St. Joseph, like Our Lady, has a unique role in our salvation. He has been raised up as the universal patron of the Church and his name has been added to all of the Eucharist Prayers of the Mass. Due to his mission to serve as Jesus’ foster father and to watch over the Church, we should pray to St. Joseph often, even daily.
As Catholics we have a set repertoire of prayers we remember and pray frequently: The Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. If we are going to pray to St. Joseph regularly, I realized that we need a short prayer that we can memorize easily and recite often. After praying about this for a couple of years, I felt inspired to try to write one. I tried to base the prayer on Scripture as much as possible. I provide the key scriptural passages, which I drew upon, below.
Here is my proposed prayer, followed by a line by line explanation:
Joseph, Son of David, you are the just man the Lord placed over His house. You did what the angel commanded and so we go to you in time of need. O foster father of Jesus, pray to your Son for us.
Joseph, Son of David – Joseph is in the line of David and heir to David’s throne. He passes this line on to his foster Son, Jesus.
You are the just man – Justice marks Joseph as his main characteristic. He fulfills his duties to God and others, as an obedient man of God.
The Lord placed over His house – Joseph had authority over the Christ child and His home. He also has been placed over the household of the Church as her universal patron.
You did what the angel commanded – Joseph never speaks in the Gospels, but we see his action of obedience to the voice of the angel on three occasions (taking Mary as his wife, fleeing to Egypt, and returning home).
And so we go to you in time of need – Just as Joseph provided relief in famine in the Old Testament by serving Pharaoh, Joseph provides for our needs with the true King as the steward of His house.
Foster father of Jesus – Joseph gives the name Jesus to his foster son and exercises a true legal fatherhood over Him.
Pray to your Son for us – Due to this fatherhood, Joseph intercedes powerfully to his Son on behalf of the Church.
There are three main sources for the prayer.
First, the allegorical foundation for Joseph’s role in the new Testament, found in Genesis 41:
And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a man as this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discreet and wise as you are; you shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Behold, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” . . . When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do.” So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth (verses 38-41; 55-57).
There are many connections between the two Josephs. Both were just men, who went to Egypt, received dreams, and were put in authority over the house of a king.
Matthew Gospel uses the Joseph story in two ways. First, in Matthew 24, Jesus refers back to the Joseph story in the parable of the faithful servant: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?” (v. 45). The connection to the Joseph story in the Old Testament is clear, using the language of being placed over the house and giving food. The Church connects this passage to the second Joseph, using it in the preface of St. Joseph: “For this just man was given by you as spouse to the Virgin Mother of God and set as a wise and faithful servant in charge of your household to watch like a father over your Only Begotten Son.”
The main source for the prayer is from Matthew 1:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name shall be called Emman′u-el” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus (vv. 18-25).
This passage teaches us much about Joseph: a just man, son of God, exercising authority over the child by naming Him, and obedience to God’s commands.
I offer one important clarification for the end of the prayer. Can we speak of Joseph as Jesus’ father? Jesus Himself seems to point us toward His Heavenly Father, diminishing the role of Joseph: “And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.’ And he said to them, ‘How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’” (Luke 2:48-49). Earlier in verse 33, though, Luke refers to Joseph as Jesus’ father: “And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.” In John 6:42, the Jews, in confusion ask: “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” Once again, this could be seen as a slight as they cannot recognize Jesus’ Heavenly Father, but it also means that Jesus was known as the son of Joseph publicly (see also Luke 4:22, Matthew 13:25).
John also refers to Jesus more positively as the son of Joseph, when Philip relates to Nathaniel that he has found the prophet referred to by Moses, “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (1:45). The Messiah is the son of Joseph, just as He is the son of David. We must recognize the Heavenly as the true and ultimate Father of Jesus, but also that Jesus was obedient to his foster Father and accepted him as His guardian. Joseph was Jesus’ adopted father (or altor in Latin), which was sufficient to establish Jesus’ descent in the Davidic line. Joseph’s true, if secondary, fatherhood provides a crucial part of the lineage of Jesus as the Messiah (even if Mary also descended from the Davidic line).
I hope the prayer helps you to relate better to St. Joseph by being able to memorize it easily and to pray it frequently. I’ve found myself reciting it especially as I pass the statue of St. Joseph at church. It’s helped me to develop a stronger and more consistent relationship with St. Joseph. I hope it will do the same for you!