Austria: Patron Saints – St. Joseph

St. Joseph is one of the few saints who was not a martyr. The carpenter Joseph of Nazareth from the family of King David was Christ's adoptive father. Evidence of the worship of this saint is relatively recent, and, apart from isolated local traditions, it was only from the late Middle Ages on that he gradually moved to the fore. The French Cardinal Peter d'Ailly was the first to write a treatise on the worship of St. Joseph, a text that was expanded and disseminated by his pupil Gerson. The worship of St. Joseph was particularly encouraged by the mystic Theresa von Avila and by St. Francis de Sales.

It was during the Baroque age that the worship of St. Joseph began to spread more broadly. In 1771, Empress Maria Theresia persuaded the Pope to permit a new Holy Day regulation, aimed at reducing the countless local patrons saints. The bishops responsible for the province of Vorderosterreich (consisting of what are today the provinces of Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Carinthia and Styria) agreed on St. Joseph in 1772. As patron saint of the House of Austria and of the Holy Roman Empire, he was regarded by the bishops, themselves mostly princes of the Empire, as a good compromise. However, this "imposed" patron saint never achieved the desired popularity in these regions. On December 8, 1870, Pope Pius IX proclaimed Joseph as the patron saint of the Roman Catholic church. As a means of giving a Christian meaning to the International Workers' Day, Pope Pius XII declared in 1955 that the feast of "St. Joseph the Worker" would from then on be celebrated on May 1, replacing the saint's day after Easter. In this way, St. Joseph has become a saint for many occasions; he is the patron saint of married couples and the Christian family, of children, young people, virgins, orphans and guardians, travellers and exiles, of the dying, of workers and craftsmen, of joiners, engineers, timber farmers, gravediggers, wheelwrights and carpenters, helpers of those in need of accommodation, of temptations, in hopeless situations and the patron saint of chastity. He is usually depicted with a beard, holding either a walking stick or a stick in blossom, the baby Jesus, a lily or the tools of a carpenter.

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