Object of the Week: Engraving of The Holy Family by Sc. Muller

Image: The Holy Family by Sc. Muller from The Holy Bible, The Latin Vulgate Revised with Annotations by The Right Rev. R. Challoner D.D.
New York:  Thomas Kelly, Publisher, 1879.
Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections



“I do not remember even now that I have ever asked anything of [St. Joseph] which he has failed to grant… To other saints the Lord seems to have given grace to succor us in some of our necessities, but of this glorious saint my experience is that he succors us in them all…”[1]

This year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s declaration of Saint Joseph as the patron saint of the Universal Church in 1870. To mark this occasion, Pope Francis proclaimed a special “Year of St. Joseph,” which began on the observance of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 2020 and will conclude on this same feast day in 2021.[2]  Additionally, the annual Feast of Saint Joseph is celebrated at this time of year.  Veneration of Saint Joseph began in ancient Egypt, though Pope Sixtus IV officially recognized this custom around 1479.[3]

Saint Joseph is revered as a loving and tender father to Jesus and protector of Mary.  Called by God to serve the mission of Jesus, he “cooperated… in the great mystery of Redemption,” as Saint John Paul II said, “and is truly a minister of salvation.”  He encourages us to accept and welcome others as they are, and to show special concern for the disadvantaged.[4]  Joseph’s compassionate nature is expressed in the above engraving by Sc. Muller in The Holy Bible, published in 1879 by Thomas Kelly Publishers, just nine years after Saint Joseph achieved sainthood. Prior to the 19th century, iconography of the Holy Family would often depict Joseph in the background, shrouded in shadows.  After Joseph’s elevation to sainthood, portrayals of the Holy Family included him as an integral part of the subject and composition – as shown in Muller’s interpretation.[5]  Saint Joseph’s attributes are the lily and spikenard, an aromatic oil.[6]

Engraved image of Pope Pius IX
Engraved image of Pope Pius IX – from The Holy Bible, The Latin Vulgate

Saint Joseph is the patron of tradesmen and workers, travelers and refugees, the persecuted, families and homes, purity and interior life, engaged couples, people in distress due to insecurity related to food, home or clothing, as well as sickness, the poor, aged and dying.[7]  On his feast day, many attend church services in his honor. Cultures throughout the world celebrate Saint Joseph’s feast day in a variety of ways. In Spain and Portugal, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph coincides with Father’s Day, generating visits to fathers and father figures.  In some areas, traditional observances include the wearing of special richly colored outfits which might be worn to a parade in Saint Joseph’s honor. In the coastal city of Valencia, Spain, people make elaborate, publicly displayed papier-mâché scenes which are then burned to the ground in a celebration of creativity, mortality and rebirth known as Las Fallas.[8] Sicily has its own rich traditions for the Saint Joseph’s Feast Day.  In Palermo, people organize huge bonfires known as “Vampa” in the city’s piazzas. Many towns organize moving processions accompanied by the singing of prayers and songs. Sicilians also set a Saint Joseph’s table, an altar with special foods, flowers and devotional objects to praise and give thanks.[9]  Polish families set up a Saint Joseph’s table decorated with red and white to symbolize both their country and Saint Joseph. These tables include holy cards and candles, as well as meatless foods in observance of Lent.  Polish hymns are also recited.[10] Some in the Philippines maintain ritual banquet customs in which community members are chosen as representatives of Saint Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus. The three participants are fed an opulent feast during which hymns are sung.[11]  Contemporaneous celebrations in the Philippines are more overtly altruistic, and include volunteering to feed the poor, homeless and the hungry.[12]

In his recent Apostolic Letter, Patris corde (“with a father’s heart”), Pope

Decorative page from The Holy Bible, The Latin Vulgate
page from The Holy Bible, The Latin Vulgate

Francis characterizes Saint Joseph as “a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows.”  On the occasion of this Saint Joseph Feast Year, Pope Francis urges us to see the importance of “ordinary” people who, though far from the limelight, exercise patience and offer hope every day. In this, they resemble Saint Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence,” who nonetheless played “an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”[13]  Pope Francis’ letter concludes with a prayer to Saint Joseph, which he encourages us to pray together:

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage,
and defend us from every evil.  Amen.


The images and materials shown here are but a small part of the vast patrimony available to students, faculty and researchers.  For access to this or other objects in our collections, complete a research request form to set up an appointment or contact us at 973-761-9476. 



[1] Teresa, and E. Allison Peers. Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2010.

[2] https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-12/pope-francis-proclaims-year-of-st-joseph.html, accessed 3/9/2021.

[3] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Joseph, accessed 3/9/2021.

[4] https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-12/pope-francis-proclaims-year-of-st-joseph.html, accessed 3/9/2021.

