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Celebrating St. Joseph on his feast day and with a special year

News of the Diocese

March 18, 2021

Celebrating St. Joseph on his feast day and with a special year

The mention of St. Joseph conjures up thoughts of a holy man, the spouse of Mary, earthly father of Jesus and a hard-working carpenter.

Although he’s one of the most-recognized saints, little is known about him.

In the Bible, he is referred to as a “just man,” which was considered a high compliment in his time. It also meant that he was willing and open to do whatever God asked of him, including taking Mary as his wife, despite her unusual – and blessed pregnancy (Matthew 1:19). He also loved and cared for Jesus. There also is a reference that St. Joseph was a descendant of King David.

St. Joseph protected his family, heeding the Lord’s direction, which came in a series of dreams and messages from angels.

After being instructed not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, he did. They traveled to Bethlehem, where he found a safe place for Jesus to be born. In another dream, he followed the angel’s direction to flee with Mary and baby Jesus to Egypt to protect them. Later, when those who wanted to harm Jesus were gone, an angel instructed Joseph to return home.

After that, there is little mention of St. Joseph.

Recently, Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter titled “Patris Corde” in Latin. It translates to “With a Father’s Heart,” in which the pope describes St. Joseph as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father, a father who is creatively courageous, a working father and a father in the shadows.

The apostolic letter marks the 150th anniversary of Blessed Pope Pius IX’s declaration of St. Joseph as patron of the Universal Church. To celebrate that anniversary, Pope Francis proclaimed a special Year of St. Joseph that runs from Dec. 8, 2020 to Dec. 8, 2021.

Written against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Holy Father said we are able to see more clearly the importance of “ordinary” people who exercise patience and offer hope daily. These people resemble St. Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence,” who played “an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”

Churches, schools and religious orders are named after this beloved saint. He has two feast days: March 19 is the traditional feast day of St. Joseph, husband of Mary that has been on the liturgical calendar for many years – dating to about the 10th century. May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, was established in 1955 by Pope Pius XII.

St. Joseph’s feast often is celebrated by attending Mass and setting up a special altar or table where food, flowers and objects are placed to express thanks and gratitude to the saint or to seek his intercession. Since the feast usually falls in Lent, bishops may bishops grant a dispensation from abstinence on St. Joseph’s feast day when it falls on a Friday in Lent. That is the case this year in the Diocese of Cleveland.

In some images, St. Joseph is seen holding lilies, which symbolize integrity and indicate that he was the earthly spouse of the Blessed Mother, whose purity is represented by a white lily. A group of three lilies can represent the Trinity.

Many people pray to St. Joseph for intercession, including praying novenas, a nine-day series of prayers or devotions.

It is believed that St. Joseph died before Jesus began his public ministry.

St, Joseph is known as the patron saint of the Universal Church, a happy death, families, fathers, expectant mothers, explorers, pilgrims, travelers, immigrants, home sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers and working people. Also, many cities and countries are dedicated to him.

A variety of prayer and novenas to St. Joseph can be accessed here on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

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