St Joseph, Foster Father of God
O blessed Saint Joseph, how great was thy worth,
The one chosen shadow of God upon earth,
The father of Jesus, ah, then wilt thou be,
Sweet spouse of our Lady, a father to me?
– Fr Frederick William Faber, Dear Guardian of Mary
March is the Month of St Joseph, whose feast is celebrated on the 19th. As the protector of the Holy Family, he became a patron of the Universal Church, as proclaimed by Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1847. He is also a patron of the dying, as Jesus and Mary were at his deathbed, and we pray to him for a good and holy death. And of course, as the adoptive father of Jesus, St Joseph is the pre-eminent patron saint of fathers.
Image of God
Parents are their children’s primary educators. It is in the home, the domestic church, that we first learn how to be virtuous persons; ideally, our parents are the ones who introduce us to the knowledge and love of God, modelling how to serve Him through fitting worship, as well as charity to those around us.
Under the guardianship of St Joseph, the child Jesus “advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men” (Luke 2:52). We are made in the image and likeness of God, and we tend to relate to God the Father through our experience of fathers – biological or adoptive, and spiritual. As we live in a fallen world, we may have imperfect or absent fathers. Thankfully, our spiritual family in the Church can often provide mentors and friends to make up for our biological family’s weaknesses.
Identity & Purpose
Traditionally, before the Industrial Revolution, the home was also the primary unit of the economy and principal place of work. Children usually learned their parents’ trade, inheriting the family business when they came of age – hence surnames such as “Smith” for blacksmiths, goldsmiths or silversmiths, “Taylor” for tailors, “Knight”, “Baker” and so on. One was identified by one’s father’s occupation.
According to tradition, St Joseph was a carpenter. There are a variety of paintings on this theme, with St Joseph teaching Jesus his craft, juxtaposed as a harbinger of Christ’s death on the wooden cross with nails in His hands. Jesus is identified by his local community as “the carpenter’s son”. (Matthew 13:55) As humans, we generally find our identity and purpose in our relationships – within our families, schools, workplaces, and ultimately, God and His Church.
St Joseph is also a patron saint of workers, with the feast of St Joseph the Worker being celebrated on 1 May. If you need help discerning your vocation or finding employment, say a prayer to St Joseph for heavenly guidance.
Last year we celebrated the Year of St Joseph: as a Lenten devotion, you can complete the Consecration to St Joseph.
Prayer to St Joseph
O St Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh, St Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.
O St Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls – pray for me.