For centuries, the Catholic Church has honored St. Joseph with a Solemnity on March 19th. Although the earliest years of the Church saw little, if any, devotion to St. Joseph, Eastern and Latin Church Fathers recognized his virtues and his significant role in the Holy Family. Formal veneration of St. Joseph began to take shape by the tenth century, when his feast day was added to Christian calendars in the West, but it was not until 1479 that the Solemnity was introduced to the Roman Calendar and Breviary by Pope Sixtus IV. In 1621, Pope Gregory XV elevated the feast to a Holy Day of Obligation, although the obligatory status no longer remains in every country. Nevertheless, March 19th is known throughout the world as the Solemnity of the just, pure man who is the Most Chaste Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the fatherly Guardian of the Son of God. Therefore, it is most suitable for Catholics to observe St. Joseph's feast day with particular devotion.
Of course, the manner in which one honors St. Joseph is a personal decision, but it is always best to consider the guidance offered through the Church regarding devotional practices. One such recommendation comes from Pope Leo XIII in Quamquam Pluries (1889). In this rather brief encyclical (only seven paragraphs and an easy read), the Pontiff begins by noting the current "...periods of stress and trial - chiefly when every lawlessness of act seems permitted to the powers of darkness..." (§1). He suggests that Catholics direct prayers to St. Joseph so that he, together with Mary, may intercede on our behalf before God. In order to advance devotion to St. Joseph, Pope Leo XIII wrote and introduced a prayer to St. Joseph to be said with the Holy Rosary, specifically during the month of October. The Church grants an indulgence, under the normal conditions, to those who recite this prayer:
To thee, O blessed Joseph, we have recourse in our affliction, and having implored the help of thy thrice holy Spouse, we now, with hearts filled with confidence, earnestly beg thee also to take us under thy protection. By that charity wherewith thou wert united to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by that fatherly love with which thou didst cherish the Child Jesus, we beseech thee and we humbly pray that thou wilt look down with gracious eye upon that inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by His blood, and wilt succor us in our need by thy power and strength.
Defend, O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen off-spring of Jesus Christ. Keep from us, O most loving Father, all blight of error and corruption. Aid us from on high, most valiant defender, in this conflict with the powers of darkness. And even as of old thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from the peril of His life, so now defend God's Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Shield us ever under thy patronage, that, following thine example and strengthened by thy help, we may live a holy life, die a happy death, and attain to everlasting bliss in Heaven. Amen.
With regard to St. Joseph's Solemnity, Pope Leo XIII wrote:
It is a salutary practice and very praiseworthy, already established in some countries, to consecrate the month of March to the honour of the holy Patriarch by daily exercises of piety. Where this custom cannot be easily established, it is as least desirable, that before the feast-day, in the principal church of each parish, a triduo of prayer be celebrated. In those lands where the 19th of March - the Feast of St. Joseph - is not a Festival of Obligation, We exhort the faithful to sanctify it as far as possible by private pious practices, in honour of their heavenly patron, as though it were a day of Obligation (§6).
Perhaps then, the faithful may participate in "private pious practices" with "a triduo of prayer" (three days; March 16th-18th to precede the Solemnity, or March 17th-19th to include the Solemnity) with recitation of the Holy Rosary and the Prayer to St. Joseph in his honor.
God chose St. Joseph among all men to be the Head of the Holy Family, and He also so mercifully allows us to benefit from the patronage of St. Joseph as our spiritual father. As such, St. Joseph deserves our love and reverence, and his Solemnity offers no better time to strengthen our bond with him.