Motives for Devotion to St. Joseph
Fr. Anthony A. Patrigani, S.J.
With Eccles. Appr.
Fourth Motive for Devotion to St. Joseph---The Example of Holy Church.
The chaste Joseph, victim of the shameful persecution of an infamous calumniatrix, passed several years in a dark prison. But at length, restored to liberty, he entered, full of glory, into the palace of the king of Egypt,---like the sun, which, after having disappeared under a dark cloud, comes forth more beautiful and radiant than before. Such, we may say, has been the destiny of the glorious spouse of Mary. During many centuries he remained almost unknown in the Christian world; but the clouds in which heresy had enveloped him being at length dissipated, he, like the sun, has issued forth more brilliantly than ever to enlighten the heavens of the Church.
During latter years, Holy Church seems anxious to indemnify him by more solemn honors for those which she failed to render him in the first ages of Christianity. From the commencement she was persuaded, it is true, that Joseph was a great and perfect man, the true spouse of the Mother of God, and father of Jesus Christ, by the love and care he had for the Divine Infant. But as too strong a light is apt to dazzle the eyes of the sick and weak, so, by a wise disposition of Providence, she judged proper to keep the shining sanctity of Joseph hidden for a time. The heresy of Cerinthus imposed these precautions. That innovator taught that Joseph was the father of Jesus Christ according to nature, whilst
revelation tells us he was only so in appearance. Thus, that heretic lowered the person of Jesus Christ, and also that of His Mother, from whom he ravished one of the most brilliant pearls in her diadem---her inviolable virginity---and deprived her Son of the glory of His miraculous conception by the power of the Holy Ghost. However watchful to counteract the poison of this heresy, the effects of which would have been so fatal to the faith of her children, the Church, among other precautions, took that of not favoring devotion to St. Joseph just at that time, fearing by that to accredit the error. Such are the words of a great theologian. Father Paul Segneri, a celebrated modern writer, adds, that in order to effect this, she even pretended to neglect St. Joseph, to confound him with the crowd, and to prefer, apparently, many Saints to him, who assuredly were not his equals in merit. Such was the wise reserve of the Church in order to maintain the full dignity of the God-Man. Another writer tells us, on the authority of St. Gregory Nazianzen, that, as the rising Church deemed it fitting not to develop all the points of faith on the adorable perfections of the Holy Ghost, the invisible spouse of the Blessed Virgin, before the faith in the Divinity of the Saviour had taken firm root in the hearts of the faithful; so also she judged it necessary not to turn their piety towards devotion to St. Joseph, the visible spouse of Mary, before the virginity of this Divine Mother was acknowledged and honored throughout the universe.
But now that the darkness of ancient errors is dissipated, and the opposite truths shine in all their lustre, in the full blaze of Christian faith, Holy Church seems, as I have before said, to take every means to indemnify St. Joseph for the homage of which he was so long deprived. Not content with raising altars, oratories, and temples in his honor, erecting confraternities and forming religious orders under his name, establishing numerous feasts in his honor, with proper Masses and Offices, containing hymns in which his praises are celebrated with so much pomp that they alone would suffice to give an idea of the virtues and privileges which elevate him above all other Saints; but, moreover, by placing his principal festival in the time of Lent, she has imposed upon sacred orators who during that holy season are constantly preaching the Word of God, the sweet necessity of yearly publishing the glory and greatness of St. Joseph, even to the extreme ends of the world. Can we mention any other Saint to whom has ever been offered so universal and striking a homage? We hear the panegyric of such and such a Saint on the day of his feast, but it is generally only in some particular town, and in some one special church of that town. Such is not the case with the Feast of St. Joseph; it belongs to all churches, to all towns, and to every village, and as many panegyrics are pronounced in his honor as there are preachers in each city; so that, from the east to the west, wherever the Saviour's name is heard, there resounds that of His beloved guardian. Thus are verified the words of Ecclesiasticus: "He who protects his Lord shall be glorified!" Is not the intention of the Church manifested to us by the singular favors she grants in our own time to the practices destined to ennoble the devotion to St. Joseph, by the encouragement she gives to all the associations which invite persons to enroll themselves under the banner of the glorious patriarch? And, after the practices whose end is to honor our Lord or His holy Mother, do we find any more powerfully patronized than those which refer to St. Joseph? Can it not be said that all classes of society, animated by the examples of the clergy and religious orders, rival one another in endeavoring to extend the devotion towards this illustrious Saint?
But if in the honors she now renders to this holy patriarch, the Church compensates for those which were refused him during the first ages, she also pays him a just tribute of gratitude for the signal favors received from him. She fully realized, says St. Bernard, that Joseph had, by his sanctified life, contributed more towards the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation of the Word than the ancient patriarchs had done by their sighs, tears, and merits; she saw that his virginity had been, in one sense, more fruitful than the fecundity of all the ancestors of the Saviour, and that this chaste father had been more happy in his posterity than all the heroes of the ancient law put together. She knew that our Saint had been in some way necessary to the accomplishment of the mystery of the Incarnation, not only that the Saviour might come into the world without dishonor, but also, as St. Thomas says, to establish throughout the universe the belief in the Incarnation of the Son of God, and the virginity of Mary. She felt that if the parents of Tobias were indebted to the Angel Raphael, who had served the young man as guide during his journey, the Holy Family and the Christian world owed still more gratitude to Joseph, who had protected the Infancy of his incarnate God and Saviour. Unlike the viceroy of Egypt, St. Joseph had not contented himself merely with amassing a provision of material corn to nourish the subjects of an idolatrous monarch, but he had sheltered and preserved for the faithful the wheat of the elect, the true bread of God's children, the vivifying and living bread, the germ of salvation, the food of immortality. She was not ignorant that if the guilty incredulity of Thomas had done more towards establishing the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, one of the principal foundations of Christian faith, in like manner the excusable doubt entertained by St. Joseph when he first heard of the mysterious pregnancy of Mary had served to confirm the new Christians in the faith in the mystery of the Incarnation, the source and principle of all the graces we receive from our Lord Jesus Christ. In short, she knew that the functions of guardian, foster-father, and defender both of the Son and the Mother had cost Joseph pains, labors, and anxieties, and that he had endured them all with incomparable love and constancy.
Considering these invaluable services, Holy Church deems herself bound to acknowledge him for her signal benefactor, and to prove her gratitude to him by offering him her homage, with that of all her children. And if Pharaoh, to show his appreciation of his minister, raised him not only above all the lords of his court, but, furthermore, confided to him the supreme authority throughout his entire kingdom, Holy Church has, it appears, done no less towards Joseph, the nursing father of Jesus. "O Joseph," she says to him, "I commend my children to your care; how happy they will be under the protection of him to whom the Eternal Father confided His principal treasures! Jesus, your Son, is my spouse; Mary, your spouse, is my Mother and my Queen; you, adorable Saint! will be my father and protector. In adopting the Saviour of the world for your Son, you adopted all His brethren---that is to say, all the Faithful, who are my children. The service which you rendered to Jesus, you render equally to those who have become His brothers. What homage can I offer you which can equal your benefits and merits! I will style you, the glory of the Angels and Saints, the invisible prop of Christianity, the glorious conqueror of Hell, the great minister of our salvation, the advocate of sinners, the refuge of the afflicted, the aid and consoler of the dying; finally, to include in a few words all your glorious and praiseworthy titles, I will call you the father of Jesus and the spouse of Mary. Blessed father of Jesus! be ever the father of His Church. Join your spouse in watching over my children; defend them against the impiety of the many Herods who endeavor to stifle the faith in and love of Jesus in their souls. What a happiness for me, O glorious Joseph! if I can cause your name to resound over all the universe in company with those of Jesus and Mary! What a charming concert will be formed by the united voices of the Church, both triumphant and militant, celebrating the virtues which have rendered you the worthy spouse of the Queen of Virgins!" (Roman Breviary, Feast of St. Joseph.)
TO GO EITHER BACK OR FORWARD, CLICK THE ANIMATED STARS
HOME------------------------------ST. JOSEPH DIRECTORY