While we journey through this year of Saint Joseph, I’d like to walk through probably the most well-known prayer to Saint Joseph, and that’s the Litany of Saint Joseph. A litany is a prayer of petition, in this case praying for the intercession of Saint Joseph.
This is Timmerie from Trending with Timmerie. As I ponder the Litany of Saint Joseph, I immediately turned very quickly to how Saint Joseph is the pinnacle of masculinity, apart from Jesus Christ, who was both God and man. He models the perfection of masculinity, fatherhood, Christianity, and what it means to be a husband, all things that are at the heart of the crisis we face in our culture, and in fact, usually, the wounds that we ourselves are experiencing in our own lives.
Daddy issues, relationship heartbreak, lack of male involvement in our lives, of men stepping up, leading, protecting, and providing. St Joseph is the healing balm that helps us in overcoming all of life’s difficulties having to do with these issues, even in helping us to approach God, the Heavenly Father to appreciate and to heal those fatherly relationships.
But another perspective that I think often missed has to do with typology. Now, if you don’t know what typology is, a great example of it is where we see Jesus Christ prefigured in the Old Testament in Elijah, Moses, Elisha, Joseph, and others. This is seen especially, not just in Sacred Scripture, but in the depiction of Christian art. For example, the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, where the conclave occurs, where all of the Cardinals come together to cast their vote for the new Pope. Now the Sistine Chapel, if you’ve never been there, and I encourage you to look at an image of it, ceiling, walls, everything is covered in these incredible paintings by Michelangelo from the 15th century. Now, if you were to look to the right wall and the left wall, side-by-side are these great 10 feet tall images.
We see depicted on one side the life of Moses from the Old Testament who gave us the law who liberated through the intercession of God, of course, the guidance of God, the people, the chosen people, the Israelites from Egypt, who were captives and enslaved. And on the other side, we see Jesus Christ, and we see moments in Jesus’s life parallel to the opposite wall and moments of Moses’ life and how Jesus Christ completely fulfills everything that Moses himself did or was trying to do.
What we see in the life of Moses is a type of Christ, prefigured in the Old Testament. Moses partially did what Christ would do in its fullness in His perfection. Jesus fulfills the perfect liberation of an enslaved people. Moses only scratches the surface with heavenly intervention. Jesus actually transforms and unites us to Himself, giving us the very life of God, not just the promised land of the Israelites but a heavenly inheritance.
What does all this have to do with the Litany of Saint Joseph? Well, do we ever ponder that Saint Joseph himself is a type of Christ as well? The closest in face, in all of human history, for Christ Himself is the apple of the tree of Saint Joseph, although not biologically. He was raised, schooled, and we could even argue chastised in holy ways, by Saint Joseph as he learned how to be a human person.
You see the faithful spouse Saint Joseph in humanly unexplainable circumstances even stayed faithful to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He was a father to Jesus, and he responded to the heavenly and celestial promptings from the Angel Gabriel.
It’s with this context that we pray the Litany of Saint Joseph, seeing the perfection of all that is masculine and Christian, as well as the foreshadowing of Christ Himself, as we pray the various titles Saint Joseph has in this Litany.
So, let’s begin and pray through it as we break down the Litany of Saint Joseph.
We begin by saying, Lord have Mercy, Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy, Christ Hear us, Christ graciously hear us. God the Father in heaven, God the Son, Redeemer of the World, God the Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity, one God, we hear, see, and set the stage that God is first. God is the source of all, the end of all, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So we don’t even get to Saint Joseph yet.
Then we pray, Holy Mary, pray for us, immediately invoking Joseph’s holy spouse, the Mother of God and making clear Saint Joseph’s mission as first belonging to God and second belonging to his spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Then we begin our prayers of petition, intercession to Saint Joseph as we pray, “pray for us,” at each title.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Illustrious Son of God, pray for us.
Illustrious, what does that mean? It means to be admired and respected as St. Joseph is. And we pray, Light of Patriarchs.
What do we see here? We see an inspiration for the heads of homes in the midst of a culture that is anti-patriarchy. I was at the Women’s March over the last year and I’ve seen how often their language has to do with being anti-patriarchal. What does that mean? Most of the women can’t even define the word patriarchy. Most of us can’t.
