Have you ever heard of the Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys of St. Joseph devotion? It’s a devotion that dates back hundreds of years, and has recently become more widely known. And what better time to learn about this devotion than the Year of St. Joseph?
In this month’s installment of “19 on the 19th,” a series that brings you 19-minute reflections on St. Joseph each month, Father Matthew Spencer, OSJ begins a 3-part series on the Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys of St. Joseph.
“It’s probably my favorite devotion to St. Joseph,” he said. “And I say probably because pretty much any devotion to St. Joseph I’m game and on board with. But this one has a very special place in my heart. In part, because it also has a very special role in the history of our Church.”
Father Matthew explained that the Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys prayer looks at different aspects of the life of St. Joseph. It looks at the challenging, difficult, and sorrowful moments, as well as the joyful results of his faithfulness to God.
“The core elements of this is a two-fold, beautiful, dynamic prayer that in the first paragraph of each sorrow and joy describes the particular Scriptural moment that we’re considering,” Fr. Matthew explained. “And then the second paragraph of the prayer implores the help of St. Joseph for some aspect of our life.”
Offering some of the history of the Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys prayer, Fr. Matthew explained that in the 16th century Fr. John da Fano described an account of two monks who were shipwrecked off the coast of Flanders. They survived by holding on to the wreckage of the ship and staying afloat for several days.
“In the account of Fr. de Fano, these monks received a special devotion, a special command of St. Joseph telling them to pray seven Our Fathers and seven Hail Marys daily, in honor of his sorrows,” Fr. Matthew said.
Although this is the most famous account of this devotion’s origin, Fr. Matthew pointed out that the idea of meditating on the sorrows and joys of St. Joseph goes back more than a millennium.
“When you read St. John Chrysostom in the 4th century, he describes the life of St. Joseph concretely in terms of a life that is characterized by sorrows and joys,” Fr. Matthew said. “We see that from the earliest times in our Church, people recognized in St. Joseph these moments, this dynamic between difficult things and very blessed things. Sorrowful moments as well as great trust that comes from his trust in the Lord.”
Despite being a part of the Church for centuries, the Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys of St. Joseph is not as well known as similar devotions, such as the Seven Sorrows of Mary. However, in recent years popes have offered plenary indulgences to those who pray the Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys of St. Joseph during certain times.
Fr. Matthew notes, “In recent years this particular devotion has not only become much more widespread, but it has also become recognized in the Church in a very formal way. And validated by the Church as an efficacious and beautiful form of prayer.”
“I hope that helps convince you to start praying the Seven Sorrows and Joys in your own life.”
Learn more about the Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys of St. Joseph by listening to or reading the full “19 on the 19th” talk below: