2020 was a year of disease, economic catastrophe, and Marxism. 2021 is the year of St. Joseph. While the heirs of Western Civilization seek to sever their remaining ties to authority, Catholics across the globe will bind themselves to the Light of the Patriarchs. This year of St. Joseph, proclaimed by Pope Francis, may have a special place in the hearts of Wisconsin.
Many Catholics in Wisconsin may be familiar with the apparition of Our Lady of Good Help, wherein the Blessed Virgin Mary is reported to have appeared to a young Belgian woman who emigrated to Wisconsin. It remains the only approved apparition by the Catholic Church of Our Lady in the US with the Church’s approval. The shrine associated with the apparition is just outside Champion, WI.
Perhaps lesser known is the National Shrine dedicated to St Joseph, just a short drive away in De Pere. With a nod to Providence, the National Shrine was established as such by Pope Leo XIII 33 years after the apparition of Our Lady.
Fr Donald Calloway, MIC, arguably today’s most enthusiastic propagator of devotion to our saint, not only encourages our readers to “make a little pilgrimage” and visit both shrines, but also compares Wisconsin’s unique blessing to the Holy Land. Which makes sense since it is a spiritual meeting of the Holy Family.
While Wisconsinites should make visiting these shrines a priority this year, there are also opportunities to venerate the Protector of Holy Church near home as well.
For those in Milwaukee, there is the hidden gem known as St. Joseph’s Chapel. Off of 27th and Layton, St, Joseph’s Chapel, under the care of the School Sisters of St. Francis, is a reminder that chapel is a technical term.
There is the opportunity to visit the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman in La Crosse. The name of St. Joseph has a relatively new significance in that Pope Pius XII had established the Feast of St. Joseph the Workman on May 1st in 1955 as an alternative to the Communist flavor the May Day holiday had taken.
For those readers in Northern Wisconsin, they may want to visit the beautiful church dedicated to St. Joseph in Boyd. While it is a local parish church, the aesthetics are more than worth a trip during deer season.
But why simply visit inside a church when one could venerate him in one? While there are undoubtedly many churches to attend Mass on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19th, I will shamelessly promote my own parish, St Stanislaus Oratory in Milwaukee. Starting at 6:30 pm, there will be a Solemn Mass, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and a parish consecration to St Joseph. For those unfamiliar with those specific liturgical terms (e.g. Solemn Mass, Benediction, etc), it is recommended to experience this event first hand.
For those in the diocese of Madison, there will be a Eucharistic procession dedicated toward the protection of families, also on the Feast of St Joseph. People may arrive at 4:30 pm in the parking lot of Holy Redeemer and the procession commences at 5:00 pm. It will go all the way to the state Capitol. For those looking to peacefully entrust the fate of our beloved state to the Pillar of Families, this is a nice opportunity.
While visiting shrines and partaking in processions is beautiful, it would be incomplete if we only remained with the external practices. During this season of Lent, Catholics are exhorted to follow the words of Sacred Scripture to render their hearts and not their garments (Joel 2:13). One could say the interior life takes precedence over the exterior. Not that the exterior actions have no place. Rather, the exterior must be an expression of the interior. Devotion to St. Joseph is no different.
One practice encouraged by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and advocated by Fr Calloway is Consecration to St. Joseph. Last year, Archbishop Listecki consecrated the archdiocese to our Head of the Holy Family. This year the archdiocese exhorts the faithful to do the same.
In fact, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee recommends Fr. Donald Calloway’s book, Consecration to St. Joseph. This book, including additional resources like paintings and statues to assist with interior preparation, are available at the website Consecration to St. Joseph. The book is also recommended by clergy with ties to Wisconsin, such as Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, and Fr. Richard Heilman.
For those looking to start their devotion immediately, even non-Catholics, they can start by simply praying the Litany of St. Joseph or perhaps by meditating on the life of the Holy Family. Discussing that period in the life of Our Lord, Fr. Calloway noted how special a time it was, “So much so that Jesus wanted to live in that household… It’s incredible to think about. In Heaven we are going to rewind this videotape, so to speak, and watch it. But here we just meditate on it and think about what must that have been like. Wow!”
So is Wisconsin a special home of St. Joseph? There is plenty of evidence to make the case. The real gauge will be how many Catholics deepen their devotion and ultimately consecrate themselves to the saint. I know, I know, St. Joseph is called the Mirror of Patience. But this year let’s not invoke that title.
Adam Ryback is a member of the PLW Victory Fund PAC board and helps coordinate for Sursum Corda, a young adult initiative of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. Opinions expressed are his own.