Here’s Why You Should Add the Seven Joys and Sorrows of St. Joseph to Your List of Devotions
St. Joseph's virtue and faith is one that we ought to imitate. But in order to do that, we have to know him and his life. In the beautiful, lesser-known devotion of the Seven Sorrows and Joys of St. Joseph, which come from Sacred Scripture, we dive into the details, emotions, and faith of this silent Gospel figure.
His life as the head of the Holy Family was Heaven on earth in a literal manner. But he did not live without difficulties. He was charged to be the protector and leader of the Holy Family and safely delivered them from Nazareth to Bethlehem to Egypt and back.
If you don't know these prayers, take some time to learn more about it and perhaps add it to your go-to devotions. Because of his dedication to the Holy Family, trust in God, and humility, he is a powerful intecessor for the Universal Church. Here are the prayers that mark the sorrows and joys of St. Joseph's life.
(Each prayer is followed with an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be)
The First Sorrow - The doubt of St. Joseph. (Matt. 1:19)
The First Joy - The message of the Angel. (Matt. 1:20)
O most pure Spouse of Mary, glorious St. Joseph, as the affliction and anguish of thy heart was exceedingly great in thy perplexity, whether thou shouldst abandon thy most unspotted Spouse, so was the joy unspeakable when, by an Angel, the sublime Mystery of the Incarnation was revealed to thee. By this sorrow and joy, we beseech thee that now, and in our last agony, thou mayest comfort our souls by the joy of a good life and a holy death, like thine in the society of Jesus and Mary.
Place yourself in St. Joseph’s shoes. What emotions do you feel? Fear? Betrayal? Uneasiness? St. Joseph was a humble carpenter who just wanted to settle down with the woman he loved and live a quiet existence as a good Jewish man.
Suddenly, he finds himself at the great climax of all of salvation history. He is experiencing the moments which Abraham, Moses, and David waited for with great hope. The pressure would be too much for any man, but with the angel’s consoling words, he embraces his new mission with open arms.
The Second Sorrow - The poverty of Jesus' birth. (Luke 2:7)
The Second Joy - The birth of the Savior. (Luke 2:10-11)
O most happy Patriarch, glorious Saint Joseph, who wast to fulfill the duty of foster father to the Incarnate Word, thy sorrow in beholding the poverty of the Child Jesus in His birth, was changed immediately into heavenly delight, by hearing the angelic harmony, and by beholding the glory of that most resplendent night. By this thy sorrow and joy, we beseech Thee, that, after the passage of this life, we may in the next hear the angelic praises and enjoy the brightness of eternal glory.
Joseph was a poor man. He wanted for little and he had little. But when he became the adopted father of God incarnate, was he tempted to feel ashamed of his poverty? Did he wonder if he could provide what was suitable for the king of the universe?
I can imagine him watching the growing belly of Mary and wonder. But once he gazed at the face of the creator wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, suddenly all fears and insecurities dissolved into incredible joy.
The Third Sorrow - The Circumcision. (Luke 2:21)
The Third Joy - The Holy Name of Jesus. (Matt. 1:25)
O most excellent observer of the divine law, glorious St. Joseph, the most precious Blood which the Divine Infant, our Redeemer, shed in His circumcision, afflicted thy heart: but the Sacred Name of Jesus revived it and replenished it with gladness. By this, thy sorrow and joy, obtain for us, that during our life we may be free from every vice, and may in death joyfully breathe forth our soul with the Most Holy Name of Jesus in our hearts and on our lips.
Joseph was a good Jewish man who followed the law, no matter how difficult. The pain that comes with circumcision is one that no parent ever wants their child to endure. But Joseph was obedient and understood that it was necessary according to the law.
But just as they had to obey the Lord’s law in circumcising the newborn king, they had the joy of following the angel’s command from God and named him Jesus, the name above all names. The name which thousands of Christians would joyfully shed blood for in the centuries to come.
The Fourth Sorrow - The prophecy of Simeon. (Luke 2:34)
The Fourth Joy - The effects of the Redemption. (Luke 2:38)
O most faithful Saint, who was admitted to a participation in the Mystery of our Redemption, glorious St. Joseph, if the prophecy of Simeon, concerning what Jesus and Mary were to suffer, gave thee mortal affliction, thou wast likewise filled with holy joy for the salvation and glorious resurrection of innumerable souls, which he likewise foretold. By this, thy sorrow and joy, obtain for us, that we may be among the number of those who, through the merits of Jesus and the intercession of His Virgin Mother, will arise to everlasting glory.
