At the inspiration of my then-spiritual director, I named St. Joseph the patron of American Catholic Solidarity. It is for this reason that I included a second prayer to St. Joseph. Let us take a look at the “Litany of St. Joseph”.
“Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.”
Here we have a triple invocation to God in the Blessed Trinity. We ask the Trinity to have mercy on us. This is key, because mercy is exactly what this world needs right now.
“Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.”
We now briefly focus on God the Son. We ask Him to hear our prayer. God owes us nothing. We are the ones who owe Him everything. So we humbly turn to God, and we beg Him to hear us.
“God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us. God the Son, Redeemer of men, have mercy on us. God the Holy Spirit Sanctifier of souls, have mercy on us. Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.”
After begging God the Son to hear our prayer, we turn back to the Trinity and beg for mercy. It isn’t that Catholicism thinks of God as wrathful. We understand, however, how much even the smallest sin offends the infinite God. We are deserving of Hell for even the smallest infraction. We call on the Trinity, however, to never forget His great mercy.
“Holy Mary Queen of Heaven, pray for us.”
Again we turn to the Virgin Mary. In the history of salvation Mary and Jesus are inseparable. Mary plays an essential role in both our redemption and salvation. Non-Catholics’ objections notwithstanding. We have no more powerful intercessor. So we invoke the Virgin’s prayers for us.
“Holy Joseph, pray for us.”
Here we call St. Joseph holy. Why shouldn’t we call him holy? Wouldn’t the man who was selected to be the foster-father of Jesus have to be one of the “hagion”? Surely St. Joseph should be considered holy.
“Noble Scion of David, pray for us.”
We know that St. Joseph was related to King David. I am not here going to debate whether or not the Blessed Mother was related by blood to King David. There is some debate on this issue, but the argument is irrelevant.
In the Middle East it was customary to consider an adopted child as one’s own. In fact, we in America do the same today. Still, during the time of Christ, those united by covenant were considered closer than blood. You chose who you bound yourself to by oath. You did not choose who you were related to by blood.
So it was that Jesus was actually considered the Son of Joseph, even though Jesus wasn’t biologically related to St. Joseph. In addition, anyone who was an ancestor of St. Joseph would be considered the ancestor of Jesus. This had to be the case, since the Old Testament refers to the Messiah as being related to King David.
It is St. Joseph’s descent from King David, coupled with his foster-fatherhood of Jesus Christ, that allows us to call him the “Noble Scion of David”. Scion was the hill upon which the Temple of Solomon was built. Because St. Joseph was the foster-father and protector of Jesus, he truly is the “Noble Scion of David”. He was the tall, firm, noble hill which protected the Holy Family.
“Light of the Patriarchs, pray for us.”
Of all the Patriarchs of the Hebrews, St. Joseph was the greatest. Abraham received offspring in his old age, and received a covenant with God which promised him innumerable descendants. This covenant was renewed with Isaac, and furthered with his youngest twin son, Jacob.
Moses was considered the greatest of the Patriarchs. No one spoke to God in the way Moses did. It was to Moses that God revealed His name. Heck, Moses was even privileged enough to get a glimpse of God’s “back”.
But St. Joseph was greater than all of these. He received, and was made the protector of, the New Covenant. Moses and the Patriarchs before him received covenants from God which were to be temporary. They were just mere precursors to the New Covenant, Jesus Christ Himself. This New Covenant was to be permanent.
Furthermore, Moses was the only Patriarch to actually get a look at God Himself. Yet, Moses was only permitted a mere glimpse of God’s “back”. Joseph was permitted to live with God; to look upon and caress His divine face. What a privilege! How holy St. Joseph must have been.
“Spouse of the Mother of God, pray for us.”
There should be no dispute about this title. Joseph was the husband of the Virgin Mary, and She was the Mother of God. I know many Protestants prefer to call Mary the Mother of Jesus (and so She was), but the term Mother of God is preferable. Mary gave birth to a Person, not just a body. This Person happened to be a Divine Person who took on a human, as well. Hence, St. Joseph is rightly called the spouse to the Mother of God.
“Chaste Guardian of the Virgin, pray for us.”
Nothing is known for sure of Joseph’s past. Different theories are held. In the West it has long been held that St. Joseph was a virgin who married Mary. In the East it has long been held that St. Joseph was a widower with children from another marriage. The only thing that is certain is that the marriage between Joseph and Mary was a chaste one.
“Foster-father of the Son of God, Head of the Holy Family, pray for us.”
This title for St. Joseph is really self-explanatory. He was the foster-father of Jesus, and the Head of the Holy Family. There can really be no dispute here.
“Joseph must just, pray for us.”
To be considered worthy enough to be the husband of the Mother of God, and the foster-father of Jesus, you would have to be just. No one subject to being unfair or unjust in any way could be considered worthy enough to take care of the Son of God. No decent parent would ever knowingly select an unjust babysitter to watch their child. Why would the Father ever choose an unjust man to watch over His Son?
“Diligent Defender of Christ, pray for us.”
Being a parent is a difficult job. You must always be on your toes, because you never know what could happen. The world is a dangerous place. When your children are in trouble, you must be ready to defend them at all costs. Do you think St. Joseph would be any less diligent in his duty to defend Jesus?
“Joseph most chaste, pray for us.”
Whether or not St. Joseph was a widower is irrelevant to any discussion of this title. All that matter is what we know to be true. What we know is that Mary and St. Joseph never had sex. Both remained chaste throughout their marriage.
“Joseph most prudent, pray for us.”
Indeed, I think Scripture sufficiently proves the prudence of St. Joseph. When he found out Mary was pregnant, Joseph was going to divorce Her. Yet, in a dream an angel told St. Joseph to remain with Mary. Everything was alright, as the child was from the Holy Spirit.
