Joseph a Relevant Saint For 2021 Challenges
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
January 7, 2021
St. Joseph seems to be tailor-made to watch over this new year of 2021.
He is, after all, the patron saint of workers — so many of whom have suffered from unemployment or under-employment since last March.
And Joseph also is the patron of a happy death, perhaps the only person who died in the actual physical presence of Jesus and Mary. Too many people have lost their own lives or lost loved ones from the current pandemic.
St. Joseph is a model for fathers, for families in general, and he experienced exile, which gives him plenty of credentials as a guardian for refugees, the homeless and those who are targeted by their neighbors and governments for destruction.
All such dilemmas occur in the world every year, but the coronavirus pandemic has made life extra hard for many in 2020, and it continues into 2021. While other saints are destined to help us in certain kinds of need, St. Joseph is more universal, assisting in any kind of need, material or spiritual.
Pope Francis, in his March 19 homily at Santa Marta last year, spoke of the world’s need for both “concreteness and the sense of mystery.” He called Joseph a man of clear and practical vision, capable of doing his work with precision and professional skill, and one who at the same time penetrated the mystery of God beyond all that was familiar to him or was under his control, and in the presence of which he kneels and adores. Dec. 8, 2020, was the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, and Pope Francis now calls us to turn to St. Joseph as our patron for 2021.
St. Joseph is perhaps the quietest saint ever, with no record of his voice even in the Bible stories about him. While the Blessed Mother was a quiet soul, St. Joseph is a completely silent presence – but a faithful, just and solid figure in his silence.
Lack of details about St. Joseph may be why the Church was not quick to formally honor him early in its history. 
The Catholic Encyclopedia says St. Joseph was honored first by the Eastern Church, and that a type of feast was kept by the Coptic Christians as early as the beginning of the fourth century. The feast of “Joseph the Carpenter” is found on an old Coptic calendar on July 20. Later, menologies  (ecclesiastical calendars of festivals celebrated in honor of particular saints and martyrs) in the Greek church celebrated St. Joseph around Christmas.
In the West, the name of St. Joseph appears in local martyrologies of the ninth and tenth centuries, and in 1129 a church was dedicated to his honor in Bologna. Private devotions to Joseph were encouraged by several saints including Bernard, Thomas Aquinas, Gertrude and Bridget of Sweden, the encyclopedia says. 
In the year 1400, the French theologian Jean Gerson composed an Office of the Espousals of Joseph in promoting public recognition of devotion to the saint, and later that century Pope Sixtus IV gave St. Joseph the Roman Calendar feast day of March 19, which the Encyclopedia Britannica says was considered the traditional day of his death.
The Franciscan and Carmelite orders were instrumental in encouraging devotion to St. Joseph. Of particular note are Franciscans who went to the Holy Land in the 13th century, and Franciscan preachers St. Bernardine of Siena and St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio and also Franciscan Pope Sixtus IV (see above).
The Carmelites’ St. Teresa of Jesus (1515-1582) is known as one who gave more breadth and depth to devotion to St. Joseph. He was so much a presence in the founding of her monasteries that he began to be known as the “founder” of the Teresian Carmel. Ten of the 15 Carmelite monasteries that she herself founded bore the name of St. Joseph.
On Sept. 10, 1847, Pope Pius IX extended to the whole Church the feast of the patronage of St. Joseph. 
On Dec. 8, 1870, Pope Pius IX made a solemn proclamation making Joseph the patron of the universal Church. The liturgical calendar approved after the Second Vatican Council was simplified, and the title “protector of the universal Church” disappeared from the principal feast of St. Joseph on March 19. That title was not abolished, but the biblical title, “spouse of the Virgin Mary,” is the usual focus of that feast day. 
The memorial of St. Joseph the Worker is celebrated on May 1. The Encyclopedia Britannica says that feast was established by Pope Pius XII in 1955 in part as a counter-celebration to the communists’ May Day.
In 1962, Pope John XXIII inserted the name of St. Joseph into the Roman Canon (now Eucharistic Prayer 1). In 2013, Pope Francis placed his name into the other three standard Eucharistic prayers, an initiative begun by Pope Benedict XVI, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“In a world in which we tend to flee from the bonds of stable relationships and commitments and to revert to a kind of sterile narcissism, Joseph shows us the way of self-denial, daily responsibility, the silent dedication to the care and growth of family,” say the two current leaders of the Carmelite orders, Father Miceal O’Neill, O.Carm., and Father Saverio Cannistra, O.C.D.
“There is no Church ... without people who, forgetting themselves, work day and night to give others a sure foundation in which they can trust. These people work away from the limelight, bearing in their own hearts all their own concerns and anxieties, very often not seeing the fruits or even the goal, trusting only in the one from whom their paternity comes and takes its name. These are the people who will always find in St. Joseph their patron and model ... .”
The Observer plans to present periodic articles in 2021 featuring the St. Joseph churches of the diocese as well as other events and initiatives inspired by, and honoring, this faithful foster father of Jesus.
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