Celebrating St Joseph in St Marie’s

2020 marked the 150th anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s declaration of Saint Joseph the patron of the universal Church.

St Joseph window on the stairs to the Munster/Lady Chapel
St Joseph window on the stairs to the Lady Chapel, also known as the Munster Chapel, after its donor.

It also morked the 65th anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s introduction of the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker.

The two celebrations acknowledge St Joseph as the silent saint, who was given the noble task of caring and watching over the Virgin Mary and Jesus and who now cares for and watches over the Church and models for all the dignity of human work.

The Feast of St Joseph is celebrated on March 19, while the Feast of St Joseph the Worker is celebrated on May 1, which coincides with International Workers’ Day.

As befits a Cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary, St Marie’s includes a number of representations or references of her spouse in its decoration – 16 in all.

Two show him as an artisan. Joseph is often thought of as a carpenter, but the Greek source – the Septuagint – on which the New Testament is based describes him as a tektōn which could translate as craftsman.

Meanwhile, the use of the term in the Talmud, the central text of Rabbinic Judaism can signify a very learned man, so the New Testament description of Joseph as a carpenter could indicate that he was considered wise and literate in the Torah – the five ‘Books of Moses’ at the heart of the Jewish Bible.

We start our tour of St Marie’s tributes to the part Joseph played in protecting and nurturing Jesus in the South Transept.