Monday March 20, 2023 is the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Feast Day marks the 152th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church.
“Go to Joseph!” is a familiar refrain when confronted with a difficult situation requiring intercession from above. This directive is shown on the cover of the magazine of The Society of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, “The Josephites”. What better way to “Go to Joseph!” than visit a church named in his honor and pray before a statue of him? There are thousands of churches across the world dedicated to St. Joseph. The saint is known under many titles, with these being the most common: 1) the Husband of Mary; 2) the Foster-Father of Jesus; 3) the Worker; 4) the Patron of the Universal Church; and 5) the Patron of a happy death.
There are 4,498 churches in the world with the name of “St. Joseph” with 1,359 (30%) in the United States. The next highest total is Italy at 528 churches – this is not surprising given Italy’s strong devotion to the blessed saint. Third place goes to another stronghold of devotion to St. Joseph, with a large number of Christians: India having 424 churches with the name of St. Joseph. Again, it’s not surprising that Europe has a large proportion of the churches with the name of St. Joseph (37%) given its earlier “start” in Christianity. Of course, there are growing numbers in Central and South America with Brazil having 108 churches with the name of St. Joseph and Mexico 82. (Data sourced from The Catholic Directory – see reference below.)
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Most churches with St. Joseph as the patron are simply called “St. Joseph’s Church” or the “Church of St. Joseph” without indicating any “title” of St. Joseph in the name. However, there are some churches which have titles in the name – for example, there are 359 churches called “St. Joseph the Worker” and 52 called “St. Joseph, the Husband of Mary”.
In the United States, the patronage of St. Joseph seems to be particularly prized in the Midwest. Looking at the 73 St. Joseph Churches listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), over 50% of these are in Midwestern states with the most in Ohio (6) and Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota each having 5. The East Coast has approximately 21% of the churches on the NRHP, but this is partly due to the earlier settlement patterns on the east coast resulting in more churches of the age to be “historic” as there are many beautiful St. Joseph Churches in the South and West too.
St. Joseph is looked to as a Patron of the Universal Church (declared by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1870) and so it makes sense that there are many Cathedrals (85) in the world named in honor of St. Joseph. In the U.S. there are 19 Cathedrals named for St. Joseph and 28 in India.
Another way to “Go to Joseph!” within the churches is to pray in front of statues of him. These statues may show him as the “Husband of Mary” in depictions of the Holy Family. He is frequently shown holding the Child Jesus in his role as the “Foster Father of Jesus”. Under his title of “St. Joseph the Worker”, he is usually shown with tools of a carpenter such as a square, a saw or a hammer. See some images below of the great saint.
While in a church named “St. Joseph’s Church”, before a statue of St. Joseph, “Go to Joseph!” in prayer. The Litany of St. Joseph outlines both his qualities, and those traits which we can hope to imitate. See the Litany of Saint Joseph on this website here https://churchwonders.com/devotions/litanies/litany-of-saint-joseph/
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The Catholic Directory – https://www.catholicdirectory.com/
The Josephites – https://www.josephites.org/
Vatican – https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-12/pope-francis-proclaims-year-of-st-joseph.html
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Catholic_churches_in_the_United_States
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_churches_named_after_Saint_Joseph