Saint Joseph, the just man, spouse of the Virgin Mary
Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy: Principles and Guidelines
by Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
Vatican City December 17, 2001
218. In activating His plan of salvation, God, in His sapient providence, assigned to Joseph of Nazareth, "the just man" (cf. Mt 1, 19), and spouse of the Virgin Mary (cf. ibid; Lk 1, 27), a particularly important mission: legally to insert Jesus Christ into the line of David from whom, according to the prophets, the Messiah would be born, and to act as his father and guardian.
In virtue of this mission, St. Joseph features in the mysteries of the infancy of Jesus: God revealed to him that Jesus had been conceived by the Holy Spirit; (cf. Mt 1,20-21); he witnessed the birth of Christ in Bethlehem (cf. Lk 2, 6-7), the adoration of the shepherds (cf. Lk 2, 15-16), the adoration of the Magi (cf. Mt 2, 11); he fulfilled his mission religiously with regard to the rearing of Christ, having had him circumcised according to the discipline of the Covenant of Abraham (Lk 2, 21) and in giving him the name of Jesus ( Mt 1, 21); in accordance with the Law of the Lord, he presented Christ in the Temple and made the offering prescribed for the poor (cf. Lk 2,22-24; Ex 13, 2. 12-13), and listened in wonder to the prophecy of Simeon (cf Lk 2, 25-33); he protected the Mother of Christ and her Son from the persecution of Herod by taking them to Egypt (cf. Mt 2, 13-23); together with Mary and Jesus, he went every year to Jerusalem for the Passover, and was distraught at having lost the twelve year old Jesus in the Temple (Lk 2, 43-50); he lived in Nazareth and exercised paternal authority over Jesus who was submissive to him (Lk 2, 51); he instructed Jesus in the law and in the craft of carpentry.
219. The virtues of St. Joseph have been the object of ecclesial reflection down through the centuries, especially the more recent centuries. Among those virtues the following stand out: faith, with which he fully accepted God's salvific plan; prompt and silent obedience to the will of God; love for and fulfilment of the law, true piety, fortitude in time of trial; chaste love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, a dutiful exercise of his paternal authority, and fruitful reticence.
220. Popular piety has grasped the significance, importance and universality of the patronage of St. Joseph "to whose care God entrusted the beginning of our redemption",295 "and his most valuable treasures"296.
The following have been entrusted to the patronage of St. Joseph: the entire Church was placed under the patronage and protection of this Holy patriarch297 by the Blessed Pius IX; those who are consecrated to God by celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt 19, 12): "in St Joseph they have [...] a type and a protector of chaste integrity"298; workers and craftsmen, for whom the carpenter of Nazareth is a singular model299; the dying, since pious tradition holds that he was assisted by Mary and Jesus in his last agony300. 221.
The person and role of St. Joseph is frequently celebrated in the Liturgy, especially in connection with nativity and infancy of Christ: during Advent301; Christmastide, especially the feast of the Holy Family, on the Solemnity of St. Joseph (19 March), and on his memorial (1 May). St. Joseph is also mentioned in the Communicantes of the Roman Canon and in the Litany of the Saints302. The invocation of the Holy Patriarch303 is suggested in the Commendation of the Dying, as well as the community's prayer that the souls of the dead, having left this world, may "be taken to the peace of the new and eternal Jerusalem, and be with Mary, the Mother of God, St. Joseph, and all of the Angels and Saints"304.
222. St. Joseph plays a prominent part in popular devotion: in numerous popular traditions; the custom of reserving Wednesdays for devotion to St. Joseph, popular at least since the end of the seventeenth century, has generated several pious exercises including that of the Seven Wednesdays; in the pious aspirations made by the faithful305; in prayers such as that of Pope Leo XIII, A te, Beate Ioseph, which is daily recited by the faithful306; in the Litany of St Joseph, approved by St. Pope Pius X307; and in the recitation of the chaplet of St Joseph, recollecting the Seven agonies and seven joys of St. Joseph.
223. That the solemnity of St. Joseph (19 March) falls in Lent, when the Church concentrates her attention on preparation for Baptism and the memorial of the Lord's Passion, inevitably gives rise to an attempt to harmonize the Liturgy and popular piety. Hence, the traditional practices of a "month of St. Joseph" should be synchronized with the liturgical Year. Indeed, the liturgical renewal movement attempted to instill among the faithful a realization of the importance of the meaning of Lent. Where the necessary adaptations can be made to the various expressions of popular piety, devotion to St. Joseph should naturally be encouraged among the faithful who should be constantly remained of this "singular example [...] which, surpassing all states of life, should be recommended to the entire Christian community, whatever their condition or rank"308.
Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy: Principles and Guidelines by Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments Vatican City December 17, 2001