. If we learn more about his life, more about the traditional devotion to him, we can develop a great devotion ourselves to St. Joseph.
We are now in the final months of the Year of St. Joseph. There was quite a media reaction when the year was announced and when it kicked off, but it has sort of fallen off the radar for many of us. Lest the Year of St. Joseph fizzle out or fade away, here are some wonderful resources about the head of the Holy Family to make the remainder of this Year fruitful.
First, there are the documents about St. Joseph produced by popes over the last 100 or more years. There is Quemadmodum Deus, the decree of Bl. Pius IX that declared St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church. Then there is Quamquam Pluries, the encyclical letter of Pope Leo XIII on devotion to St. Joseph. Pope Benedict XV also wrote a letter, a motu proprio, on devotion to St. Joseph, titled Bonum sane. St. John Paul II wrote an Apostolic Exhortation on the Person and Mission of St. Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church, a masterwork of devotion to Our Lord’s foster father, called Redemptoris Custos, as well as an Apostolic Letter on the 150th anniversary of Pius IX’s declaration of Joseph as Universal Patron, titled Patris Corde.
Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, is a member of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, and is a well-known speaker. He is the author of Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father (Marian Press, 2020). This is a fascinating book, the publication of which was rather prescient and providential, given the Holy Father’s declaration of the Year of St. Joseph shortly thereafter. (As a matter of fact, Fr. Calloway wrote a letter to Pope Francis proposing a year of St. Joseph, which was hand-delivered to the Holy Father in early 2020. While he takes no credit for the declaration, Fr. Calloway is ecstatic that the Church is giving so much attention to our Universal Patron and protector.) Drawing on the Church’s tradition and the writings of dozens of saints and theologians, Fr. Calloway presents a beautiful and moving process of consecration to the foster father of Our Lord, and the husband and protector of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Mike Aquilina, author of more than 60 books, recently wrote a marvelous book that delves into devotion to St. Joseph, an attempt to understand this enigmatic and silent man. It is called St. Joseph and His World (Scepter Publishers, 2020). In the foreword, Scott Hahn remarks, “St. Joseph seems to go out of his way to be uncooperative with history,” an astute observation that describes well the dearth of information we have today about St. Joseph. Even still, Aquilina’s book gathers together everything we know about him, and everything we can surmise. He looks at the world inhabited by St. Joseph, the society and culture of Judea, the villages we know he lived in, and more. This is the world inhabited by Joseph, of course, but also that of Our Blessed Mother, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the apostles. Shining a light on the context in which they lived helps us to understand so much more about them. Once again, this is an example of Joseph leading us into deeper relationship with Jesus.
A new book by Joe Heschmeyer and published by Our Sunday Visitor, called A Man Named Joseph: Guardian for Our Times, covers some similar ground. Heschmeyer examines what the earliest Christians and the Bible have to tell us about St. Joseph. He tackles common questions: How and why is St. Joseph patron of the universal Church? How is he an exemplar as husband, father, and disciple of Jesus Christ? Each chapter of this book concludes with questions for personal reflection or group discussion, which makes this an ideal resource for group study of the life and influence of St. Joseph.
Joseph of Nazareth: The Story of the Man Closest to Christ (also available at Formed.org) is the first feature film ever made that is explicitly about St. Joseph. The film explores the daunting task that was entrusted to Joseph: protecting the honor and virginity of Mary, and raising and protecting Jesus, the Son of God, and the Word Incarnate. The film depicts a man of profound faith, who nevertheless struggled to grasp the mysteries before him. From the Incarnation to the birth of Jesus, the flight into Egypt to the finding in the Temple, and what the domestic life of the Holy Family (under Joseph’s headship) would have looked like, this film is an inspiring and moving look into the role that Joseph played in the earliest days and formative years of Our Blessed Lord here on earth.
Married Saints and Blesseds Through the Centuries (Ignatius Press, 2002) looks at just that: saints and blessed down through the centuries who were married. These men and women often get too little attention, as we seem to focus a great deal on saints who were clergy or professed religious, sometimes to the exclusion of laypeople. There have been a great number of married men and women raised to the altars. First and foremost among them are the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, who are considered first in this book. Most of the information we have about St. Joseph is in regards to his marriage to Our Lady, and this chapter digs into the Gospel accounts and explores everything we know about that marriage.
The resources we’ve seen so far help us to learn more about St. Joseph, but there are also devotional resources that help us grow in relationship with the foster father of Our Lord.
One of these, published by Magnificat, is Nine Days with Saint Joseph. Taking a unique approach to reflection on St. Joseph, each day of prayer features an original hymn for St. Joseph, an appropriate Scripture passage, a meditation or quote from a pope, saint, or other writer, prayers, and artwork. Each day looks at a different exemplary attribute of St. Joseph.
Ignatius Press and Magnificat team up to publish a large number of books for children, among them a beautiful little book that helps children learn more about St. Joseph and grow closer to him. Saint Joseph, Watch Over My Family, by Sabine du Mesnil and Hengjing Zang, also encourages children to come to St. Joseph and seek his intercession and protection, just as he protected Mary and Jesus and continues to intercede as universal patron of the Church.
Fr. Calloway also gathered a tremendous collection of quotes about St. Joseph into a lovely little book called St. Joseph Gems: Daily Wisdom on Our Spiritual Father. The quotes come from the writings of the popes, saints, blessed, and more, reflecting on Joseph’s role as guardian of the Virgin and Our Lord, protector of the Church, terror of demons, and more. The format featuring a number of short quotes makes this little book ideal for those who may not have much time to devote to study, but who still wish to reflect throughout the year on the life and influence of St. Joseph.
While there are many film depictions of the life of Christ, St. Joseph is a fairly insignificant figure in just about all of them. In a way this makes sense, considering how little we see of him in the Gospels. However, The Nativity Story, focused as it is on the time leading up to and including the birth of Jesus, features St. Joseph much more prominently. In this film St. Joseph is portrayed by Oscar Isaac—particularly recognizable today as one of the primary characters in the new Star Wars movies—who does a wonderful job communicating the profound devotion of St. Joseph to Mary, and to his foster son, Jesus. The film naturally takes a number of artistic liberties, since it aims to dramatically depict events we can only guess at, but the depiction of St. Joseph is probably its best and most important contribution to the cinematic landscape.
Formed.org, which is powered by the Augustine Institute and Ignatius Press, has several films and documentaries for the Year of St. Joseph. In Saint Joseph, Dr. Ben Akers and Taylor Kemp sit down to discuss the foster father of Our Lord in four episodes: “Old and New”, “Guardian of the Redeemer”, “Patron of the Universal Church”, and “Patron of the Domestic Church”. The two draw parallels between St. Joseph and Joseph the Son of Jacob, and look at the role he has played in the Church and can play in our lives.
In the audio section of Formed, you can also find a talk by Dr. Mark Miravalle entitled St. Joseph: Patron of the Universal Church, in which Miravalle dives into the mysterious hidden life of Joseph.
There is a lot of variety in these resources, which should appeal to a wide range of readers and viewers. There are a few months left in this Year of St. Joseph, so make the most of it by growing in your knowledge of and devotion to this great Saint!
• Related at CWR: “The often silent and surprising history of devotion to Saint Joseph” (March 18, 2021) by Sandra Miesel
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