An Invitation to Join in a Novena to St. Joseph

St. Joseph Statue on Main Campus

Posted in Announcements

Dear Hoyas and Friends of Georgetown,

We are living in a unique moment of history—not just for us at Georgetown University or the nation, but for the world at large.  We are eyewitness to a pandemic, and a moment of anxiety—even panic—that has gripped us all.  Yet, weathering and praying through pandemics, plagues, and diseases of all sorts have been part of the 2000-year history of the Christian community.  The Justinian Plague of the 6th century, the Black Death of the 14th century, the smallpox epidemic of the 16th century, the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918:  throughout all of these disasters, the Church has compassionately taken care of the sick, as well as gather the faithful to pray and ask the Virgin Mary and the saints to intercede for them and protect them from illness.  St. Sebastian and St. Rocco are two well-known patron saints of the sick and plague-stricken from history, but we also turn to St. Joseph, whose feast we celebrate today.  As a child, I grew up with St. Joseph as a protector, as the one who, for centuries, saved Sicily from plagues and famines.

St. Joseph has a special history with Georgetown, too.  There has been a statute of St. Joseph on campus since 1872, erected, in loving memory, by the parents of a deceased student.  When measles broke out in Washington, D.C. later that same year, the Jesuits had their students pray through the intercession of St. Joseph that the Georgetown community be spared. Only one student contracted the measles during that outbreak, and he survived.  In 1874, a society of students came together, calling themselves the “St. Joseph’s Lamp Association,” and dedicated themselves to keeping the lantern at St. Joseph’s side always lit.  The Jesuit president at the time placed Georgetown College “under the especial patronage and protection of St. Joseph.”  Though the association died out in the 1880s, it was revived again during the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918, when students, faculty, and staff prayed for St. Joseph to care for all of Georgetown.

For more information on the history of the St. Joseph statue at Georgetown, please visit this page on Lauinger Library’s website.

So, on this Feast of St. Joseph, during this uncertain time of the coronavirus, we invite you to be united with us in prayer, calling upon St. Joseph to be with us in our prayers to God. In the Catholic tradition, we don’t technically pray to saints. We ask them to pray with us and be with us, as they are alive to the love and the concern of God.  We will offer this novena (nine successive days of prayer), an ancient tradition of the Christian Church, asking for the intercession of St. Joseph to help us obtain the graces that God continually offers us.  For the next nine days, this special novena will be offered through our Lenten devotional online-community, drawing us closer to one another as we draw closer to Christ.

To join us in this novena to St. Joseph, please sign up for our Lent Devotional mailing list (we will be sharing the novena via our daily emails to the Lent Devotional community).