In his recent and popular book “Consecration to St. Joseph,” Father Donald Calloway recommends that Catholic husbands, fathers and workers hold St. Joseph as their role model for growing in holiness and virtue. But women are not excluded from the loving care of such a patron. Father Calloway also teaches that women who consecrate themselves to the saint will be placed under his powerful protection.
“Consecration to St. Joseph” is a theological study on the topic of St. Joseph that outlines a 34-day prayer program wherein the Litany of St. Joseph is prayed daily. The litany invokes the character strengths that allowed St. Joseph to perform his crucial role in salvation history. For example, in it, we invoke St. Joseph as most just, most chaste, most prudent, most obedient and most faithful. These are virtues that women, too, are expected to practice, though we sometimes express them differently than men do.
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But, the more I prayed the litany and made my way through Father Calloway’s book, the more I noticed that the invocations in the litany seemed to be serving another purpose for me as a Catholic woman by describing the characteristics I am searching for in the type of man I hope to marry.
In a way, the Litany of St. Joseph quickly became my “love list.” At first, I felt self-conscious of myself for being so “picky,” but as the days went on and I continued to pray and learn about Jesus’ foster father, my growing desire to marry a man like St. Joseph made more and more sense: There’s no reason why any woman shouldn’t want a husband who is just, chaste, prudent, strong, obedient and faithful. In fact, she should want him to possess those virtues and, moreover, should expect him to be purposefully cultivating them on a daily basis.
Maybe you think this is too tall an order. If you were to come across a man’s profile on CatholicMatch who states he is looking for a woman like the Blessed Virgin Mary, you would likely be turned off, for who can reach such high expectations? And if nothing short of perfection is expected, there is surely a problem. Yet, on the other hand, what would your intuition tell you about a man who said that he was looking for another sinner just like him? It would tell you that misery loves company.
We desire to match with a person who has a balanced outlook on life and on people, but I do think it’s reasonable for a woman to want to marry a man like St. Joseph. You see, the beautiful and best thing about St. Joseph is that he’s an “everyman” character. Unlike the other two people in the Holy Family, Joseph was not immaculately conceived nor a divine person. He was simply a man given the grace to fulfill the role God had asked of him. So, while we are called to imitate Jesus and his Blessed Mother, we can more closely relate to St. Joseph. All men are created with a template of St. Joseph written on their hearts, and every man has the potential to cultivate his heart into one of virtue and love.
In this way, I’ve come to see that, when we pray the Litany of St. Joseph, we aren’t only getting to know the foster father of Jesus and the husband of the Blessed Virgin; we’re getting to know the very image of a loving man, the kind of man a woman wants in her life and the kind of man she wants to love. This can be a powerful experience of healing for many of us who have had painful relationships with broken men that have tainted our view of what a good man can be.
The litany also reminds us that, as women, we have a role to play in setting boundaries and expectations regarding what we will tolerate in our relationships with men. We are called to uphold the men in our lives, not tear them down, and this saves them from feeling like they’ve disappointed us or from worrying that they’re being set up to fail when they don’t know what we want. Likewise, having boundaries around virtuous behavior also shows that we, too, have a plan for growing in holiness, and that we’re committed to advancing spiritually. As women, we should pray to St. Joseph, asking him to intercede for us that we may cultivate the ability to communicate our needs and desires clearly and with intent.
Ladies, whether you are single or dating or married, don’t forget to turn to St. Joseph. Seek his intercession for your future or current spouse, and even for the other men in your life — brothers, fathers and friends. And then ask for his prayers that your own heart may be ever more open to receiving God’s love.
The Litany of St. Joseph
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us (after each line)
Renowned offspring of David,
Light of Patriarchs,
Spouse of the Mother of God,
Chaste guardian of the Virgin,
Foster-father of the Son of God,
Diligent protector of Christ,
Head of the Holy Family,
Joseph most just,
Joseph most chaste,
Joseph most prudent,
Joseph most strong,
Joseph most obedient,
Joseph most faithful,
Mirror of patience,
Lover of poverty,
Model of artisans,
Glory of home life,
Guardian of virgins,
Pillar of families,
Solace of the wretched, Hope of the sick,
Patron of the dying,
Terror of demons,
Protector of Holy Church,
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
V. He made him lord over his house,
R. And the ruler of all his possessions.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ,
by your ineffable providence
you chose saint Joseph
to be the spouse of your most holy Mother:
grant, we beseech you,
that we may have him for an intercessor in heaven,
as we venerate him as our protector on earth.
You who live and reign forever and ever. R. Amen.
For more resources on cultivating a relationship with St. Joseph, check out some books from the OSV bookstore.