When asked which is their favorite month, some Sisters reply without a moment’s doubt, “March!” There are many good reasons to prefer different months—October,for instance, is the month of the Rosary—but March is special because of our great love for St. Joseph and the tender devotion with which we celebrate the month dedicated to him.
This year we would like to share a novena in honor of the Saint, which can be made beginning today, March 11, ending on the Solemnity of St. Joseph on March 19, or at any time in honor of the Saint . This particular novena could be called a “contemplative novena” because, instead of a set prayer to say, it is composed of meditations which lead one deep into the mystery of St. Joseph’s inner life of purity, holiness, and love.
The text of the introduction and novena follow. (We have seen this in various sources of devotions to St. Joseph.)
Introduction to Novena
This novena has proven to be highly efficacious. It seems to be pleasing to St. Joseph and helpful to souls.
This form of novena was originally devised by the celebrated Fr. Louis Lallemant, S. J. [1587-1633]. It has proved particularly effective in obtaining favors through the intercession of St. Joseph. In the Life of this saintly priest and great master of the spiritual life, to whom St. Joseph never refused anything he asked, the story is told that on one occasion he urged two young priests to make this novena, promising that they would obtain everything they asked through the intercession of St. Joseph if, in turn, they would show him special honor and spread devotion to him among others.
Both did as Fr. Lallemant suggested. One of them asked for grace to speak and write worthily of Our Lord. But the next day he came to Fr. Lallemant to tell him that, upon reflection, he wished to ask for a different grace, which he considered more conducive to his perfection. Fr. Lallemant replied, “It is too late now to ask for another grace. The first one has already been granted.” This grace was conspicuously displayed throughout the whole course of the priest’s life, as he became one of the most noted preachers and writers of his day.
How to Make this Novena
No particular prayers need be said for this novena. Every day for nine days, turn to St. Joseph in spirit four times during the day and honor him in the following four points. (These “visits” may be made anywhere—at home, at work, on the street, in the car or bus—and at any time.)
1) During the first visit, consider Joseph’s fidelity to grace. Reflect upon the action of the Holy Spirit in his soul. At the conclusion of this brief meditation, thank God for so honoring St. Joseph, and ask, through his intercession for a similar grace.
2) Later in the day, consider Joseph’s fidelity to the interior life. Study his spirit of recollection. Think, thank God, and ask.
3) Later still, consider Joseph’s love for Our Lady.
Think, thank God, and ask.
4) Finally, in a fourth visit, reflect upon Joseph’s love for the Divine Child. Think, thank God, and ask.
Texts for Meditation
One of the blessings of the religious life is having the time and resources to learn and meditate on the things of God and His Saints. Here are a few texts to give substance to the above novena.
Concerning St. Joseph’s role as husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary: “In order to receive Mary’s love, in order to receive her who was totally consecrated to God, Joseph must have had to enter into this consecration himself. Could we not say, then, that, in choosing Mary, Joseph consecrated himself to God? When Mary told him about herself, Joseph received her as she was, and, since he loved her, his only desire could have been to live what she lived. . . . What was deepest in Mary was that she belonged to God. Joseph therefore chose this out of love for her, and so consecrated himself to God by the very fact that he loved her.” (Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P. in The Mystery of St. Joseph)
On the hidden quality of St. Joseph, who cares for Jesus and Mary but speaks no word recorded in the Gospels: “Liturgical rubrics stipulate that the Holy Eucharist be kept in our tabernacles, in a gold or silver ciborium, and that this be covered with a gold, silver or silk veil. In the mystery of the Incarnation, the Sacred Host is Jesus, the ciborium is Mary, the veil is St. Joseph. Just as the ciborum is only there for the Host, so the veil is only there for the Host and the ciborium. As Mary exists and lives only for Jesus, Joseph exists and lives only for Jesus and Mary.” (Bishop Gay, quoted in The Glories of St. Joseph)