A detail of St. Joseph from “Holy Family” by Neilson Carlin in the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia. During a March 19 feast day Mass there, rector Father Dennis Gill described the saint as “the disciple of the interior life” whose example is more relevant than ever. (Gina Christian)

St. Joseph is a “disciple of the interior life” whose example speaks volumes to “the busy world in which we live,” said Father Dennis Gill, rector of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

Father Gill was the principal celebrant and homilist for a March 19 Mass at the Cathedral marking the solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of Mary.

Some 125 faithful were on hand for the liturgy, which was preceded by a recitation of the Litany of St. Joseph. The series of petitions and invocations (the general form of which developed in the fourth century) was approved by Pope Pius X in 1909, some six decades after his predecessor, Pope Pius IX, declared St. Joseph as the patron of the universal church in 1847.

The 19th century in many ways was as challenging a time as the present, said Father Gill, and the foster father of Jesus – whom Roman Catholic churches began to venerate in medieval times — was “rightly” regarded as “the protector the church.”

In dedicating the current liturgical year to St. Joseph – an announcement that admittedly “caught (us) by surprise, said Father Gill — Pope Francis “once again asked us to see St. Joseph in this role.”

That task comes naturally to faithful, Father Gill added.


“There’s something spontaneous among us Christians to want to turn to St. Joseph,” he said. “We love him, we admire him and we want him to be near to us and all of our prayers.”

The saint is revered for “who he was in the plan of salvation,” and for being the patron of a “happy” and “sacramental” death, said Father Gill.

Noting that several present at today’s Mass were from Nigeria, Father Gill also observed that St. Joseph is the patron saint of that African nation.

Yet often overlooked among so many titles is the fact that “St. Joseph has a great deal to say about paying attention to our inner lives,” he said.

Amid activity-filled daily schedules, “we often do not pay attention” to the interior spaces in which “we come to know God’s will for us as Joseph did,” said Father Gill.

In the heart, “we find the resources we need in Christ to be faithful to God’s will,” he said. “This is where God reigns fully in each of us …. where we find all the gifts and blessings from Christ himself, to be his witnesses in the world.”

In “tending our hearts” and “meditating upon the word of the Lord, allowing its power to take hold of us,” we are empowered to “put sin aside and be faithful to the Gospel,” Father Gill said.

Referencing Genesis 41:55, Father Gill urged faithful to “go to Joseph” and “ask him to pray for (us)” and “for the whole church,” both on today’s feast and in the coming months.

“I encourage all of you to observe this year in whatever way you can, especially by being near to St. Joseph in prayer,” he said.