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When Jesus Was Twelve

Pope dedicates year to St. Joseph

Marking the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph being declared patron of the universal church, Pope Francis proclaimed a yearlong celebration dedicated to the foster father of Jesus.

In a Dec. 8 apostolic letter, “Patris Corde” (“With a father’s heart”), the pope said Christians can discover in St. Joseph, who often goes unnoticed, “an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble.”

As Mary’s husband and guardian of the son of God, St. Joseph turned “his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of himself, his heart and all his abilities, a love placed at the service of the Messiah who was growing to maturity in his home.”

Despite being troubled at first by Mary’s pregnancy, he added, St. Joseph was obedient to God’s will “regardless of the hardship involved.”

St. Joseph’s unconditional acceptance of Mary and his decision to protect her “good name, her dignity and her life” also serves as an example for men today, the pope added.

“In our world where psychological, verbal and physical violence toward women is so evident, Joseph appears as the figure of a respectful and sensitive man,” he wrote.

Pope Francis also highlighted St. Joseph’s “creative courage.”

“The Holy Family had to face concrete problems like every other family, like so many of our migrant brothers and sisters who, today, too, risk their lives to escape misfortune and hunger. In this regard, I consider St. Joseph the special patron of all those forced to leave their native lands because of war, hatred, persecution and poverty,” the pope said.

As a carpenter who earned “an honest living to provide for his family,” Christ’s earthly guardian is also an example for both workers and those seeking employment and a life of dignity for themselves and their families.

“There is a renewed need to appreciate the importance of dignified work, of which St. Joseph is an exemplary patron,” he said.

This article was produced by Catholic News Service.


Saint Joseph Society of the Sacred Heart, otherwise known as the Josephite Fathers and Brothers, was founded at Mill Hill, England, by his Eminence Herbert Cardinal Vaughan on March 1, 1866.

When the institution was open there was one professor, Father Vaughn, and one student. But early in the year 1871 four young men were ordained and together with their directors went to meet Pope Pius IX.

At the suggestion of the pope, Father Vaughan contacted Archbishop Martin Spalding in Baltimore, who invited the young missionaries to his diocese. Having vowed themselves to the cause of the American Negro mission field, the first Josephites sailed from England, arriving in America in December 1871.

St. Francis Xavier church in Baltimore was given to the Josephites as their first mission. Here was set up the American headquarters of the Society. 

The growth of the Josephite missions between the years 1871 and 1892 was a steady and healthy one. The English institution at Mill Hill kept supplying priests for the missions until 1887.

To prepare for the missionary work, American Josephite seminarians had to go to England. In 1887, by joint action of Cardinals Vaughn and Gibbons, it was resolved to open a seminary in Baltimore. This was done in 1888. The following year a site was purchased at Walbrook, Baltimore, where Epiphany Apostolic College, the Josephite preparatory, seminary was opened.

In January 1892 at the insistence of Cardinal Vaughan, and with the approval of Cardinal Gibbons, the Josephite priests in the American Negro missions formed a distinct American Society. In July 1892, Father Slattery was appointed head of the Society and the Josephites drew up a list of rules for their government, essentially the same under which they had been living, retained the name and purpose of the Society and established Baltimore as their headquarters. The necessary documents were sent by Cardinal Vaughan to Rome.

On May 6, 1932, the constitutions of Saint Joseph’s Society were formally approved by the Holy See and the Society became a pontifical Society. In the same year, the Novitiate was opened.

The American Society began with eight of the then twenty churches exclusively for the Colored Catholics. In 1935, it had 56 churches with resident priests and 33 attended missions. The Society also had five chaplaincies in five institutions under its charge.

From the original eight priests, the Society had grown to about 150 priests but is now at 60. At one time the Josephite were charged over 60,000 colored Catholics, or about half of those attending the Catholic Church, in its care.

For further information please consult:

  • History of the Saint Joseph Seminary
  • Life of Cardinal Vaughan
  • History of the Missions

To read The Josephite Harvest
for a comprehensive presentation
on the Year of St. Joseph and his role today,
please click on the magazine cover below.

Who is St. Joseph?

Joseph and the Holy Family

The Patron of a Happy Death

Make a Year of St. Joseph pilgrimage

The Year of St. Joseph offers a unique opportunity to honor St. Joseph – patron of the church, patron of the Josephite society, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and foster father of Jesus Christ – by taking a pilgrimage.

A trip in honor of St. Joseph could take many forms, from a business excursion under the overarching purpose of supporting a family, to a visit to far-flung family members, to an outright pilgrimage.

The marquee destination would be St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal, Quebec.

Originally built by St. André Bessette in the early 20th century, a brother of the Congregation of the Holy Cross and of the patron saints of the Josephites, the oratory started as a small chapel but grew in size and grandeur. It is now a national shrine and the largest church in Canada.

The United States also offers myriad places dedicated to the silent saint.

