Poor St. Joseph

St. Joseph & Child Jesus | Jesus prints, Joseph, Catholic images

Maybe it’s because his feast day (March 19) comes so close to St. Patrick’s Day that it fails to receive any acknowledgment. And it always falls during Lent. Not exactly party time for many Catholics.

The lack of attention seems terribly unfair. After all, Joseph was the foster father of Jesus. Goodness knows there have been efforts to shine a brighter light on the patron saint of workers.

In 2010 Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, the pastor of Sacred Heart of Mary parish on Wolfe Island in Ontario suggested the feast of St. Joseph be a holyday of obligation in Canada, just like Christmas.

“Canada has the fewest number of holy days possible —  Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. It’s rather embarrassing to explain to Catholics in other countries that we Canadians opt for the fewest possible holy days, which ought to be days to celebrate the richness of Catholic liturgical and devotional life. So why not add St. Joseph’s feast to our list of holy days?” wrote de Souza who contends that Canada’s best known saint, Brother André of Montreal urged thousands to emulate Joseph.

Pope Francis has proclaimed a special “Year of St Joseph” that began on December 8, 2020, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and extends to the same holyday in 2021.

In an Apostolic Letter (Patris corde) Pope Francis wrote:

Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.

Thanks to his role in salvation history, Saint Joseph has always been venerated as a father by the Christian people. This is shown by the countless churches dedicated to him worldwide, the numerous religious Institutes, Confraternities and ecclesial groups inspired by his spirituality and bearing his name, and the many traditional expressions of piety in his honour.

Joseph accepted Mary unconditionally. Today, in our world where psychological, verbal and physical violence towards women is so evident, Joseph appears as the figure of a respectful and sensitive man.

The Gospel does not tell us how long Mary, Joseph and the child remained in Egypt. Yet they certainly needed to eat, to find a home and employment. It does not take much imagination to fill in those details. The Holy Family had to face concrete problems like every other family, like so many of our migrant brothers and sisters who, today too, risk their lives to escape misfortune and hunger. In this regard, I consider Saint Joseph the special patron of all those forced to leave their native lands because of war, hatred, persecution and poverty.

The Son of the Almighty came into our world in a state of great vulnerability. He needed to be defended, protected, cared for and raised by Joseph. God trusted Joseph, as did Mary, who found in him someone who would not only save her life, but would always provide for her and her child.

Consequently, every poor, needy, suffering or dying person, every stranger, every prisoner, every infirm person is “the child” whom Joseph continues to protect. For this reason, Saint Joseph is invoked as protector of the unfortunate, the needy, exiles, the afflicted, the poor and the dying.  Consequently, the Church cannot fail to show a special love for the least of our brothers and sisters, for Jesus showed a particular concern for them and personally identified with them. From Saint Joseph, we must learn that same care and responsibility. We must learn to love the child and his mother, to love the sacraments and charity, to love the Church and the poor.

Poor St. Joseph? Maybe not.

He’s the only saint to have two feast days. There’s March 19. And Pope Pius XII established an additional Feast of “St. Joseph the Worker” celebrated on May 1 to coincide with the celebration of International Workers’ Day around the world.

1 “Gentle Joseph, Joseph dear,
stay with me, for the baby’s near;
God will surely your goodness hear,
as you will love this new-born child,” says Mary.

2 “Gladly Mary, Mary mine,
I will cradle the child divine;
Here will heaven and earth combine,
for you will bear God’s child, O dearest Mary.”

3 “Peace to all and God’s good-will,”
heaven and earth with this song will fill;
Soon will God, in the evening still,
be born in Bethlehem, the child of Mary.

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