This devotion recognizes seven events in Joseph's life that were difficult for him to endure.
Many Catholics are familiar with the 7 Sorrows of Mary, a devotion honoring particular events in Mary’s life that caused her suffering, but few know about a similar devotion for St. Joseph.
The tradition stems from a popular story about two Franciscans who were caught in a storm, as narrated in the 19th-century book Annals of Saint Joseph.
Two Fathers of the Franciscan order were sailing along the coast of Flanders, when a terrible tempest arose, which sank the vessel, with its three hundred passengers. The two Fathers had sufficient presence of mind to seize hold of a plank, upon which they were tossed to and fro upon the waves, for three days and nights. In their danger and affliction, their whole recourse was to St. Joseph, begging his assistance in their sad condition.
St. Joseph appeared to them and helped them all reach a safe harbor. Then the saint “advised them daily to recite the Our Father and Hail Mary seven times, in memory of his seven dolors or griefs, and of his seven joys, and then disappeared.”
Here are the seven sorrows of St. Joseph, based on various events in the Bible, as recorded in the 19th-century devotional book The Glories of the Catholic Church.
- “First, at finding that his honored Lady and amiable spouse had conceived, and at the idea of being obliged by the law to forsake her. (St. Matt. i. 18, 19.)”
- “Second, at not being able to find lodging in the city of Bethlehem for the King and Queen of heaven, and at seeing Jesus lying shivering on a little straw in a manger, between two animals—His only shelter from the cold, there being no room for Him in the inn. (St. Luke ii. 7.)”
- “Third, at seeing the divine infant suffer and shed so much of His precious blood in the painful ceremony of His circumcision, when he was but eight days old. (St. Luke ii. 21.)”
- “Fourth, at hearing, on the day of the purification, the prophecy of holy Simeon, that the child should be an object of contradiction and persecution, and that a sword of sorrow should pierce Mary’s heart. (St. Luke ii. 34, 35.)”
- “Fifth, his flight into Egypt with the child and His Mother, in the darkness of the night, and in the depth of winter, to escape the persecution raised by Herod against the adorable infant. (St. Matt. ii. 13.)”
- “Sixth, on his return from Egypt, hearing that Archelaus, more cruel still, reigned in Judea in the room of Herod his father, he was afraid to go thither, and being warned in sleep retired into Galilee. (St. Matt. ii. 22.)”
- “Seventh, in the celebrated pilgrimage to Jerusalem, not finding the child Jesus, his only solace, among his acquaintance, he sought Him three days, sorrowing for His loss. (St. Luke i. 45, 46, 48.)”