Shrines are located in Lowell, Mass.; Long Hill, N.J.; St. Louis, Mo.; Detroit, Mich.; Santa Cruz, Calif, and other places across the country.

Whenever duty requires a journey – a situation with which St. Joseph himself was intimately familiar – there will be likely be an ideal place on the way to pay respects to the model husband, father, and worker.

You can also be creative. Make a pilgrimage close to home. Many churches have a St. Joseph altar or statuary indoors or outside.

Year of St. Joseph Special Indulgence

The Vatican decreed Dec. 8 that plenary indulgences will be granted to Catholics through prayer and penance and through acts of justice, charity and piety dedicated to the foster father of Jesus.

Among the conditions for receiving an indulgence are a spirit detached from sin, receiving sacramental confession as soon as possible, receiving Communion as soon as possible and praying for the Holy Father’s intentions.

The decree highlighted ways to obtain the indulgence throughout the year, including:

  • meditating on the prayer of the ‘Our Father’ for at least 30 minutes
  • taking part in a spiritual retreat of at least one day that includes a meditation on St. Joseph.”
  • entrusting one’s daily activities and prayers for dignified employment to St. Joseph
  • reciting the litany or any “legitimately approved” prayer to St. Joseph.
  • families and engaged couples who recite the rosary together.
  • the elderly, the sick and all those who “for legitimate reasons are prevented from leaving their home” by “reciting an act of piety in honor of St. Joseph and committed to fulfilling the conditions as soon as possible.”

The Vatican said, “Those who, following the example of St. Joseph, will perform a corporal or spiritual work of mercy, will also be able to obtain the gift of the plenary indulgence.”

Thanks for a powerful intercessor

The Josephites’ mission office receives numerous letters of thanksgiving every month from around the country and around the world from people grateful for St. Joseph’s intercession.

The Josephites are one of the world’s strongest proponents of the Thirty Days Prayer devotion, which honors the 30 years St. Joseph spent with Jesus and Mary on Earth. The traditional devotion culminates on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19.

Below are some of the testimonials the Josephites have received in recent years. The names of the senders have been withheld to protect their privacy.

“I can’t praise St. Joseph enough. He has never refused me and his intercession is so swift. Your letters from people only reinforces what I’ve always known about dear St. Joseph. He helps everyone who asks him.”

– New York

“When you mailed me the “thirty days” leaflet, I read a letter which told of St. Joseph helping with financial problems. I felt that I was being given direction and immediately turned over to St. Joseph all our family’s financial affairs. Since then, there has been money as it is needed. St. Joseph has done his job well!

– Nevada

“We prayed the 30-day prayer faithfully in February and March. We were asking for God’s help (and dear St. Joseph) with dealing with some major clutter problems. We have not been able to address these problems for many years, but in the past two months we’ve made major progress. Thank you, St. Joseph!

– Texas

“I prayed to St. Joseph last year to sell my house. After two weeks I couldn’t believe we sold the house. I’m now praying for others who are in need of a great saint!”

– New Jersey

“I had to sell my home after my husband’s death. I was very depressed and now needed St. Joseph to guide me in a new home purchase. He found and made my home purchase easy. My husband’s middle name was Joseph and I feel both of them are watching over me.”

– Hawaii

“My son needed many tests and we were extremely worried. I said the 30-day prayer and truly believe with St. Joseph’s intercession our prayers were answered and his tests were good.”

– Illinois

“I consider St. Joseph very special in my life. I truly believe he has provided protection for me and my family. I’ve been saying this beautiful prayer every day.”

– California

More Helpful Information

Visit the U.S. bishop’s conference web page 


Three Prayers to St. Joseph


Prayer for Protection

St. Joseph, through your love of Jesus Christ and for the glory of His name, hear our payers and ask God to grant our petitions.

Glorious St. Joseph, faithful follower of Jesus Christ, to you do we come to ask your powerful intercession in obtaining from the merciful Heart of Jesus all the helps and graces that we need for our spiritual and temporal welfare, and the grace of a happy death.

Watchful guardian of the Holy Family, ward off from us every worry and difficulty. As you rescued the Child Jesus, so now protect us. Shield us by your constant care so that we may be able to live with peace of mind and obtain eternal happiness.

Prayer for Workers

Industrious St. Joseph, model of all who are devoted to work, obtain for me the grace to work faithfully, putting duty before my own desires, to work with gratitude and joy, considering it an honor to use and develop the talents I have received from God. To work with a pure intention and with detachment from self, having ever before my eyes the hour of death and the accounting I must give of time poorly spent, of talents unused, of good undone, and of empty pride in success. In imitation of you, industrious St. Joseph.


Prayer for Patience

St. Joseph, model of patience, teach me this virtue which is so necessary in my dealings with others as well as in the sufferings and trials of my everyday life. Grant that your example may ever renew my courage and enable me to be patient no matter what provocations may come my way. I seek your help because I realize that patience is necessary if I am to become, like you, “a just man.”