It has to do with being the male head of a home. Is that really what we’re objecting to as a society? In reality, this petition to Saint Joseph, Light of Patriarchs, pray for us, is actually healing for the radical feminism, the anti-man, the anti-human, the anti-God culture that we live in. And in reality, it’s not just about the male culture that people seemingly object to. It actually has to do with the fact that we believe men have failed us.
We’ve perhaps lost hope, not in humanity, although people have lost that too, but we’ve lost hope in men as protectors and leaders and providers. If you’re a man, maybe you wish you saw greater examples of this in your own life rather than cherry-picking a few examples, examples that we might argue are also imperfect.
You see, praying to Saint Joseph as Light of Patriarchs helps in restoring masculinity, restoring order in the God-given mission of men as leaders, protectors, and providers. This is what you’re called to, fathers, husbands, men who aren’t even married or have children.
And you might think you don’t have a mission. But indeed, you’re still called to that God-given role to be a leader, protector, and provider: for yourself, for the Kingdom of heaven, and for those who you might not realize are actually entrusted to your responsibility. In fact, a young boy learns this first within the context of the home, especially if he has siblings and parents. He takes responsibility for leading and protecting and providing in his own life, for his siblings in a respect. As a good example and model in the culture, Pope Pius XI in the encyclical Casti Connubii, edging into the middle of the 20th century, as we saw this crisis of masculinity and fatherhood in the family, he commented that husbands are meant to be the head of the home and women, the heart.
But what does it mean to be the head of the home? I think this is what’s specifically unpacked in the litany of Saint Joseph as we continue in praying these prayers of intercession and petition.
We pray, Spouse of the Mother of God, Guardian of the Redeemer, and Pure Guardian of the
Virgin. What does all this mean? That Saint Joseph is the Guardian Protector. He’s responsible physically and spiritually for protection. He’s our spiritual and physical protector as well, preserving us if we only ask his intercession to preserve us, to present us, as holy and spotless before his Son, the throne, the heavenly throne of God Himself.
We pray, Provider for the Son of God, pray for us.
Again, being reminded that Saint Joseph is a provider of home, of safety, of food, of prayer time, of safe and healthy relationships.
We pray, Zealous Defender of Christ.
Do we ponder the way in which Saint Joseph protected Christ’s life and mission? He preserved the purity of spirit and physical safety of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary. He was the primary caretaker of Jesus with Our Lady, but he also, knowing the respect in the order of creation, the order of parenthood, protected and preserved and zealously defended Our Lady in her motherhood so that she could be a mother. It wasn’t pulled away in every other direction to provide a means, to battle the horrors of the culture. No, Saint Joseph was a zealous defender of Christ by not just defending Christ, but by preserving the motherhood of Mary, so that she could be that mom to Christ Himself.
We pray, Servant of God, pray for us.
There’s a humility in Saint Joseph as seen in this title, Servant of God. He was the Servant of God. Joseph the father served the Son. He became the servant of Christ. How enchanting a child can be for any parent as we see parents are willing to meet a child’s needs, from diapers to feeding to even sacrificing their own sleep. Saint Joseph did all of this, just like a parent does. But he did the same thing in unimaginable ways to the service of the King of the Universe, under his own roof. Again, servant to Christ himself.
We pray, Minister of Salvation.
That is, he’s part of bringing salvation to you and I. Through his ‘yes’, through his Fiat, like Mary. Mary said, “Be it done unto me, according to thy word”, Joseph too had to accept the mission, the heavenly Mission, what seemed like an impossible mission to protect God, to protect Christ on Earth. We too are called to that same mission.
We pray, Head of the Holy Family, pray for us.
Again, Head to the Holy Family. What does this mean? He is the patriarch, and this is important, to restore this order of masculine perfection. Yes, an ideal, and yes, some might try to argue that it’s a stereotype, but no, it’s a God-given mission.
We pray, Joseph Most Just, Joseph Most Chaste, Joseph Most Prudent, pray for us.
Rather than being self-seeking or choosing self-preservation, St. Joseph is the model of fairness and righteousness in giving others their due. That is justice. He had sexual integrity and understood his state in life and was faithful to his God-given vocation. Yes, he was married, but a chaste spouse at that. All of us, in fact, are called to be chaste spouses, although perhaps lived out a little differently than Saint Joseph.
But can’t we look to him as a model in a culture of pornography, in a culture of infidelity, in a culture of not getting married and engaging with other people in ways that were unimaginable?
Saint Joseph honored the most beautiful of all creation of all women, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Their marriage was preserved in holiness and Saint Joseph understood the Virgin Mary was God’s portion, that is, set aside for a particular mission. Saint Joseph was prudent in action, seeking the Council, especially of God and deliberating and acting accordingly. This is his prudence.
He was guided by God. He didn’t follow his own whim, his own guidance. He took guidance by
the holy celestial beams, those great angels.
We pray, Joseph Most Brave, Joseph Most Obedient, Joseph Most Loyal, pray for us.
Here we see Saint Joseph’s strength of character, bravery, obedience, and loyalty. To whom? To what? To God, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to the mission God Himself gave Saint Joseph.
Bravery, obedience, and loyalty, justice, chastity, and prudence.
All of these virtues which we should ardently seek after and beg the intercession of Saint Joseph to teach us his ways, to follow in his footsteps, to guide the men in our lives rather than for us women nagging our husbands, our spouses. The men in our lives need to live these virtues out, but imploring them, inviting them into the mission, the way the Angel Gabriel invited Saint Joseph into the mission, the God-given mission to be the Christ-bearer in the world, in a world parched for God, parched for liberation, starving for a Redeemer.
We pray, Mirror of Patience, pray for us.
Light of Patriarchs, pray for us.
He is the inspiration for heads of homes. This is so important. Mirror of Patience. Patience, a virtue that is so important to being a father or a mother in this society. Patience that is so important when discussing the most difficult topics in our culture. Patience that is so important when we go, “God, reveal Yourself to me. I’m chasing You. I’m having a hard time seeing You because I have so many distractions in my life. Help me to be patient in preserving in prayer and persevering in prayer, rather than giving up because of my impatience and turning to every means of distraction rather than pondering and staying still in praying to Your Son, Jesus Christ.”
We pray Lover of Poverty, Model of Workers.
That is, there was no vainglory in Saint Joseph. He appreciated poverty, the poverty of spirit. The necessity of providing and knowing that I can never fulfill the needs of providing, for I’m providing for the God of the universe, Who has everything, Who is everything and Who gives everything.
So let go of resentment and pressure of being a provider and joyfully accept the mission, knowing you will never do it by yourself, for you are not alone.
Why is he the Model of Workers? Because Jesus Christ Himself goes with Saint Joseph, in guiding him as the worker, who again, does not seek vainglory, but simply a simple means for his family.
We pray, Glory of Family Life, Guardian of Virgins, Cornerstone of Families, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, we read here in these next petitions, he too is there to intercede for you as we read these titles: Support in Difficulties, Comfort of the Sorrowing, Hope of the Sick, Patron of Exiles, Patron of the Afflicted, Patron of the Poor, Patron of the Dying.
But he doesn’t just provide consolation to the sick and intercede at the moment of our death. He’s engaged in a battle with principalities and powers.
The fallen angels who, as Saint Peter himself writes, are prowling about the world seeking the ruin of souls, that is, seeking the ruin of your soul. This is why Saint Joseph is Terror of Demons and Protector of the Holy Church. Because there is a battle, there’s a battle for the salvation of our souls, and just as he bears Christ, just as he is a Mediator of Salvation, he intercedes as the Terror of Demons and Protector of the Holy Church.
Now, we implore God as we conclude the Litany of Saint Joseph, by these prayers, to allow the intercession of Saint Joseph as we prayed to the Lord, Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world. Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Have mercy on us.
We’re turning to the Lord to allow Saint Joseph to radically intercede before the heavenly throne for us.
Finally, we come to the very end of the Litany of Saint Joseph where we pray, “He made him master of his house and ruler of all his possessions.”
Saint Joseph, in his life, shows us the sacrificial life of Christ before Christ’s death. Saint Joseph was informed and formed by the mission of the Christ Child. We see Christ himself foreshadowed in Saint Joseph. To this day, he lives a sacrificial life before the Heavenly Throne as the most powerful intercessor of our souls apart from the Mother of God.
Go to Saint Joseph. Know Saint Joseph. He will lead and guide and protect you in all holiness to present you as spotless before his Most Holy Son.
He made him master of his house. And ruler of all his possessions. Amen.
I hope you’ll join me daily by listening to Trending with Timmerie. Every Wednesday, we discuss Saint Joseph and his life. Saint Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us.