The month of March is an important month in the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar. Not only does this month occur during the Lenten season, but over thirty saints are celebrated over the course of the month’s 31 days. What a gift that the Church holds up so many wonderful saints as models who can help us with our spiritual life and recovery!
In the middle of the month, though, we have a saint whose importance can never be overstated but whom we as Catholics largely forget to offer praise and turn to in intercessory prayer.
I speak of St. Joseph, whose Feast day is March 19th.
During this Lent and particularly this month, let us renew our interest in Saint Joseph! We have been blessed with Pope Francis’s declaration that 2021 is the year of St. Joseph, so we can offer our prayers and learn more about this important Saint in our lives for the entire year. In an effort to raise more awareness in preparation for his feast day and, indeed, this entire year, I want to detail three ways Saint Joseph can assist us with our recovery and spiritual lives.
St. Joseph Assists with Loving Our Families
First, St. Joseph is a husband and father, a true family man. As St. John Paul II reminds us, “The growth of Jesus ‘in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man’ (Lk. 2:52) took place within the Holy Family under the eyes of St. Joseph, who had the important task of ‘raising’ Jesus, that is, feeding, clothing, and educating him in the Law and in a trade, in keeping with the duties of a father.”
The pandemic has challenged families. However, St. Joseph as head of the Holy Family provides us with the spiritual blueprint for sanctification: letting go of our egos, vices, and distractions that pull us away from serving God and family.
We find in St. Joseph a refreshing model of obedience. Consider how he follows God’s commands through the angel. God did not reveal to Joseph the big plan but, rather, only what Joseph needed to do next: take Mary into your home (thus completing the marriage ritual), protect her on the long journey to Jerusalem, travel to Egypt, and, after several years, return to Israel. And he did this with obedience. I am humbled when I think of him because such patience and trust in God can enable incredible spiritual progress when it comes to loving our spouse, children, parents, siblings, and other family members in our lives.
We can look to St. Joseph as a model for choosing each day to do the will of God, living for others in our family, and doing all things for the greater glory of Jesus, his foster son. We can expect problems, inconveniences, heavy crosses, and even disasters to befall us. But with St. Joseph as our patron, we can embrace difficulties with peace and trust in God’s plan to love and serve our families.
St. Joseph Assists with Our Sanctity
Second, St. John Henry Newman correctly pointed out regarding the sanctity of St. Joseph that, “He is Holy Joseph, because according to the opinion of a great number of doctors, he, as well as St. John Baptist, was sanctified even before he was born. He is Holy Joseph, because his office, of being spouse and protector of Mary, specially demanded sanctity. He is Holy Joseph, because no other Saint but he lived in such and so long intimacy and familiarity with the source of all holiness, Jesus, God incarnate, and Mary, the holiest of creatures.”
Therefore, let us take advantage of having this intercessor on our behalf precisely because of his intimacy and familiarity with Jesus. In this way, we can grow more in virtue as well. It is amazing when one thinks about the astonishing influence St. Joseph had on Jesus Christ. As St. Teresa of Avila explains, “I would wish to persuade everyone to honor him with particular devotion. I have always seen those who honored him in a special manner make progress in virtue, for this heavenly protector favors in a striking manner the spiritual advancement of souls who commend themselves to him.”
Because St. Joseph lived a life mostly hidden from scripture yet held a leading role in salvation history, we can see echoes of the many frontline workers of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Pope Francis wrote about in his Apostolic Letter “Patris Corde”:
“Our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked … They understood that no one is saved alone. Each of us can discover in Joseph—the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence—an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”
The virtue of prudence is the ability to make right judgments, and it helps us determine our true good in every circumstance. St. Joseph is a model of prudence. During this Lent, I suggest we pray the Litany of St. Joseph.
St. Joseph Assists with Combating Temptation and Demons
In addiction recovery, especially early on, we often look for signs, an “easy way,” or a particular method that will offer the best and quickest results. We do not need to look much further than St. Joseph, precisely because he is the model of virtues and destroyer of demons.
He is a powerful intercessor in the battle for purity and sexual addictions when it comes to recovery. The temptations against purity that batter our minds, hearts, and souls give us the opportunity to grab hold of St. Joseph! He is capable of increasing the virtue of chastity in our hearts and increasing in us the love of God and neighbor.
In the early 20th-century book Go to Joseph, Our Unfailing Protector, the author gives a brief summary of how missionaries invoked his intercession to drive out demonic influences. Demons are not effective against St. Joseph as Saint Faustina also confirms: “Saint Joseph urged me to have a constant devotion to him … He has promised me this special help and protection.”
I find this incredibly comforting! St. Joseph is our go-to saint to help when forces beyond our control, including demonic forces, seek to unsettle and pull us toward despair, ruin, and relapse.
I urge us all this year to learn more about St. Joseph. Start with the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on devotion to St. Joseph, entitled Quamquam Pluries. Read the fantastic Consecration to St. Joseph book written by Fr. Donald Calloway. Pray any of the St. Joseph-specific prayers and a rosary accompanying these prayers.
Let us remember the words of another saint when speaking about St. Joseph. St. Thomas Aquinas, whom we celebrated on March 7, wrote, “Some Saints are privileged to extend to us their patronage with particular efficacy in certain needs, but not in others; but our holy patron St. Joseph has the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, in every undertaking.”
With that in mind, let this be our personal prayer:
St. Joseph, help me to examine my life to discover what holds me back from trusting and obeying God more fully. Help me to imitate you and to be courageous, especially in times filled with difficulty and sorrow. Give me the courage to be a good and faithful witness to Jesus Christ in word and deed. Pray for me so that I may have a humble heart and yield to God at all times. Amen.
Aaron Walter is a lifelong Catholic and former porn addict whose ministry, NewMenRising, is dedicated to pornography addiction recovery. He is a coach, mentor, and accountability partner and is passionate about helping husbands kick their addiction and transform their lives and relationships. You can connect with him at calendly.com/aaronwaltercoachingsessions.