Many Italian St. Joseph’s Day traditions stem from the middle ages. During a famine in Sicily, when food was scarce and many people were starving, the poor people had only their faith to rely on. St. Joseph was known as the protector of the Holy Family; thus, Italians with strong family relationships prayed for St. Joseph to intercede for them, in an effort to ensure successful crops. Their prayers were answered, and the famine came to an end. In gratitude, people promised to make annual offerings of their most precious possession – food – in St. Joseph’s honor.
Little is said in the gospel about Joseph, except that he was a descendant of David and a carpenter by trade. Legends provide additional details about Joseph’s life. He supposedly was a widower of advanced age when he was chosen by God to wed Mary.
According to one legend, Mary’s many suitors left their staffs in the temple one night so that God could indicate who she should marry. The next morning, Joseph’s staff blossomed with white flowers and leaves and sent forth a white dove, indicating that he was the chosen one. This explains why statues of St. Joseph typically show him holding the Christ Child and a stalk of white lilies and why this day is a common celebration of fathers throughout the Christian world. [chiff.com]
Was Joseph a carpenter? The Gospels use the Greek word TEKTON, which means “builder,” as in “architect.” Some have suggested that he may have been a mason or a metalworker, or a building contractor. Justin Martyr, who was born in Palestine, probably around 100, tells us that he has seen plows and ox-yokes still in use which were said to have been made in the carpenter-shop at Nazareth. While this may not be accurate, it does indicate that the Christians of Palestine in the early second century believed that Joseph was a carpenter, so this idea may have been handed down since the time of those who knew the family.
St Joseph is a patron of the Church, of families, of workers, and of those seeking work. One Novena prayer addresses him by a different title for each of the nine days: foster father of Jesus, virginal husband of Mary, man chosen by the Holy Trinity, faithful servant, patron of the Church, patron of families, patron of workers, friend in suffering, and patron of a happy death.
Glorious Saint Joseph, spouse of the Immaculate Virgin, obtain for me a pure, humble, charitable mind, and perfect resignation to the divine Will. Be my guide, my father, and my model through life that I may merit to die as you did in the arms of Jesus and Mary.