On the occasion of the celebration of the Year of Saint Joseph, proclaimed by Pope Francis from December 2020 until December 2021, the international Catholic charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has gathered a series of reflections, testimonies and miracles related to this saint by many of its project partners from around the world.
“Saint Joseph is an example for every state of life”, says Bishop Domingo Buezo Leivo of the Apostolic Vicariate of Izabal, in Guatemala. Yet to some extent the thoughts about the person of Saint Joseph tend to reflect people’s particular concerns in each particular country. “I like to focus on Saint Joseph as the responsible man who, in order to protect the life of the Child and his Mother, has to flee and suffer all the consequences, namely discomfort, weariness, danger, uncertainty. But he saves the life of the Child and his Mother”, he adds, referring of course to the ongoing human drama of the thousands of migrants from Central and South America, currently fleeing their own countries in search of a better life for themselves and their families. “Some of them are quite literally struggling to save their lives, like Joseph and Mary with the Child Jesus in their arms”, the bishop explains as he entrusts to the care of Saint Joseph all these people, who are exposing themselves “to the dangers and challenges of a migrant journey”.
Priests and religious from Guinea Bissau, Uruguay, South Africa and Brazil – to name just a few – describe how they express their devotion to Saint Joseph in their respective communities. In Manaus in Brazil, where ACN International is supporting the training of the archdiocesan seminarians, devotion to Saint Joseph is widespread throughout the city.
The seminary of Saint Joseph was founded in 1848 and the priests training there also established the parish of Saint Joseph. Many years later the seminary closed, “but devotion to Saint Joseph continued and the parish was further consolidated”, explains Father Zenildo Lima, the current rector of the archdiocesan seminary of Saint Joseph. In 1999 a group of the faithful began to pray a novena to Saint Joseph on the 19th of each month, a devotion which rapidly spread among the people and which has now become “the largest single expression of popular piety in the archdiocese”. Now the parish church has been raised to the status of a Diocesan Sanctuary of Saint Joseph, and on the saint’s feast day over 100,000 of the faithful throng the area.
“Laid at the feet of his image are so many stories of suffering, hope and prayer”, Father Zenildo assures us. Including his own story: in December 2016 he fell ill with pneumonia and was indeed very close to death; but after five hours hovering between life and death, he came through the crisis. He was discharged from hospital on the 19th of the month. “My 78-year-old mother, on seeing me, rushed up to me and hugged me, weeping with gratitude, and whispered to me: ‘I prayed so hard to Saint Joseph not to lose you!’.”
Many project partners tell of spiritual favours granted by the saint. For example, Father Godino Phokoso of the diocese of Dedza, in Malawi, who explained to ACN how his father had passed onto him the devotion to Saint Joseph. “He always used to call on Saint Joseph “the carpenter”. He spoke to me a great deal about him, telling me that he was a just man, a hard-working man, a loving father.” And it was Saint Joseph also, who helped him to get into the seminary, Father Godino recalls, and likewise in his training and his studies on the path to the priesthood. He describes his relationship to Saint Joseph as “that of father and son”. “He is my loving father, who never wearies of my petitions”, things like “preaching a good sermon, being a good servant of God, keeping healthy, and so forth. Many of these things I have already received and can bear witness to; the others are still on their way”, he adds.
Among the testimonies received by ACN there are also accounts from India of miracles and cures attributed to the intercession of Saint Joseph. Jesuit Father George Kerketta, of St Joseph’s parish in Dolda, Jharkhand state, in India, where ACN helps for repairs to the church roof, tells of crises in family and married life that were resolved thanks to the intercession of the saint. He is likewise quite certain that vocations to the priesthood and religious life have been born thanks to the intercession of the patriarch, Saint Joseph. But there are also other stories in this parish, situated in a forest region, of help in critical moments, such as the time when one of the parishioners was attacked by a tiger and recovered from his wounds after the members of his family prayed to Saint Joseph.
The celebration of the Year of Saint Joseph has been marked by the Covid-19 crisis, which has likewise for many people been an opportunity to recommend themselves to his protection, as Father Ernest Adwok, the parish priest of Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in Malakal in South Sudan, reports: “Pope Francis wants this year to be dedicated to Saint Joseph. We are facing a situation of lockdown owing to the pandemic. But despite this, is it still possible to carry out certain activities in honour of this Year of Saint Joseph? I believe that if we trust in God, all kinds of things can change. We are hoping that through the intercession of Saint Joseph the whole world may be liberated from this pandemic”, he tells us. “Saint Joseph was a man of dreams and a man of action. Dreams and action – I have adopted this as my way of life, my vocation. I have dreams about my future life. So what am I going to do in the parish where I work?”, reflects Father Adwok.
Here you can read more testimonies