The many marvelous feasts of St. Joseph

Celebrating St. Joseph throughout the year

By Mary Farrow 
Contributing Writer 

On March 19, less than four months after Pope Francis announced the celebration of the Year of St. Joseph, the Church celebrated the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the highest feast day dedicated to Jesus’ foster father and the head of the Holy Family.  

But while Catholics may have eaten their fill of zeppole and other St. Joseph’s Day treats, they need not think that their only chance to celebrate this great saint has come and gone. There are many days throughout the liturgical year during which they can honor the Guardian of Virgins, Hope of the Sick, Patron of the Dying, Terror of Demons –St. Joseph.  
Most of the days included in this article can also be dates on which to conclude a Consecration to St. Joseph, using the recent guide by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC.  
January 23: Feast of the Holy Spouses 
In the 1400s, French theologian Jean Gerson proposed a feast day honoring the marriage of Joseph and Mary of the Holy Family. 
The feast grew in popularity among certain regions and religious orders. St. Joseph Marello introduced the feast to the Oblates of St. Joseph in the 1800s because he “reflected upon the fact that the greatest saints of all time, Mary and Joseph, lived an ordinary, hidden life, and that sanctity therefore consisted in daily expressions of love in family life, work, and prayer,” the Oblates state on their website.  
Where it is celebrated, the feast can be a time for couples to renew their marriage vows to one another.  

Oil on panel painting of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, mix of Medieval and Northern Renaissance elements, showing St. Simeon, Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, Baby Jesus, and Anna, circa 1500

February 2: The Presentation of the Lord  
The feast of the Presentation marks the day that Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, to consecrate him and offer sacrifices to God in the Jewish tradition.  
During the Presentation, Simeon the prophet, who had been awaiting the Messiah, announced that he had now seen the salvation of the Lord. Simeon also prophesied to Mary:  “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” 
While this was not directed at Joseph, he would have heard it and realized that he would not be alive for Jesus’ Passion and death, and Mary’s great sorrow.  
Several saints have reflected on St. Joseph in this moment, including Blessed Concepcion Cabrera de Armida, a Mexican woman who established Religious of the Cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  
“And how greatly you (St. Joseph) suffered at the vision of her (Mary’s) martyrdom without you, the solitude of the wife whom you loved so well. Oh what martyrdom wracked your soul at the forevision of the Passion and the seven swords which would pierce the Immaculate Heart of Mary. You dreamed of her alone, alone without Jesus – and this affliction embittered your happy life,” she wrote in a reflection included in Father Calloway’s Consecration to St. Joseph.  
This feast day is traditionally celebrated by the blessing of candles and candlelit processions. It is also a good time to meditate on the devotion of St. Joseph’s Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys.  

March 19: The Solemnity of St. Joseph 
This primary and highest feast of St. Joseph is celebrated annually on March 19. Because this feast is a solemnity, even though it falls during Lent, the faithful are dispensed of their Lenten obligations on this day.  
Since the 10th century, several Western countries celebrated March 19 as the Feast of St. Joseph, with the feast day becoming the official practice of the Church in the 1500s. 

Large celebrations of this feast are particularly popular in Italy, especially in the town of Sicily, of which St. Joseph is the patron saint. Italian-American celebrations of St. Joseph’s Day also grew in popularity as a point of Italian-American pride, following just two days after St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.  

Besides attending Mass and praying the St. Joseph novena, St. Joseph’s Day traditions include the making and eating of zeppole, an Italian cream puff-like pastry, and the decoration of large St. Joseph’s tables. These tables include a statue or icon of the saint, along with gifts and food to be eaten at feast day parties. Many cities also hold St. Joseph’s Day parades.  
May 1: The Feast of St. Joseph the Worker  
Besides March 19, this is perhaps the most widely known and celebrated feast honoring the foster father of Jesus. While St. Joseph was always known to the Church as a carpenter, the idea of Joseph as a patron of workers took on added significance in the 20th century, when the Church spent much effort combating the atheistic ideas of the communist movement.  
According to Franciscan media, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker was instituted by Pope Pius XII in 1955 as a counter to Communist May Day celebrations honoring workers. He likely took his cue from his predecessor, Pope Pius XI, who upheld St. Joseph as a counter to the Communist worker ideal in his encyclical on atheistic communism. 
“Along with the humanity of the Son of God, work too has been taken up in the mystery of the Incarnation, and has also been redeemed in a special way. At the workbench where he plied his trade together with Jesus, Joseph brought human work closer to the mystery of the Redemption,” Pope John Paul II, also a staunch opponent of communism, wrote in Guardian of the Redeemer, an apostolic exhortation on St. Joseph.  
May 13: Feast of Our Lady of Fatima 
While most Catholics likely think of the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima primarily as a Marian feast, marking the appearances of Mary to the three shepherd children at Fatima, St. Joseph also appeared during the final apparition, on the day of the famous “dancing sun.”  
St. Joseph appeared to the children on October 13, 1917, next to Mary, holding the Child Jesus and appearing to bless the world with the sign of the Cross, according to Sister Lucia, one of the shepherd children to whom Mary appeared. 

“The Oct. 13 vision reminds us that in these troublesome times, we can and should turn to the Holy Family to reorder our own lives. Like the Holy Family, we are to define our lives by humble and trusting commitment to God and self-sacrifice to one another,” wrote Father Dan Cambra, MIC, in a 2019 post for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception.   
August 21: Feast of Our Lady of Knock  
St. Joseph also appeared next to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Irish apparition of Our Lady of Knock. According to the Knock shrine, alongside Mary, St. John the Evangelist and the Lamb on the altar, St. Joseph appeared, standing to Mary’s right, with his head bowed as if in prayer.  
“There at Our Lady’s side, was her spouse, his head bent in prayer and support. St. Joseph, in his own quiet way, points each of us in the direction of Our Blessed Mother. He invites us to place all our prayers and intercessions in Her care, as She intercedes for us with Her Son. In these unprecedented and challenging times, that message is as relevant to us today as it was in 1879,” the Knock Shrine in Ireland said in a statement following the announcement of the Year of St. Joseph.  
November 1-2: All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day  
In November, the Church remembers the faithful who have passed on in a special way – both those who are known to be in heaven (the saints) and those who may still be in purgatory (the souls).  
Both of these feast days are an excellent time to honor St. Joseph, who is called Patron of the Dying and Delight of the Saints. Additionally, the entire month of November is dedicated to praying for all those who have died and would be an ideal time to ask for the intercession of St. Joseph.  
While the death of St. Joseph is not in the Bible, it is held by Church tradition, and confirmed in the visions of some saints, that St. Joseph would have died in the presence of Jesus and Mary, making him the patron of a happy death.  
“Since we all must die, we should cherish a special devotion to St. Joseph that he may obtain for us a happy death,” St. Alphonsus Liguori said.  
December 10: Our Lady of Loreto  
The feast of Our Lady of Loreto celebrates the house of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Family. This house is believed to be the site of the Annunciation, as well as the home where the Holy Family would have lived for many years after their return from Egypt.  

The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

This is where St. Joseph would have spent much of his life, loving and caring for Mary and Jesus. This feast day could be an opportunity to meditate more deeply on one of the titles of St. Joseph, which is Glory of Domestic life. This house is also believed to be the place where St. Joseph died, surrounded by the loving presence of Jesus and Mary.  
The house, now located in Loreto, Italy, is believed by some to have been magically transported by angels from Nazareth in the 1200s – first to a spot in Croatia, and then to Loreto. The holy site draws many pilgrims every year. 

December 26: Feast of the Holy Family  
Because the seasons of Advent and Christmas center around the Holy Family, they are good times to remember and celebrate St. Joseph, who was the head of the Holy Family and is known among his many titles as the Pillar of Families.   
In December 2006, Pope Benedict XVI offered a reflection on the Holy Family: “Mary and Joseph taught Jesus primarily by their example: in his parents he came to know the full beauty of faith, of love for God and for his Law, as well as the demands of justice, which is totally fulfilled in love,” he said.  

“The Holy Family of Nazareth is truly the ‘prototype’ of every Christian family which, united in the Sacrament of Marriage and nourished by the Word and the Eucharist, is called to carry out the wonderful vocation and mission of being the living cell not only of society but also of the Church, a sign and instrument of unity for the entire human race,” he added.  

Every Wednesday  
Finally, just as the Church has dedicated particular days of the week to particular devotions – Sundays to the Resurrection of the Lord, Mondays to the Holy Spirit, Saturdays to Our Lady, and so on – Wednesdays are devoted to St. Joseph.  
According to the Diocese of Charlotte’s website dedicated to the Year of St. Joseph, “Holy Mother Church has given Wednesday, ‘the day the week turns on’ — as author David Clayton highlights in his book The Little Oratory — to St. Joseph. This means that the middle of the week is the perfect time to reflect on, be grateful for, and intercede on behalf of holy fatherhood, both spiritual and biological.”

Featured image: Altarpiece of St. Joseph the Worker, by Pietro Annigoni in the Basilica di San Lorenzo in Florence, Italy

COMING UP: Father and son, deacon and priest: Deacon dads and priest sons share special bond as both serve God’s people

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The bond between a father and son is one of God’s greatest designs; however, when father and son are both called to serve the Church as deacon and priest, that bond takes on a whole new meaning. Just ask these two dads and their sons, all of whom answered the call to serve the people of God at the altar.

Deacon Michael Magee serves at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield, while his son Father Matthew Magee has worked as the priest secretary to Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila for the past several years and will soon be moved to a new assignment as parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder. Deacon Darrell Nepil serves at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver, and his son, Father John Nepil, served at several parishes within the archdiocese before his current assignment as a professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.

However different their journeys may have been, all four have something in common; mainly, that far from seeing their vocations as a reward from God, they have received them as an uncommon gift of grace that has blessed their families and individual relationships with each other abundantly, knowing that God acts in different ways to help us all get to Heaven.

Interwoven journeys

Deacon Michael Magee was ordained in May 2009, at the end of Father Matt’s first year of seminary. Little did they know that God would use both of their callings to encourage each other along the journey.

Deacon Michael’s journey began when a man from his parish was ordained a deacon.

“I simply felt like God was calling me to do something more than I was doing at the present time,” he said. “I had been volunteering for a number of different things and was involved in some ministry activities and in the Knights of Columbus. And I thought the idea of being a deacon would be simply another activity for which I could volunteer.”

He didn’t know what it entailed at the time. In fact, he believed it was something a man could simply sign up for. To his surprise, the diaconate was more serious – and it required five years of formation and discernment. Yet he was so drawn to it, that he decided to do it anyway. But as he learned more about the nature of the diaconate during his formation, he became more nervous and unsure about whether God was really calling him to that vocation. 

While his doubts remained all the way up to his ordination, Deacon Michael was faithful to his studies, trusting that God would lead him in the right path. 

And God did — through the calling of his own son to the priesthood.

Deacon Michael didn’t realize that his son Matthew had paid close attention to his father’s faith journey and had found in it a light that gave him courage to discern the priesthood.

Father Matthew Magee (left) and his dad, Deacon Michael Magee (right), were both encouraging to one another as they each pursued their respective vocations. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

“Seeing my dad, as a father, growing in his relationship with the Lord was really influential for me on my own desire to follow Christ,” said Father Matt. “Looking at his courage to discern his own vocation and follow God’s plan in his life gave me the strength and courage to be open to the same thing in my life… He played a very important role, whether he knew it or not at the time, and whether I knew it or not at the time.”

On the other hand, Father Matt didn’t know that his dad was in turn encouraged by his own response to God’s calling. 

“As I went through all those doubts, I watched Matthew’s journey in seminary and listened to how he was dealing with that in his life. And, as he just articulated very well, I also saw those same qualities in him,” Deacon Michael said. “Seeing a young man in his 20s willing to consider following God for the rest of his life also gave me the courage to continue on in my own journey, to see it through.”

God’s way of uplifting them in their vocations through each other’s journey is something they are very grateful for. 

This unusual grace impacted Father Matt during his first Mass, when his dad, as deacon, approached him before the Gospel reading and asked for the traditional blessing by calling him “father.”

“It was a really special moment for me. He’s certainly my biological father and raised me. But then there’s something different when we’re at the altar in a clerical capacity — there’s a strange reversal of roles when we’re giving spiritual nourishment to the people — a father asks the new father for the blessing,” he said.

In both of their vocations, Deacon Michael and Father Matt see God’s Providence and the unique plan he has for all of us.

“We all have a vocation, even if it’s something we may not expect,” Deacon Michael concluded. “You may feel anxiety or worry about what it’s going to look like, but trust in God. He will take care of things as he always does.”

A bribe for Heaven

For Deacon Darell and Father John Nepil, the journey was different, but not any less providential.

While he grew up Catholic, Father John wasn’t interested in setting foot on any Church activity during his teenage years. His saving grace was perhaps what many parents have to do to get their teenagers to Church: bribe them.

“His mom and I basically bribed him to go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference,” Deacon Darell said with a laugh. “He didn’t want to go, but we’d heard so many good things about it, that we said, ‘We’re going to make this happen, whatever it takes.’”

So the Nepils came up with a creative idea.

“He owed me some money for a uniform that he had needed for a job in the summer. So, I said, ‘Listen, if you go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference, I’ll forgive your debt. And he did, he and his brother went. And John especially came back a different boy. He literally was converted with a lightning bolt at that retreat.”

To this day, Father John marks his conversion to Christ from the summer before his senior year in high school when he attended that conference. 

As it happens with stories worth telling, the details of how much money he owed his father have varied over the years, and it’s a matter of debate among them, but Father John remembers it was close to $500.

“That’s subject to each one,” Father John said laughingly. “But what matters is that they offered to forgive my debt if I went to this retreat – it was money well spent.”

Besides this important event, Father John said that his dad influenced him in many ways by the simple fact of who he was as a father.

“My dad’s faith and moral character were a rock for me during some difficult teenage years,” he said. “He’s a great example of a man who was always faithful and lived a really outstanding moral life, but then as he deepened in love with Christ, he decided to give of himself in a more profound service.”

Father John Nepil (left) and Deacon Darrell Nepil (right) both had rather roundabout ways to their respective vocations, but they both say serving God’s people together as brothers in Holy Orders is a great joy. (Photo provided)

Besides his desire to serve and follow God, the seed that would eventually lead Deacon Darell to the diaconate was planted by a coworker, who would also take holy orders: Deacon Joe Donohoe.

“One day he said to me, ‘You should be a deacon.’ And, of course, I laughed at him and said, ‘I don’t have time for that. My life is too busy.’ But it only took him to suggest it for the idea to keep coming back to my head, and God kept nudging me. Eventually I decided I really wanted to do that,” Deacon Darell said.

The ability to share at the altar during the Mass has deepened the natural relationship of father and son and given Deacon Darell and Father John new opportunities to grow closer to God. 

One of the most meaningful times came when Deacon Darell had a massive stroke in 2018. While he was in the hospital, Father John was able to visit and celebrate Mass at his bed and pray the rosary with him every day, as he had come back from Rome and was working on his dissertation.

“It was probably the most privileged and intimate time I’ve ever had with my father,” Father John said. “It was an amazing gift that really changed our relationship.”

“I feel like that’s a huge reason why I healed and why I am here today,” Deacon Darell added.

“It’s a real gift to have my dad as a deacon and a brother. It’s a tremendous honor. It’s one of the great joys of my life.” Father John concluded. “That’s really what has bonded our relationship together: the sheer desire to serve Jesus, especially in holy orders.”