Imagine being a parent of a beautiful new baby and taking them into your parish to be baptized. Imagine holding that babe with the chrism oil still drying on their head and the priest looks at you and declares that your brand new beautiful baby will be hated and die. It’s not comforting. It’s shocking. How were Mary and Joseph supposed to react?
It was no doubt difficult for them to hear, but they knew that his death was not for nothing. Jesus was born to die so that all of mankind might live. It brought them some comfort, maybe even joy, especially because they were able to share in that effect.
The Fifth Sorrow - The flight into Egypt. (Matt. 2:14)
The Fifth Joy - The overthrow of the idols of Egypt. (Is. 19:1)
O Most vigilant guardian and intimate friend of the Incarnate Son of God, glorious St. Joseph, how much didst thou suffer in providing for and serving the Son of the Most High, particularly in the flight thou wast obliged to make into Egypt! But how much also didst thou rejoice in having always with thee the same God, and seeing the Egyptian idols fall prostrate on the ground! By this thy sorrow and joy, obtain for us, that we may keep at a distance from the infernal tyrant, especially by flying from dangerous occasions, so that the idols of earthly affections may fall from our hearts, and that, being entirely devoted to the service of Jesus and Mary, we may live for them alone, and with them calmly die.
We are blessed to live in a time where we don’t have to worry about soldiers trampling into our town because of a mad king’s insecurities. It was a constant fear for the people living during the first century. After being warned in a dream that the baby Jesus’ life was at risk, St. Joseph sprang into action and raced to get his family to safety. It wasn’t an easy journey, and it was much farther than the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
But Joseph, being a good Jew, knew that this was necessary to fulfill the prophecies. He knew that all false idols will be cast aside and only the one true God will remain.
The Sixth Sorrow - The return from Egypt. (Matt. 2:22)
The Sixth Joy - Life with Jesus and Mary at Nazareth. (Luke 2:39)
O angel on earth, glorious St. Joseph, who didst behold, subject to thine orders the King of heaven: although thy joy in conducting Him back was disturbed by the fear of Archelaus, thou wast, nevertheless, comforted by an Angel, and didst dwell in safety with Jesus and Mary at Nazareth. By this thy sorrow and joy, obtain for us, that our hearts being released from hurtful fears, we may enjoy peace of conscience, and live in security with Jesus and Mary, and die in their embraces.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph made a home in Egypt. No doubt they had established a tight-knit community in Egypt where there were few who worshiped the God of Israel like they did. Egypt was where Jesus took his first steps, where he learned his first words. But their roots were in Israel, the promised land. And they knew that there was a day that they would have to go back. And finally, they were called. They bid goodbye to what they knew in Egypt and returned.
While it was bittersweet to leave, they must have been excited to be back in Israel. They were among their people again, reunited with family. They must have been relieved that the child’s life was no longer at risk (for now).
The Seventh Sorrow - The loss of the Child Jesus. (Luke 2:45)
The Seventh Joy - The finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. (Luke 2:46)
O model of all sanctity, glorious saint Joseph, having lost the Divine Child without any fault of thine, thou didst seek Him in great sorrow for three days, until at length thou was filled with exceeding gladness on finding Him in the temple amidst the doctors. By this thy sorrow and joy, we beseech Thee, to intercede for us, that we may never lose Jesus by grievous sin, but that, should we have the misfortune to lose Him, we may seek for Him with unwearied sorrow until we have happily found Him: and particularly that we may find Him at the hour of our death, in order to enjoy Him in heaven, and there with thee to sing eternally His divine mercies.
On a routine trip that they had taken many times before, Joseph and Mary lost Jesus. Let that settle in. They literally lost God. What kind of emotions did that bring them? This child that they had sworn to protect was gone. Often, in our lives, we may feel like we have lost God. When we sin or find ourselves in extreme desolation.
Like Mary and Joseph, let us run to our father’s home, the church and find Christ again in the Eucharist. Share in their incredible joy as they embrace him and resolve to never turn their eyes away from him again.