Celebrating Sts. Joseph and Patrick

This week we have the feast days of two extremely popular saints: St. Patrick on March 17th (Wednesday) and St. Joseph on March 19th (Friday).

St. Patrick's Statue, Hill of Tara

Ireland’s Most Well Known Saint

Though a small country, Ireland has produced an enormous number of saints given its low population. The website https://www.catholic.org  lists 331 of them. Many lived during the 4th and 6th centuries, the period of early Christian Ireland, when Celtic Christianity produced many missionaries to Great Britain and the European continent. For this reason, Ireland is described in a 19th-century adage as “the land of saints and scholars”.

The Irish saint we are all probably most familiar with is, of course, St. Patrick.  His feast day is celebrated in many places around the world on March 17th and he is patron of various places including Nigeria, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Murcia in Spain, and the Archdiocese New York, Melbourne and Newark to name a few.   Also the patron of engineers and paralegals, he is invoked against snakes and sins.

He was not a native of Ireland, being born in either Wales, Scotland or England. At about age sixteen he was seized by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland where he was enslaved as a shepherd for six years until his escape to return home.  His years in captivity though, proved very fruitful spiritually.  Wikipedia tells us “He writes in the Confession that the time he spent in captivity was critical to his spiritual development. He explains that the Lord had mercy on his youth and ignorance, and afforded him the opportunity to be forgiven his sins and convert to Christianity.”  He became intensely devoted to God in prayer.

Tradition has it that divine dreams inspired both his escape from captivity in Ireland and his return there later in his life as a bishop.  Christianity was already established and he found very willing converts who turned to Christianity in large numbers.   The rest is history!

For those interested in a very thorough account of his life, how the shamrock is associated with his teaching of the Trinity and the story of his expulsion of snakes from Ireland, etc. go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Patrick

Remembering that in today’s secular world we badly need missionaries to spread the knowledge and love of God and that through our kindness, actions and example we ourselves are missionaries, here is a prayer to St Patrick for missionaries.   May it make better missionaries of us all!

Prayer to St Patrick

Dear St. Patrick,

In your humility, you called yourself a sinner, but you became a most successful missionary and prompted countless pagans to follow the Saviour.

Many of their descendants in turn spread the Good News in numerous foreign lands.

Through your powerful intercession with God, obtain the missionaries we need to continue the work you began.  Amen.

At https://www.irishcentral.com/culture/st-patricks-day-prayers-irish-blessings you will find a number of prayers to St Patrick and blessings which you might like for your family.

St. Joseph Statue

The Saint of Husbands and Fathers

Everything we know about St. Joseph, husband of Mary, comes from scripture.   As the foster father or guardian of Jesus (and therefore guardian of the whole Church) he is much beloved by us all.  Nearly every Catholic church has a statue or picture of him, usually carrying the child Jesus and lilies to signify his purity.

At https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=4 St. Joseph’s life story is traced through the scriptures.  His royal lineage is shown when the angel first told him of Jesus greeting him as “son of (King) David,” a royal title used also for Jesus. The poverty of his life as a carpenter is indicated by his offering of two turtle doves when he took Jesus to be circumcised and Mary to be purified at the Temple – a sacrifice allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb.

Ordinary husbands and fathers who simply work hard and do their best for their wives and children but may not be rich and successful in the eyes of the world can take great comfort in knowing that St. Joseph is their patron and role model.   The world would probably have judged St. Joseph as poor, obscure, unsuccessful and totally unimportant – a man not even worth a second glance.  Yet he is a shining star, a true hero, a man to be much admired for his great virtue.

St. Joseph’s courage, trust and faith are illustrated in his acceptance of the task God entrusted to him to care for Jesus and Mary. In his compassion, love and humility he saves Mary from possible stoning as an adulteress and accepts her as his wife, whilst knowing that her child was not his. He provides the perfect example of what a husband and father should be – the chief protector of their wife and children.  Let us love him for showing us the honourable, noble task this is and the qualities required.

Prayer to St. Joseph for husbands

St. Joseph, pray for me, that I may be a good and holy husband just as you were for Mary. Help me to stay strong in adversity, faithful in temptation, and prayerful in all the decisions I make.

Pray for me, that I may be a kind and loving father just as you were for Jesus. Help me to be firm in discipline, gentle in guidance, and honourable in the example I set.

Walk with me as you walked with the Mother and Child on the road to Egypt. May I bring peace and joy and love to my family, with you as my example and God as my strength. Amen

Patron of the Dying, Patron for a happy Death

Traditionally St Joseph is the saint to whom we turn for a happy death since the image of Jesus and Mary being with him in his last moments has long been in the minds of the faithful. It is what we wish for ourselves. With certainty we can ask him to intercede for us during our last moments on earth, taking great comfort in knowing that he will protect us.  He will surely ask Jesus and Mary to be at our side strengthening, comforting and consoling us at that time.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and soul.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, assist me in my last agony.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul in peace with you. Amen

St Joseph is also patron of: Unborn children, workers (St. Joseph the Worker), travellers, immigrants.