[5] https://www.christianiconography.info/holyFamily.html, accessed 3/9/2021.

[6]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Joseph#:~:text=Joseph%20is%20venerated%20as%20Saint,associated%20with%20various%20feast%20days, accessed 3/9/2021.

[7] https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=1050, accessed 3/9/2021.

[8] https://www.worldtravelguide.net/features/feature/las-fallas-burning-valencia-to-the-ground/, accessed 3/9/2021.

[9] https://www.scent-of-sicily.com/news/st-josephs-day-traditions-in-sicily/, accessed 3/9/2021.

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Joseph%27s_Day, accessed 3/9/2021.

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Joseph%27s_Day, accessed 3/9/2021.

[12] http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Manila:-feast-day-of-St-Joseph-for-the-poor-33765.html, accessed 3/9/2021.

[13] https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-12/pope-francis-proclaims-year-of-st-joseph.html, accessed 3/9/2021.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton & Bicentennial Remembrance

This date – January 4, 2021 marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the foundress of the Sisters of Charity and the first American-born to be canonized a saint.  As the patroness of American Catholic Education and the Catholic University of New Jersey that bears her name we perpetually remember Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in various ways.  Examples include of the naming of our Women’s Center in her honor along with a number of annual campus-wide ceremonies and commemorations along with the continual opportunity to learn more about her life and legacy through our associated historical texts and research collections.

Early Portrait of Mother Seton, c. 1840s

The following capsulized biography of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton has been featured on the Seton Hall University Internet-based Homepage and provides a introduction to those who are not familiar with her notable background and life story . . .

“Elizabeth Bayley was born August 28, 1774 in New York City. Her father, Dr. Richard Bayley, was a prominent physician and surgeon and the first Health Officer in New York City. Her mother, Catherine Charlton Bayley, the daughter of an Episcopal minister, died May 8, 1777 leaving 3 children, Mary 7, Elizabeth, 2 years, 9 months, and an infant, Catherine, who died two years later. Dr. Richard Bayley died of yellow fever in 1801.

A year after his wife died, Dr. Richard Bayley married Charlotte Amelia Barclay. They had 4 children. Mary and Elizabeth spent their summers with their Uncle William Bayley at the Pell Bayley House in New Rochelle, New York.

Elizabeth Bayley married William Magee Seton, a wealthy shipping magnate on January 25, 1794. They had five children: Anna Maria (May 3, 1795); William (November 25, 1796); Richard (July 20, 1798); Catherine (June 28, 1800); and Rebecca (August 20, 1802).

William Magee Seton suffered major financial ruin and died of tuberculosis December 27, 1803 in Italy leaving Elizabeth a poor young widow with five small children.

Anna Marie, the eldest daughter, at 8 years of age, went to Italy with her parents where her ailing father died. She became affectionately called “Annina” by her mother. Anna Maria, as her father, died of tuberculosis March 12, 1812.

Elizabeth Seton, raised Episcopal, converted to Catholicism. She received her first Holy Communion in March 25, 1805. To raise and educated her own children, she became a teacher and wanted all children, boys and girls, to receive free education. At the Pace Street House in Baltimore she founded her first Catholic school.

On March 25, 1809 Elizabeth Seton pronounced vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Henceforth, she became known as Mother Seton. She began the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph on July 31, 1809 at the Stone House in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Mother Seton established St, Joseph’s Academy, the first Catholic parochial school in the United States.

Elizabeth Seton died of tuberculosis on January 4, 1821 at the age of 47. Her remains are sealed in the Basilica of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

In September, 1975, Elizabeth Seton became the first American to be canonized as a Saint. Her banner hung over the entrance to St. Peter’s in Rome.”

Window created in honor of Mother Seton found in President’s Hall, Seton Hall University, (Image c. 2001)

Further detail on Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton can be found via resources found within the University Libraries and Monsignor William Noé Field Archives & Special Collections Center.  The following Library Guide entitled: “Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton & Family” provides a number of information links including book volumes found in the Library Collection, detailed Internet sources, and relevant primary source leads including those located within our ArchivesSpace catalog can be found via the links found below . . .

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton & Family (Library Guide) – https://library.shu.edu/st-elizabeth-ann-seton

Elizabeth Ann Seton (ArchivesSpace) – https://archivesspace-library.shu.edu/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&op%5B%5D=&q%5B%5D=elizabeth+ann+seton&commit=&field%5B%5D=&from_year%5B%5D=&to_year%5B%5D=

Statue of Mother Seton, Seton Hall University Campus, (Image, c. 2004)

For more information and questions about Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton you can contact us via e-mail at: Archives@shu.edu or call: (973) 275-2378 to obtain further details.  We wish everyone a Happy New Year ahead!