This year marks the 150th Anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s decree naming Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the foster-father of Jesus, as the Patron of the Universal Church. In commemoration of this anniversary and recognizing the fitting time for the Church to invoke the intercession of this guardian, His Excellency, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera has declared this year as a “Year of Saint Joseph” to be observed in the Diocese of Scranton from March 19, 2020, to March 19, 2021. Bishop Bambera states, “Just as Saint Joseph watched over and protected the Lord Jesus while he was
on earth, we need Saint Joseph to watch over and provide for the Church today. His
intercession on behalf of the Universal Church is vital as the world faces so much upheaval and pain, and particularly as it confronts the uncertainty and pain of the coronavirus epidemic.”
St. Joseph was an ordinary manual laborer although descended from the royal house of David. In the designs of Providence, he was destined to become the spouse of the Mother of God. His high privilege is expressed in a single phrase, "Foster-father of Jesus." About him, Sacred Scripture has little more to say than that he was a just man-an expression which indicates how faithfully he fulfilled his high trust of protecting and guarding God's greatest treasures upon earth, Jesus and Mary.
The darkest hours of his life may well have been those when he first learned of Mary's pregnancy, but precisely in this time of trial, Joseph showed himself great. His suffering, which likewise formed a part of the work of the redemption, was not without great providential import: Joseph was to be, for all times, the trustworthy witness of the Messiah's virgin birth. After this, he modestly retires into the background of holy Scripture.
Of St. Joseph's death the Bible tells us nothing. There are indications, however, that he died before the beginning of Christ's public life. His was the most beautiful death that one could have, in the arms of Jesus and Mary. Humbly and unknown, he passed his years at Nazareth, silent and almost forgotten he remained in the background through centuries of Church history. Only in more recent times has he been accorded greater honor. Liturgical veneration of St. Joseph began in the fifteenth century, fostered by Sts. Brigid of Sweden and Bernadine of Siena. St. Teresa, too, did much to further his cult.
At present, there are two major feasts in his honor. On March 19 our veneration is directed to him personally and to his part in the work of redemption, while on May 1 we honor him as the patron of workmen throughout the world and as our guide in the difficult matter of establishing equitable norms regarding obligations and rights in the social order.
St. Joseph is invoked as a patron for many causes. He is the patron of the Universal Church. He is the patron of the dying because Jesus and Mary were at his death-bed. He is also the patron of fathers, of carpenters, and of social justice. Many religious orders and communities are placed under his patronage.
Pictured is the Saint Joseph Altar in the Cathedral depicting the death of Saint Joseph surrounded by Jesus and Mary.
Grant, we pray, almighty God, that by Saint Joseph's intercession your Church may constantly watch over the unfolding of the mysteries of human salvation, whose beginnings you entrusted to his faithful care.