Holy St Joseph, Pillar of Families

“I have a great love for St Joseph, because he is a man of silence and strength. On my table I have an image of St Joseph sleeping. Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the church! Yes! We know that he can do that. So, when I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note and I put it underneath St Joseph, so that he can dream about it! In other words I tell him; pray for this problem!

Next, rising with Jesus and Mary. Those precious moments of repose, of resting with the Lord in prayer, are moments we might wish to prolong. But like St Joseph, once we have heard God’s voice, we must rise from our slumber; we must get up and act (cf. Rom 13:11). In our families, we must get up and act! Faith does not remove us from the world but draws us more deeply into it.

Just as the gift of the Holy Family was entrusted to St Joseph, so the gift of the family and its place in God’s plan is entrusted to us. Like St Joseph. The gift of the Holy Family was entrusted to St Joseph so that he could care for it. Each of you, each of us – for I too am part of a family – is charged with caring for God’s plan. The angel of the Lord revealed to Joseph the dangers which threatened Jesus and Mary, forcing them to flee to Egypt and then to settle to Nazareth. So too, in our time, God calls upon us to recognise the dangers threatening our own families and to protect them from harm”.

Pope Francis, 20 March 2017: Morning homily, Casa Santa Marta

In the Litany of St Joseph there are many beautiful titles expressed which sum up the measure of this extraordinary Saint. One title especially important for this age which hungers to strengthen the bonds of family life is Familiarum columen – that is, “Pillar” or “Mainstay” of families.

There is no doubt that family life in England is under enormous strain. Sister Lucia of Fatima wrote to the late Cardinal Carlo Caffaro (1938-2017): “The final battle between the Lord and the reign of satan will be about marriage and the family”. The Fatima vision reminds us of St Joseph’s patronage. As head of the Holy Family St Joseph is teaching and reflecting the image of the fatherhood of God.

Our families are living stones of the church, the cornerstone of vocations, whose potential needs protection. Pope Leo XIII said in his encyclical on St Joseph, Quamquam pluries: “Fathers of families find in Joseph the best personification of paternal solicitude and vigilance“. This was confirmed by Pope Saint John Paul II, who in a meditation on St Joseph, observed that St Joseph is “a perfect incarnation of fatherhood in the human and at the same time holy family”. There are three Saints in the church with the title of Patron of the Family: St Joseph, St Francis and St Maximilian Kolbe.

On the 13th October 2017, in commemoration of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima a century ago; in which St Joseph and the Child Jesus blessed the world for peace, Bishop Alan Hopes installed a new statue of Saint Joseph at the Basilica of Our Lady in Walsingham with permission for crowns to honour the Husband of Our Lady, Pillar of Families on his Solemnities of March 19th and May 1st each year.

This statue originally stood at the entrance of the St Joseph’s Missionary Society founded in 1866 by the third Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vaughan, who was our great Apostle of St Joseph in the British Isles. Priests of the Society prayed before this statue, then known as ‘Economus Nostra’ meaning ‘Our Economist’ for all their provision for their missions.

A few years after St Joseph was declared Patron Saint of the Universal Church and by a special indult of Pope Pius IX, Cardinal Manning crowned another statue of St Joseph at Mill Hill set apart to become the then new National Shrine of St Joseph in England. This canonical crowning was performed in the presence of the whole hierarchy of England and Wales on the 13th April 1874. Today, the National Shrine of St Joseph is housed at St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough.

This statue in the Chapel of Reconciliation has special significance of uniting the two National Shrines of Our Lady of Walsingham and St Joseph.

Prayer to Our Lady of Walsingham
O Blessed Virgin Mary, as we come before you on this Solemnity of your Husband Saint Joseph, grant us the grace to open our eyes to the spiritual treasures hidden in this great Saint for our times.
Saint Joseph defender of the family, defender of the faith, we entrust our families and our faith to thee!