Bishop W. Shawn Mc-Knight opened his breviary up to the new volume for Lent and Easter, and out fell a crinkled piece of paper.
It was a copy of a St. Joseph novena he had used while serving as director of liturgy at his seminary alma mater, the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio.
“Josephinum” is Latin for “House of Joseph.”
The prayer and the related daily readings point to Joseph’s role as a hardworking, God-fearing protector, provider and role model for Jesus, loving Him as if He were his own flesh and blood.
The bishop quickly realized that the timing of the discovery — during the Year of St. Joseph declared by Pope Francis, and close to March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary — was not a coincidence.
He understood that God wanted him to share the novena with the people of this diocese and invite them to join him in praying for the entire Church.
Comfort and love
The bishop searched for artwork to illustrate St. Joseph’s quiet strength.
He wanted the image to draw people deeper into the cosmic reality that the Son of God was born into and grew up in a human family, thus making all families holy.
He hoped the image would reflect St. Joseph’s caring and righteous nature. He wanted Joseph to be seen as loving, gentle and fully committed to carrying-out the role God had chosen for him.
Bishop McKnight decided to commission Whitney Maloney, an artist from his home Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, to create an original artwork.
This was Mrs. Maloney’s first artistic rendering of St. Joseph other than a Nativity scene.
“Religious art has always spoken to me,” she stated. “I find meaning in paintings that words do not always convey.”
She had turned to spiritual painting while mourning for her first son, Michael, who died shortly after birth.
“I have always thought he looks like an angel,” she said while looking at a picture of him.
Religious art inspired her to find meaning in his short life.
“My Catholic faith was strengthened through my love of painting and creating,” she said.
Mrs. Maloney felt very close to St. Joseph while creating this image and asked him for help whenever the project became difficult.
“I let go when I began to paint Joseph holding Jesus because I imagined Joseph holding my son in heaven for me, until I get there,” she said.
“I kept thinking Joseph is a foster father to Jesus, to each of us, and to my son, and I felt comfort and love,” she stated.
Humility and trust
Bishop McKnight decided to have a full-color reproduction of the painting made into prayer cards that include the St. Joseph novena prayer.
He now presents one of the cards to each of the young people he seals with the Holy Spirit in Confirmation this year.
The image of Joseph holding the child Jesus reflects the bedrock strength that came from Joseph’s fellowship with Christ and total reliance on God.
Joseph is holding three lilies, symbolic not only of the Holy Trinity but also the purity and integrity of the Holy Family.
The image also includes a dove, representing the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is seen holding a crown of thorns, pointing to the suffering and death He would accept as an adult, in obedience to His Heavenly Father and out of love for all people.
Until then, Joseph would provide for Jesus, teach Him and help prepare Him as He “advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52).
The novena prayers and videos can be found at: