What the month of March means to Catholics and how to honor it in your home.
Did you know that in the Catholic Church, each of the 12 months of the year has a devotional theme?
For Catholics, March is the month devoted to St. Joseph, patron saint of workers, families, homes, and a happy death. It is interesting to think of it this way: February is devoted to the Holy Family, followed by March devoted to St. Joseph, who is head of that family. In the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, “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.”
Continuing our monthly series on ways to showcase each month’s Catholic theme in your life, here are 12 ways you can align your family to St. Joseph this March:
1For your special intentions, pray this powerful prayer to St. Joseph
This prayer has “never been known to fail” and is the go-to for my family.
2Honor your father(s)
In Italy and Spain, Fathers Day is celebrated annually on St. Joseph’s Day. Indeed, what better day to do something nice for the St. Josephs in our lives? Whatever older man in your life has guided you, deepened your faith, or helped you — whether it’s a biological father, adoptive father, foster father, grandfather, father-in-law, spiritual father, beloved uncle, or good priest … St. Joseph’s Day is a perfect day to honor them! But any time in March affords a great opportunity to celebrate these men. Send a card describing your gratitude, call them up, make them dinner, offer a Mass in their honor!
3Resolve to work smarter this month
This month, work in a way befitting the patron saint of work. Offer up your labor out of love and gratitude for St. Joseph. Remember that keeping holy the Sabbath and abstaining from labor on Sunday honors St. Joseph, too!
4Place an icon, statue, or image of St. Joseph on your table
Put a treasured picture of your own family beside it, as a way of seeking blessing and intercession for your family from St. Joseph, Pillar of Families.
5Make Wednesdays special
In the Catholic tradition, Wednesday is the day of the week devoted to St. Joseph. Wednesday can be thought of as a linchpin in the week; on either side of it is a grouping of days, clustered together like an outstretched arm on either end. What a perfect day to honor St. Joseph, whose arms were outstretched in life to comfort and protect Jesus and Mary. Make your Wednesdays in March extra special by going to Mass or asking for St. Joseph to pray for your intentions . What better month to begin the Nine First Wednesdays tradition in honor of St. Joseph?
6Make a St. Joseph's Day altar
This is an Italian tradition, but anyone can practice it! (Just as everyone is encouraged to celebrate on St. Patrick’s day even if they’re not Irish!) We are a universal church and we should adopt any and all Catholic traditions that we find appealing. The St. Joseph’s altar is a fun and meaningful tradition that kids will enjoy helping with. You can make it as elaborate or simple as you want. One idea is to give the altar three levels — one for each person of the Trinity or for each member of the Holy Family. You can place a statue or picture of St. Joseph on the top tier, often with candles. Then you lavish the altar itself with traditional foods that you can serve at a St. Joseph’s Day gathering, so it becomes a blessed buffet in praise of and gratitude for St. Joseph. It is said the tradition stems from a famine in Sicily when peasants invoked the help of St. Joseph and were delivered from hunger. Meals made with fava beans are traditionally served on St. Joseph’s Day, as it is thought it was a crop of fava beans that saved the people from starvation. Meat is traditionally not served to remain mindful of Lent. Traditional St. Joseph’s day foods include breads shaped in cross and staff form, figs, olives and dates, artichokes, fruits, and salads. Sweets of all kinds are a big part of the altar, especially donuts, cream puffs, biscotti and Italian cookies. For the main meal you can serve traditional feast day dinners such as fish and “St. Joseph’s Sawdust”: toasted bread crumbs over pasta, representing sawdust from St. Joseph’s workshop. Here’s a recipe. A church near you may even be having a St. Joseph’s Day celebration! If you celebrate at home, children can act out the part of the Holy Family by knocking at three doors in the home. At the first two doors, they are told “there is no room for you here,” and at the third door they are welcomed into the feast
7Adorn your home with flowers
On your St. Joseph’s Day altar, or anywhere in your home, place a St. Joseph’s Lily (a kind of amaryllis), or something that looks similar such as Easter lilies or a peace plant.
8Find a way to include St. Joseph in the décor of your home
Here are a few ideas: Purchase a statue of St. Joseph for your garden. Frame a work of religious art featuring St. Joseph, such as this one by Murillo. Include fleur-de-lys (the Joseph lily) pattern somewhere in your house. The classic fleur-de-lys pattern can adorn anything from door knockers to bath towels. Or simply print out a black and white image of St. Joseph and color with coloring pencils, then frame it. This makes a great craft activity for kids. Or you can buy a piece of wood from a craft store, sand it down to smooth, stain it, and then decoupage an image of St. Joseph on top — it’s a fitting activity to honor St. Joseph the carpenter!
9Read the “Consecration to St. Joseph,” by Fr. Donald Calloway
You can listen to my interview with Fr. Calloway speaking about the wonders of St. Joseph on the podcast “Destination: Sainthood” here.
10Find ways to give
Since St. Joseph is the patron saint of families, find ways to give to families in need through local (or national) Catholic organizations, such as your food pantries, in St. Joseph’s honor and following his loving example.
11Pray for the suffering, sick and dying
Since St. Joseph is the “Comfort to the Afflicted, Hope of the Sick and the Patron of the Dying,” add those people to your daily prayers this month.
12At the end of the day, give your worries to the sleeping St. Joseph
It is said that St. Joseph, the “Terror of Demons,” even frightens demons in his sleep; such is his power and strength. Ask St. Joseph, who communicates with God even in his dreams, to pray for your intentions and take your worries so you can get some rest! You can even do as Pope Francis advises, and place a note with your special intentions under a statue of the sleeping St. Joseph.
May St. Joseph, Pillar of Families, bless you and your family!