Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Prayer to St. Joseph: Pope Leo XIII

In 1889, Pope Leo XIII promulgated the encyclical Quamquam Pluries, in which he discussed the power of prayer to the saints (especially the Blessed Virgin Mary) during “periods of stress and trial” in the world.  He also discussed devotion to St. Joseph, and presented a prayer to St. Joseph to be said after the Rosary during the month of October.

The Holy Father gives the following explanation for the need for special prayers for the world at that time (and he could be speaking of our current world situation!):

 …Now, Venerable Brethren, you know the times in which we live; they are scarcely less deplorable for the Christian religion than the worst days, which in time past were most full of misery to the Church. We see faith, the root of all the Christian virtues, lessening in many souls; we see charity growing cold; the young generation daily growing in depravity of morals and views; the Church of Jesus Christ attacked on every side by open force or by craft; a relentless war waged against the Sovereign Pontiff; and the very foundations of religion undermined with a boldness which waxes daily in intensity. These things are, indeed, so much a matter of notoriety that it is needless for Us to expatiate on the depths to which society has sunk in these days, or on the designs which now agitate the minds of men. In circumstances so unhappy and troublous, human remedies are insufficient, and it becomes necessary, as a sole resource, to beg for assistance from the Divine power. (1)

… At this proximity of the month of October, which We have already consecrated to the Virgin Mary, under the title of Our Lady of the Rosary, We earnestly exhort the faithful to perform the exercises of this month with, if possible, even more piety and constancy than heretofore. We know that there is sure help in the maternal goodness of the Virgin, and We are very certain that We shall never vainly place Our trust in her. If, on innumerable occasions, she has displayed her power in aid of the Christian world, why should We doubt that she will now renew the assistance of her power and favor, if humble and constant prayers are offered up on all sides to her? …

But We entertain another object, which, according to your wont, Venerable Brethren, you will advance with fervor. …We judge it of deep utility for the Christian people, continually to invoke with great piety and trust, together with the Virgin-Mother of God, her chaste Spouse, the Blessed Joseph; and We regard it as most certain that this will be most pleasing to the Virgin herself… And as, moreover, it is of high importance that the devotion to St. Joseph should engraft itself upon the daily pious practices of Catholics, We desire that the Christian people should be urged to it above all by Our words and authority. (2)

The special motives for which St. Joseph has been proclaimed Patron of the Church, and from which the Church looks for singular benefit from his patronage and protection, are that Joseph was the spouse of Mary and that he was reputed the Father of Jesus Christ. From these sources have sprung his dignity, his holiness, his glory. In truth, the dignity of the Mother of God is so lofty that naught created can rank above it. But as Joseph has been united to the Blessed Virgin by the ties of marriage, it may not be doubted that he approached nearer than any to the eminent dignity by which the Mother of God surpasses so nobly all created natures. For marriage is the most intimate of all unions which from its essence imparts a community of gifts between those that by it are joined together. Thus in giving Joseph the Blessed Virgin as spouse, God appointed him to be not only her life's companion, the witness of her maidenhood, the protector of her honor, but also, by virtue of the conjugal tie, a participator in her sublime dignity.

…And for such reasons the Blessed Patriarch looks upon the multitude of Christians who make up the Church as confided specially to his trust—this limitless family spread over the earth, over which, because he is the spouse of Mary and the Father of Jesus Christ he holds, as it were, a paternal authority. It is, then, natural and worthy that as the Blessed Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and girt it about with his protection, he should now cover with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.  (3)

This is the reason why—trusting much to your zeal and episcopal authority, Venerable Brethren, and not doubting that the good and pious faithful will run beyond the mere letter of the law—We prescribe that during the whole month of October, at the recitation of the Rosary, for which We have already legislated, a prayer to St. Joseph be added, the formula of which will be sent with this letter, and that this custom should be repeated every year. To those who recite this prayer, We grant for each time an indulgence of seven years and seven Lents… (6)

Calling on St. Joseph, along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, makes perfect sense, especially these days! I pray it every day of the year - not just in October. 

And of course, it was Pope Leo XIII who wrote and instituted the praying of the St. Michael prayer after low Mass (go here for other Leonine prayers, including the longer version of the St. Michael prayer); certainly it would be appropriate to be begging for the Archangel’s aid as well, as our Church and our nation face grave dangers in the current cultural milieu.

Here’s the prayer to St. Joseph:

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

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.


  1. Beautiful, thank you so much for this. St. Joseph pray for us and for the whole Church in these days...

  2. St Joseph loving husband of the virgin Mary.I honor you


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