St Joseph is frequently depicted holding a staff. The originl staff of the old statue of this saint, venerated in Rabat, is taken to the homes of the sick and to hospitals. In its presence, prayers are said for cures through the intercession of St Joseph, the putative father of Jesus, and whose feast is celebrated by the Church on Tuesday.
This wooden staff, simple in appearance and with flowers at its apex, was originally part of the statue known as San Ġużepp ix-Xiħ (St Joseph the Old Man), which is to be found at the National Sanctuary dedicated to St Joseph in Rabat.
In time this statue acquired numerous devotees, with devotion directed particularly towards the staff. The statue was reputedly brought over to Malta by the Order of the Knights of St John in 1530.
The rector of the Archconfraternity of St Joseph in Rabat, Anthony Casha, said the staff is still asked for to this very day to be taken to the homes of sick persons and to hospitals, for prayers to be invoked. Casha added that persons going through family problems have also frequently asked for intercession.
It appears from the Confraternity’s archives, Mr Casha added, that devotion to the staff goes back to the 18th century, and has increased over time.
The Rector added that “in recent times, we know also that the staff was requested by a number of parishes, including Zejtun, Ghaxaq and St Joseph in Imsida. In December last year religious activities were held when the staff was taken to homes for the elderly in these parishes.”
Mr Casha referred to reports of cures and graces following prayers before the staff through the intercession of St Joseph.
The rector added that devotion to the staff is not restricted to Malta, as similar devotion exists in Florence.
Over time the statue of San Ġużepp ix-Xiħ, which reputedly formed part of the decorations of the Order’s ‘karraka’, inspired such devotion that it used to be taken out during national pilgrimages, including when the country was hit by plague or drought.
On the 19 March feast celebrated by the Rabat community, the public will be able to visit the sanctuary where this statue is kept.