When you ask any good father what he wants for his birthday, you’re likely to get a dismissive wave and perhaps a request for a beer and some time with his kids. Though I don’t have any kids of my own, this is the regular pattern I constantly observe with my dad and plenty of other dads out there. It’s not that they don’t deserve a big celebration, but more that seeing their kids doing well is all they ever needed.
St. Joseph, the foster father of Our Lord and a model for all fathers has a sort of “birthday” coming up on March 19th when we celebrate The Solemnity of St. Joseph, also popularly known as St. Joseph’s Day. In Boston’s North End and throughout many Italian-American communities it takes on the feeling of a big party with parades, processions, and other kinds of celebrations. These particular celebrations stem from giving thanks to St. Joseph’s intercession for avoiding a famine in Sicily and they are a testament to his powerful intercession.
While Joseph doesn’t say a lot in the Bible, he is rightly called the Patron of the Universal Church for his life, love and protection of both Mary and Our Lord. Pope Leo XIII, in observing how Joseph acted as a husband and father, reflected on this great saint:
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.
With his solemnity quickly approaching, it is customary to being to pray the St. Joseph Novena beginning on March 10th, which happens to be tomorrow. This powerful prayer ranks right up there with the St. Jude novena in answering some seemingly unanswerable prayers. In my own life, I’ve seen it at work.
St. Joseph and Me
This story, my own, is one of many stories of when God provided a small miracle through the intercession of St. Joseph. While it is my own story, you, my dear reader, share in it.
In 2013 I was having one of the roughest years of my life. The year started with a painful infection that put me out of work for several weeks and I had a cancer scare on top of that. That led to me being fired from one job and working a bunch of temporary roles until I found a permanent job with a small startup that also let me go a few months later due to dwindling sales. In August of 2013, I was out of money, quickly running out of food, and had to sell my guitar to pay bills and put gas in the car. My electricity was shut off and only by borrowing funds and begging did I get it turned back on.
There’s no other way to say it: I was desperate and felt abandoned by God.
My final act, after too many rejections, was to pray a novena to St. Joseph. I had prayed it before for minor things like doing well in school and getting into grad school. This time, I was praying for what felt like a miracle to me. I needed work, and I needed it fast.
The first day of the Novena I had two interviews and prayed it faithfully every morning as I continued to look for work. The very ninth day of the novena I got a call with a job offer with just enough compensation to start paying my rent again. As you will likely gather, that job was with Sophia Institute Press to oversee Catholic Exchange, and I can’t tell you how much I’ve given thanks to God for hearing me and St. Joseph and putting me in this position. I think of my time here as a work to bring glory to God and I especially thank St. Joseph for having the heart of a father enough to not just get me another job but to allow me to be in a place where I get to make a difference in the Church and the World.
If you’ve been blessed by CE at all, you owe St. Joseph the gratitude for putting me here and reminding me why I work the long hours.
Ways to Use This Novena
If you’d like to start the novena tomorrow, I encourage you to think of some great need for yourself or others. I can’t guarantee that you will get the exact answer you want, but St. Joseph is there to listen like a patient father and to intercede for you to God, the greatest of Fathers.
If you don’t have a pressing need, I have one idea. Tomorrow morning, when you start the novena, ask St. Joseph to remember and intercede for the Middle Eastern Christians who are being martyred and oppressed by ISIS. They, our brothers and sisters in Christ, are suffering in ways we can’t imagine. Now, if you will join me, is the time to pray to St. Joseph, that Patron of the Universal Church, to quickly bring relief and to fortify their resolve. Imagine if the many of you who read these words begin to pray this powerful novena for those who have so little to count on. We may not be able to go there ourselves, but we can give a few minutes in the morning to ask and pray for help.
Also, as Lent is a time to give alms, consider giving to a charity that is over in the Middle East helping our brothers and sisters. One such organization is the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, but there are several others.
Through the intercession of St. Joseph, may we reflect his tender heart and go about to save lives and souls.
The St. Joseph Novena
Say this prayer every morning for nine days.
O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.
O Saint Joseph, 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 Saint Joseph, I never weary 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. Amen
O Saint Joseph, hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. O Saint Joseph, pray for me. (Mention your intention)
Editor’s note: A great resource for learning about the life and prayers of St. Joseph is The Life and Glories of St. Joseph, which is available at most libraries and in inexpensive books.