The Litany of St. Joseph

Source: District of Asia

These are the reasons why men of every rank and every country should fly to the trust and guard of the blessed Joseph.

Fathers of families find in Joseph the best personification of paternal solicitude and vigilance; spouses a perfect example of love, of peace, and of conjugal fidelity; virgins at the same time find in him the model and protector of virginal integrity. The noble of birth will earn of Joseph how to guard their dignity even in misfortune; the rich will understand, by his lessons, what are the goods most to be desired and won at the price of their labour. As to workmen, artisans, and persons of lesser degree, their recourse to Joseph is a special right, and his example is for their imitation.

For Joseph, of royal blood, united by marriage to the greatest and holiest of women, reputed the father of the Son of God, passed his life in labour, and won by the toil of the artisan the needful support of his family. It is, then, true that the condition of the lowly has nothing shameful in it, and the work of the labourer is not only not dishonouring, but can, if virtue be joined to it, be singularly ennobled. Joseph, content with his slight possessions, bore the trials consequent on a fortune so slender, with greatness of soul, in imitation of his Son, who having put on the form of a slave, being the Lord of life, subjected himself of his own free-will to the spoliation and loss of everything.   (Leo XII, Encyl. Quamquam pluries, August 15, 1889)

The shortest official summary of St. Joseph’s dignity is found in the Litany of St. Joseph, approved by St. Pius X (Joseph Sarto) in 1909.  This Litany condenses, as it were, Leo XIII’s earlier catalogue of Joseph’s clients: “all the faithful of all places and conditions”.  There is a very interesting feature about the Litany of St. Joseph.  Unlike the older litanies which grew up out of separate and more or less unrelated invocations, the Litany of St. Joseph is divided into rigidly logical groups.

Seven titles depict the role Joseph played on earth:

Two concern his royal ancestry in preparation for the Messiah:

  • Illustrious descendant of David
  • Light of Patriarchs

Two, his relationship to Mary:

  • Spouse of the Mother of God
  • Chaste guardian of the Virgin

Two, his relationship to Jesus:

  • Foster Father of the Son of God
  • Watchful Defender of Christ

And finally one title as

  • Head of the Holy Family

The second group of invocations contains a list of six special virtues of St. Joseph: his justice, chastity, prudence, courage, obedience, and faith.

The Final eleven titles shows how is to be imitated and his role in our sanctification:

Four address his as exemplar:

  • Mirror of Patience
  • Lover of Poverty
  • Model of Workman
  • Ornament of domestic life

And seven invoke him as a protecting patron:

  • Guardian of Virgins
  • Safeguard of families
  • Consolation of the poor
  • Hope of the sick
  • Patron of the Dying
  • Terror of Demons
  • Protector of the Holy Church

As a conclusion, there is probably no tribute to the Saint’s widespread and powerful help and friendship can ever surpass the long classic words of St. Teresa of Avila:

“It seems that to other saints our Lord has given power to help us in only one kind of necessity; but this glorious Saint, I know by my own experience, assists us in all kinds of necessities... I only request for the love of God, that whoever will not believe me will test the truth of what I say, for he will see by experience how great a blessing it is to recommend oneself to the glorious Patriarch and to be devout to him”.

Adapted from Cahiers de Joséphologie, Vol III, No. 2 (1955)