In my experience – certainly speaking for myself – poor St. Joseph seems to somehow take a back seat to Our Lord and His Blessed Mother. It seems his main “claim to fame” among many Catholics is as a guarantee of the sale of a house. The idea of burying a statue of him – upside down, some have told me – in the yard of the house to be sold just doesn’t do much for me. It seems rather self-serving and disrespectful.
Over the last year, though, I’ve been working on developing more of a relationship with the Guardian of the Redeemer. St. Teresa of Avila, my confirmation saint, highly recommends devotion to St. Joseph, so I took her at her word and started praying to him.
In reflecting on the beginning of Advent season, I thought about St. Joseph. St. Joseph waits in the background. Oh, he’s there, and we see him leading the donkey that carries Mary to Bethlehem for the census; we see him in the manger, adoring the Child with Mary, the angels, and the shepherds. But I think about him waiting…waiting for a baby to be born – his baby - that is, the baby he will be responsible to care for as an earthly father cares for his children. But he knows all along that this is a Very Special Baby. Surely he must have wondered, “How do I take care of the Son of God?!” And so his waiting must have been characterized by the excited anticipation most of us feel at the imminent birth of a baby, and yet not a little trepidation at the thought of the majesty of the Child, and of the magnitude of the honor and responsibility God was bestowing on him as the human father of Jesus.
St. Joseph is a powerful saint. From the Litany of St. Joseph, we find that he is, among other things:
Mirror of patience,
Lover of poverty,
Model of artisans,
Glory of home life,
Guardian of virgins,
Pillar of families,
Solace of the wretched,
Hope of the sick,
Patron of the dying,
Terror of demons,
Protector of Holy Church.
And the prayer at the end of this litany is a tribute to his power as a protector and intercessor:
O God, in your ineffable providence you were pleased to choose Blessed Joseph to be the spouse of your most holy Mother; grant, we beg you, that we may be worthy to have him for our intercessor in heaven whom on earth we venerate as our Protector: You who live and reign forever and ever. R/ Amen.
A couple of years ago, I discovered that Leo XIII had instituted a prayer to St. Joseph that was to be said after the recitation of the Rosary all through the month of October. This year, I prayed that prayer faithfully all through that month. To me, it seems like a prayer the Church needs now, and not just in October, so I continue to pray it:
To you, O Blessed Joseph, we come in our trials, and having asked the help of your most holy spouse, we confidently ask your patronage also. Through that sacred bond of charity which united you to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and through the fatherly love with which you embraced the Child Jesus, we humbly beg you to look graciously upon the beloved inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by his blood, and to aid us in our necessities with your power and strength.
O most provident guardian of the Holy Family, defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ. Most beloved father, dispel the evil of falsehood and sin. Our most mighty protector, graciously assist us from heaven in our struggle with the powers of darkness. And just as you once saved the Child Jesus from mortal danger, so now defend God's Holy Church from the snares of her enemies and from all adversity. Shield each one of us by your constant protection, so that, supported by your example and your help, we may be able to live a virtuous life, to die a holy death, and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven. Amen.
These are tough times for the Church. Tougher times seem likely to follow. This may be a very good time to increase our prayers to St. Joseph, Terror of Demons and Protector of Holy Church.