Carolyn Astfalk offers simple suggestions, including a sweet treat, to foster your family’s devotion to Saint Joseph this year.
Any time is a good time to foster devotion to Saint Joseph in our families, but we’ve been given a wonderful opportunity to make a concerted effort to do so during this year dedicated to Saint Joseph.
Many adults are embarking on consecration to Saint Joseph using Father Donald Calloway’s Consecration to Saint Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father. While great for grown-ups, it’s not suited for use with children, especially young ones. So, what is there for families?
Catholic Mom contributor Christine Vincent shared Saint Joseph Books and Resources for Catholic Kids with plenty of great suggestions to help familiarize families with Saint Joseph.
I’ve come up with some fairly easy ways to bring Saint Joseph to the forefront in your family’s life this year, even if you have very young children. First, the simplest.
- Bring Saint Joseph to mind and make him part of your daily prayer life by tacking on “Saint Joseph, pray for us” to the end of common prayers. You could add it to morning prayer, grace before meals, bedtime prayers, or any time of day. Set a daily timer on a device, and when it goes off, everyone asks for Saint Joseph’s intercession.
- Place a statue or icon of Saint Joseph in a common area where everyone can see it. Most of us already have a Saint Joseph statue, yet we never give thought to it outside of Christmas. There’s no rule saying that Saint Joseph must be confined to the Nativity set. Bring him out for the entire year! You may have to bring Mary and baby Jesus along, since Joseph is so often depicted gazing lovingly upon them, but that’s even better. You can also place an angel nearby, if you’d like, since Joseph was visited by an angel in his dreams.
- Pray the Stations of the Cross with Saint Joseph. While this devotion is particularly apropos during Lent, Stations are great Friday devotions year-round. They’re good any day, for that matter. Our family watched Father Edward Looney’s Praying the Stations of the Cross with St. Joseph together in a darkened room, lit only by candles. The Stations are short (under fifteen minutes) and both the images and the words are fairly simple, helping to hold children’s attention as much as can be expected.
One of our favorite ways to mark feasts and devotions is with food. You can make these edible delights as simple or as fancy as you like.
- The Italian celebration of Saint Joseph’s (San Giuseppe’s) feast day (March 19) is often associated with cream puffs. Pick some up at the store, try a simple variety, or go all-out and make them from scratch.
- Bread is also associated with Saint Joseph as he was the breadwinner of the Holy Family. Serve a loaf with dinner, maybe some fancy artisan stuff. If your kids are old enough, involve them in baking a loaf. We’ve been using a super simple but impressive-looking no-knead recipe that never fails.
- Create a Saint Joseph’s Table, an Italian tradition. Start by setting up a stair-step or multilevel display. (This would be a good time to read Staircase for the Sisters.) On your St. Joseph's Table, place breads, soups, pasta, side dishes, and cream puffs. If that seems like too much, at least do an Internet search for “St. Joseph’s Table” and admire the beautiful photos! I’m half-Italian, and I’d been completely unaware of this beautiful tradition. The table is meant to be charitable too, so make a donation to your local food pantry as well.
If your children are older and/or you want to go a step further, these ideas may spark your imagination.
- Set up a Saint Joseph altar. Bring out that statue from the Nativity set or maybe this is the time to buy a new one or some other artwork depicting Jesus’s earthly father. To the altar, add some lilies. Saint Joseph if often depicted with a lily, symbolizing purity. They are readily available during the Easter season, but you can often find inexpensive mini lilies (alstroemeria) in the grocery story year-round in a variety of colors. Consider adding a pillar candle for the Pillar of Families or perhaps some small tools in honor of his work as a craftsman.
- Go on a pilgrimage. If you want to go big, visit Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal (currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions), but you can adapt this idea for sites close to home. Are there churches under Saint Joseph’s patronage in your diocese? Map them out and make a visit. If that’s not possible, most Catholic churches have a statue of Saint Joseph. Make a practice of visiting local churches, seeking out their Saint Joseph statues, and praying for his intercession.
- Pray the Litany of Saint Joseph, undertake the Seven Sundays Devotion, or pray Saint Joseph’s Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys.
Saint Joseph’s role in the Holy Family is eminently practical. He provided and safeguarded, two invaluable tasks.
- Pray for those who are unable to find work. Ask Saint Joseph to intercede for them.
- Work together. We honor Saint Joseph on two feasts each year: March 19 and May 1, the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker. Undertake a family work project. An improvement to the house or carpentry (however simple) is even better.
- Build a house. Create a small house out of blocks or wood. And why reserve the gingerbread house for Christmas? Build one in honor of Saint Joseph. If you’re really ambitious, you could move the little house about your home for the kids to find in honor of the Holy House of Loreto.
If all else fails, and with a houseful of small children, it sometimes does, Saint Joseph is known for being quiet. Not a single word he spoke is recorded in the Gospels. Play a round of the silent game or charades in honor of this great but quiet saint. Or take it a step further and take a family nap! Be inspired by the sleeping Saint Joseph, whom God communicated with in his dreams.
Copyright 2021 Carolyn Astfalk
Images (from top): Canva Pro; Icon of St. Joseph the Worker from MonasteryIcons.com, used with permission; Pixabay (2014); Canva Pro; copyright 2021 Carolyn Astfalk, all rights reserved; Canva Pro; "St. Joseph's Dream," Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons