“This is precisely the mystery [of the Incarnation] in which Joseph of Nazareth ‘shared’ like no other human being except Mary, the Mother of the Incarnate Word. He shared in it with her; he was involved in the same salvific event; he was the guardian of the same love, through the power of which the eternal Father ‘destined us to be his sons through Jesus Christ’ (Eph 1:5)” (Saint Pope John Paul II).
“…an angel of the Lord appeared to [Joseph] in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save the people from their sins’.” (Matthhew 1:20-23
Consider for a moment the infinite blessedness of the child Jesus. Consider, as well, the “colossal sanctity” of the Virgin Mary. Now, contemplate in amazement that Joseph was entrusted by the Eternal Father with the care and custody of Mary and Jesus. How precious Joseph must be to Jesus and Mary! Who can fathom the depth of their love for Joseph? How pleasing it must be to Jesus and Mary when we honor Saint Joseph.
Devotion to Saint Joseph is prudent not only in light of the fact that he is the Patron Saint of a happy death (the moment of death is the moment that determines everything – all that we will be for all eternity), but also because Joseph is an image of the tender and loving Eternal Father, and thus devotion to Saint Joseph – as Father Faber points out – smooths out a harsh or even melancholy view of God the Father. What is more crucial in our spiritual lives than to view God as our tender, loving Father? Only then can we truly trust in God and have that confidence in the Father that made the saints saints.
We know that Saint Teresa of Avila was a great mystic, so much so that even in this life she journeyed to that unspeakable seventh mansion where a soul is united in mystical marriage to the Blessed Trinity (she actually experienced an intellectual vision of the Blessed Trinity when she reached that depth of union with God), and yet this dear saint was always practical and she exercised an immense devotion to Saint Joseph. Here is something she wrote about her relationship to Saint Joseph:
“I took for my patron and Lord the glorious St. Joseph …. I cannot call to mind that I have ever asked him at any time for anything he has not granted. I am filled with amazement when I consider the great favors God has given me through this blessed saint.”
Oh how Jesus is praised through his Saints! Next to Mary, Joseph must be the greatest of all the saints. To think that in his earthly life he received the love of Jesus and Mary, day by day, moment by moment, is to realize that he received love beyond anything we can imagine! It is the type of love we will receive in Heaven, when our hearts will be big enough to receive such love. Yet, as it appears, when Mary took Jesus in her womb to see Elizabeth, and John the Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb as if sanctified by the presence of Jesus (Jesus subsequently calling him the greatest of all the prophets!), how much more was Joseph sanctified by Jesus from the moment of the Incarnation and Mary’s “Yes” until the day he died in the arms of Jesus and Mary.
One of the great advocates of devotion to Saint Joseph was the gifted spiritual writer, Father Louis Lallemant, whose students included Issac Jogues and Jean de Brebeuf, who both became canonized saints! Father Faber relates that Father Lallemant “was gifted with an extraordinary grace for inspiring every body with a devotion to St. Joseph ; and his advice to persons who desired to enter on the ways of spiritual perfection was to take as their model of humility Jesus Christ, as their model of purity the Blessed Virgin, and as their model of the interior life St. Joseph. It was after these divine patterns that he labored at his own perfection ; and it was easy to perceive how happily he had wrought them out in his own person. Every day, in honor of St. Joseph, he observed four short exercises, from which he drew wonderful profit.
The two first were for the morning, and the two others for after dinner. The first was to raise himself in spirit to the heart of St. Joseph, and consider how faithful he was to the inspirations of grace, then turning his eyes inward on his own heart, to discover his own want of fidelity, he made an act of humiliation, and excited himself to perseverance. The second was to reflect how perfectly St. Joseph reconciled the interior life with his external occupations. Then, turning to observe himself and his own occupations, he perceived wherein they fell short of the perfection of his model. By means of this exercise he made such progress, that towards the close of his life he remained in an uninterrupted state of interior recollection and the attention which he paid to external things, instead of weakening his union with God, served rather to strengthen it.
The third was to accompany in spirit St. Joseph, as the spouse of the Blessed Virgin, and to meditate on the wonderful knowledge which he had enjoyed of her virginity and maternity, in consequence of the humble submission with which he received the announcement of the Angel respecting the mystery of the Incarnation. By this exercise he excited himself to love St. Joseph for his love of his most holy spouse. The fourth was, to figure to himself the adoration and homage of love and grati tude which St. Joseph paid to the Holy Child Jesus, and to beg to participate therein, that he might adore and love this Divine Infant with all the sentiments of the deepest reverence and the tenderest love of which he was capable.
He wished to carry with him to the grave some tokens of his devotion to this great Saint, and requested that an image of his beloved patron might be put with him in his coffin. It was observed on many occasions that St. Joseph never refused him any thing he asked ; and whenever he wished to induce persons to honor him, he used to assure them that he did not possess a single grace which he had not obtained through his intercession” (from the Introduction to Father Lallemant’s great treatise on the spiritual life, The Spiritual Doctrine).
You can petition the Holy Spirit for the four great graces mentioned above through Father Lallemant’s famous Novena to Saint Joseph at the link below:
I believe it was in the final apparition of Fatima that Joseph was seen by Sister Lucia, holding the child Jesus, and blessing the world. Dear Jesus, thank you for sharing your virginal Father with us. Is there anything that you will not share with us? For you told us that it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom ( Luke 12:32) and the Kingdom of the Incarnation begins with the Holy Family, and its head, Good Saint Joseph.
Saint Teresa of Avila once again impresses on us the power of devotion to Saint Joseph, saying:
“To other Saints Our Lord seems to have given power to succor us in some special necessity – but to this glorious Saint, I know by experience, He has given the power to help us in all. Our Lord would have us understand that as He was subject to St. Joseph on earth – for St. Joseph, bearing the title of father and being His guardian, could command Him – so now in Heaven Our Lord grants all his petitions. I have asked others to recommend themselves to St. Joseph, and they, too, know the same thing by experience . . .” (Autobiography).
Nothing less than an immense devotion to Saint Joseph is justified. He is the Patron of the Universal Church. He is the Patron of a Happy Death. Don’t you dare lie down to die – when the time comes – without having Saint Joseph close to your heart!
Dear friend, your love for Jesus and Mary will most certainly increase the more you draw nearer to Saint Joseph.
Saint Joseph, pray for us!
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
Image: Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido Reni, around 1620(Public Domain, U.S.A.)
References: Favorite Prayers to Saint Joseph (TAN), a highly recommended devotional to Saint Joseph which includes Father Lallemant’s famous novena mentioned above. Father Faber says somewhere, “but nothing short of an immense devotion.” I am indebted to Father Faber for the tone and content of the first two paragraphs of this note.
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