St. Joseph could have blown this dream off. After all, wasn’t it just a dream? Yet, he was prudent enough to realize his dream was no mere dream. God had used a dream to communicate His plan to St. Joseph. Joseph remained with Mary.
After Jesus was born, the jealous King Herod sought to kill the child. He wasn’t certain how old the child was, but he knew Jesus couldn’t be older than two years old. So, he ordered all the males in Bethlehem two years old and younger to be slaughtered. Again, an angel warned St. Joseph in a dream; and he was prudent enough to heed the warning.
“Joseph most valiant, pray for us.”
St. Joseph was, indeed, most valiant. It takes a valiant man to accept Joseph’s mission. He had to raise a child not his own, as his own. Further, this child was to be the Messiah. On top of the extreme anxiety that would naturally come from raising the Messiah, there was the stress of raising Him in a hostile world. A world St. Joseph surely knew would never believe in, or accept, Him. To accept this task, and the task of living in a completely chaste marriage, takes an extraordinarily valiant man.
“Joseph most obedient, pray for us.”
We have already heard of St. Joseph’s obedience. He was instructed twice by God, and both times He obeyed. He remained with Jesus and Mary, and obeyed what he knew to be the manifest will of God.
“Joseph most faithful, pray for us.”
Through all the poverty and hardships he must have gone through, St. Joseph never wavered. He remained faithful to the task set before him by God Almighty. He knew God would never let him down, and he was given one of the greatest rewards any man ever received. St. Joseph died in the presence of Our Lord and Our Lady. They saw him off from his journey in this world. How good is our God?
“Mirror of Patience, pray for us.”
To live the life St. Joseph did must have taken unimaginable patience. Here you had the Messiah. You knew your own redemption, and the redemption of mankind, was near at hand. Yet, you had to wait. You had to drudge through everyday life, performing your everyday tasks knowing what was just around the corner.
“Lover of Poverty, pray for us.”
St. Joseph didn’t just live in poverty. He embraced it. He loved poverty. He understood the benefit of hard work, and of not having any luxuries. When all you have is your family and God, you learn what is really important in life. It isn’t the things of this world. It’s performing the will of God, and loving those He has given you in this life. Such are the gifts of poverty.
“Model of Laborers, pray for us.”
What better example of hard work is there, than St. Joseph? He was a carpenter. Being a carpentry isn’t easy work. It requires great skill and attention to detail. The work is slow and monotonous. For all of that, St. Joseph enjoyed his work, and gave it his all. We should all strive to follow this example.
“Ornament of domestic life, pray for us.”
What do we mean by calling St. Joseph the “Ornament of domestic life”? We mean that he is a great example for all families. All families should have a devotion to this greatest of earthly fathers.
“Protector of virgins, pray for us.”
St. Joseph protected the Blessed Virgin while on Earth. He protects virgins still. The great Head of the Holy Family will never abandon those who give themselves to purity.
“Pillar of families, pray for us.”
Many would say that Jesus was the pillar of the Holy Family. Of course, as God, Jesus would be the pillar of the Holy Family. Still, it was St. Joseph who provided for the Holy Family. It was he who protected the Holy Family, and made the important decisions affecting it. Essentially, God made St. Joseph the pillar of the Holy Family. It was only because of Christ that Joseph could be the pillar of the Holy Family. Just it is only because of Christ that St. Joseph can be our intercessor, and we can say to him, “Pray for us.”
“Consolation of the afflicted, pray for us.”
St. Joseph led a life of affliction. He raised a son not biologically his own. Think about it. How would you explain to people who the boy’s father really is? “Oh, uh, YHWH’s his father!”
The ridicule St. Joseph would have undergone would have been massive. To keep the knowledge that the child you raise is the Messiah a secret would cause great affliction. To keep such information and “ponder it in your heart” wouldn’t be easy. All St. Joseph must have wanted to so is extoll Christ’s greatness to all the world. But he had to be silent.
“Hope of the sick, pray for us.”
St. Joseph was deemed worthy enough to marry the “blessed among women”, and to help prepare the Christ Child to fulfill His Father’s will. He faithfully carried out these tasks. St. Joseph’s reward now is to reside in the house of the Lord; intercede for mankind; and dispense to us God’s graces.
During his time on Earth, St. Joseph lived in the background. His focus was on his wife, Mary, and on Jesus. Oftentimes, the sick live in the background. St. Joseph holds a special place in his heart for the sick.
“Patron of the dying, pray for us.”
For all of his hard work raising Jesus and protecting the Blessed Virgin Mary, what recognition did St. Joseph get in this life? He received no recognition. St. Joseph lived in obscurity, and he died in obscurity. For this he is the special patron of the dying.
“Terror of the demons, pray for us.”
Because he so loyally served God and fulfilled His will, the demons have a special fear of St. Joseph. We typically think of demons as frightening creatures, and so they attempt to appear. Yet demons are no different from most bullies. They appear with such a fierce exterior to cover up their fear. There is nothing demons fear more than a loyal servant of God. Well, there were few servants more loyal to God than St. Joseoh. Hence, his name is a powerful weapon against the demons.
“Protector of the Holy Church, pray for us.”
St. Joseph was the protector of the Holy Family during his life on Earth. Now, in eternal life, St. Joseph is the protector of the Catholic Church. What more fitting role for the Head of the Holy Family than as the protector of the Church!
After this last invocation to St. Joseph, we invoke Jesus as the Lamb of God three times. Then we acknowledge the authority given to St. Joseph by God as the Head of the Holy Family. We then wrap up this prayer with an appeal to God that St. Joseph might be our intercessor in Heaven.
I have said this prayer for some time, and I highly recommend it. Just as I highly recommend a deep devotion to St. Josrph. He holds great graces for those who appeal to him.
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity