And, in the 1937 encyclical on atheistic communism Divini Redemptoris, Pius XI placed “the vast campaign of the Church against world Communism under the standard of St. Joseph, her mighty Protector.”
“He belongs to the working-class, and he bore the burdens of poverty for himself and the Holy Family, whose tender and vigilant head he was. To him was entrusted the Divine Child when Herod loosed his assassins against Him,” Pope XI continued. “He won for himself the title of ‘The Just,’ serving thus as a living model of that Christian justice which should reign in social life.
Yet, despite the 20th century Church’s emphasis on St. Joseph the Worker, Joseph’s life was not defined solely by his work, but also by his vocation to fatherhood.
“For St. Joseph, life with Jesus was a continuous discovery of his own vocation as a father,” wrote St. John Paul II in his 2004 book “Rise, Let Let Us Be On Our Way.”
He continued: “Jesus Himself, as a man, experienced the fatherhood of God through the father-son relationship with St. Joseph. This filial encounter with Joseph then fed into Our Lord’s revelation of the paternal name of God. What a profound mystery!”
St. John Paul II saw firsthand communist attempts to weaken the family unit and undermine parental authority in Poland. He said that he looked to St. Joseph’s fatherhood as a model for his own priestly fatherhood.
In 1989 -- 100 years after Leo XIII’s encyclical -- St. John Paul II wrote Redemptoris custos, an apostolic exhortation on the person and mission of St. Joseph in the life of Christ and of the Church.
In his announcement of the Year of St. Joseph, Pope Francis released a letter, Patris corde, explaining that he wanted to share some “personal reflections” on the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic,” he said, noting that many people had made hidden sacrifices during the crisis in order to protect others.
“Each of us can discover in Joseph -- the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence -- an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble,” he wrote.
“St. Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”
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The Year of St. Joseph provides the opportunity for Catholics to receive a plenary indulgence by reciting any approved prayer or act of piety in honor of St. Joseph, especially on March 19, the saint’s solemnity, and May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
For an approved prayer, one can use the Litany of St. Joseph, which Pope St. Pius X approved for public use in 1909.
Pope Leo XIII also asked that the following prayer to St. Joseph be said at the end of the rosary in his encyclical on St. Joseph:
“To thee, O blessed Joseph, we have recourse in our affliction, and having implored the help of thy thrice holy Spouse, we now, with hearts filled with confidence, earnestly beg thee also to take us under thy protection. By that charity wherewith thou wert united to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by that fatherly love with which thou didst cherish the Child Jesus, we beseech thee and we humbly pray that thou wilt look down with gracious eye upon that inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by His blood, and wilt succor us in our need by thy power and strength.”
“Defend, O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen off-spring of Jesus Christ. Keep from us, O most loving Father, all blight of error and corruption. Aid us from on high, most valiant defender, in this conflict with the powers of darkness. And even as of old thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from the peril of His life, so now defend God's Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Shield us ever under thy patronage, that, following thine example and strengthened by thy help, we may live a holy life, die a happy death, and attain to everlasting bliss in Heaven. Amen.”