The 20th century witnessed a surge in devotion to St. Joseph. The vision of Fatima, given on Oct. 13, 1917, which showed St. Joseph carrying the Child Jesus and both of them blessing the world, may have contributed to this marked increase. In a particular way, devotion to St. Joseph the Workman grew within the ranks of the laity in response to the negative impact of atheistic communism, which denigrates both the dignity of the human person and the dignity of work. Our cathedral in La Crosse is dedicated to St. Joseph the Workman, and it is there I was ordained to the priesthood on June 24, 2006.
Early in my priestly life, I came across the Institute of Saint Joseph, a public association of the faithful particular to the Diocese of La Crosse, which includes lay members, ordained priests and a monastic community of men and women. I was drawn to their spirituality, their pursuit of the universal call to holiness and their motto: “That God may be present to the world, and the world to God.”
Through my visits to the Institute of Saint Joseph, located just one mile south of Boyd, I have discovered more about the hidden life of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Nazareth. By examining the Gospels, there are nine elements in the life of Nazareth for us to consider as the foundation of the life of perfection: “silence, contemplation, poverty, chastity, obedience, prayer, study, work and charity.” 1
These nine elements are attributed to each member of the Holy Family and are made manifest in unique ways by St. Joseph himself. The Gospel accounts provide glimpses into the life of the ‘righteous man’, the most chaste husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Protector of the Holy Family. St. Joseph’s role in the Holy Family “provides a specifically masculine dimension of holiness worthy of imitation.”2 The paternal nature of St. Joseph’s mission, which should be of interest to Catholic men in particular, was explained by Pope St. John Paul II:
‘St. Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood. … His fatherhood is expressed concretely “in his having made his life a service, a sacrifice to the mystery of the Incarnation and to the redemptive mission connected with it; in having used the legal authority which was his over the Holy Family in order to make a total gift of self, of his life and work; in having turned his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of self, an oblation of his heart and all his abilities into love placed at the service of the Messiah growing up in his house.”’3
In other words, in his fatherly vocation, St. Joseph made a total gift of himself. He placed his whole life and all his leadership of the Holy Family at the service of Jesus’ mission as our redeeming Messiah. Imagine if every husband and father followed this example, asking for the grace to unite their human vocation with Christ’s redeeming work, drawing their families and all they meet toward heaven!
While Catholic men and women can both have a deep devotion to St. Joseph, I think our diocesan year dedicated to St. Joseph provides an invitation for Catholic husbands and fathers, current and future, as well as single men, seminarians, deacons and priests, to “go to Joseph” and see in him the archetypal earthly model of fatherhood for us to imitate.
May our devotion to St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, continue to mature in the knowledge and assurance that he has been given “the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, and in every undertaking.”4
Visit diolc.org/year-of-st-joseph to download a prayer card, read the letter from Bishop Callahan and learn more about the Year of St. Joseph
Father D. Joseph Redfern
Pastor of St. Mary Help of Christians Parish in Colby
Published September/October 2020 Catholic Life
1 Rev. William Felix and Rev. John Mary Gilbert, 2012, General Directory, Rule of Life for Diocesan Priests and Constitution of The Institute of Saint Joseph, Institute of St Joseph, Edson, WI, p. 28
2 Ibid, p. 82
3 Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptoris Custos, of the Supreme Pontiff, John Paul II, on the person and mission of Saint Joseph in the life of Christ and of the Church, n. 8
4 Attributed to St Thomas Aquinas, source unknown.