Motives for Devotion to St. Joseph
Fr. Anthony A. Patrigani, S.J.
With Eccles. Appr.
Fifth Motive---The Fruits of the Devotion to St. Joseph Throughout the Whole World.
No sooner had the Egyptians, remarks St. Bernard, fixed their eyes upon the great and admirable qualities of Joseph, than, as if by enchantment, they were attracted to his person. The spouse of Mary, more amiable assuredly than the minister of Pharaoh, has obtained a more signal favor, for, within the last few centuries, the grandeur of his virtues and the excellence of his merits having appeared in their full light, he has seen the most docile as well as the most savage hearts attach themselves to him. I mean by this, that the devotion to St. Joseph has been spread, not only throughout all Europe, which is the centre of religion, but it has also passed into Asia, Africa, and America. If we go into Turkey, we will there find Latins, Greeks, and Catholics of every rite remarkable for their devotion to our Saint. Should we penetrate into the thickest forests of North America, we will hear the first Iroquois who received Baptism glory in the honor of bearing the name of Joseph. If we cross the seas and visit the scorching plains of Paraguay, we will meet with numbers of Christians bearing that beautiful name, and we may admire their devotion to that great saint. Impelled by the breath of the Holy Spirit, it has steered its way so fortunately, that, passing the bounds reached by the most daring conquerors, it has crossed the ocean to implant itself in the hearts of people heretofore unknown. If we follow the apostolic missionaries into Tonquin, we will disembark at ports which are always safe as long as they are under the protection of St. Joseph, and we will find his name given to the first one Baptized there. If, surmounting our fatigue, we advance into the most distant parts of India, everywhere in the East as well as the West, our hearts will bound with joy in hearing the sweet name of Joseph.
If we seek to know the reason why devotion towards this great Saint has made such rapid progress in those idolatrous countries, we may, perhaps, find it in the reflection that, as our Saviour, in His infancy, would only enter Egypt carried thither by St. Joseph, in the same manner the faith of the Saviour seems only willing to introduce itself among infidel nations by the aid of the intercession of the same Saint; and, if it was in his company that the Infant Jesus threw down the idols of Egypt, it is also by the devotion to His beloved foster-father that He will combat them at the present day. In fact, is it not in order to recompense St. Joseph for the labor and fatigue he underwent in that barbarous country, that God has rendered his name illustrious among idolatrous nations? Is it not in order to manifest to the world the ardent zeal of this Saint for the salvation of the Egyptians, who had given shelter to Jesus and Mary, that the Eternal Father has confided to him, if we may judge from appearances, the conversion of so many infidel nations? St. Hilary, considering St. Joseph in the journey from Judea into Egypt, carrying the Infant God in his arms, sees in this devoted servant the figure of the Apostles, who were to carry all over the world the faith of their Divine Master.
Also, St. Anselm represents to himself, in the person of Joseph, whose heart burned with the desire of seeing the entire world subjected to the amiable yoke of Christ, preachers who extend the limits of Christianity, and who, like valiant captains, cease not to enroll new soldiers under the banner of Jesus Christ. God, therefore, wished to do more for our Saint than the king of Egypt had done for the first Joseph. The recompense of his zeal and labors was, firstly, the conversion of idolatrous people, like the Egyptians, operated by his special intercession; and, secondly, the perseverance of many in following the light of faith. Thus, the Church contemplates with joy the happy accomplishment of the project she had formed to spread devotion to St. Joseph throughout the universe, hoping thereby to find in him a protector full of zeal for the propagation of the faith. And since things are never better preserved than when under the action of the hand which formed them, it is very probable that our holy religion, which, while yet in the cradle, was confided to the guardianship and care of St. Joseph, in the person of the Infant Saviour, must, according to the designs of Heaven, and in the different states in which she finds herself, experience the effects of his protection,----God wishing that she should take birth, develop, maintain herself, and flourish under the guidance of him who, according to St. Bernadine of Sienna, held in his hands the keys to open the gates of the new law and close those of the old.
Nothing is so dear to the Church as her faith. She looks upon it as a stronghold, to the preservation of which is attached the salvation of the kingdom of her Divine Spouse. Relying implicitly upon the promise of Jesus Christ, it is not through fear that the gates of Hell or the powers of earth can ever succeed in weakening it; but she dreads the snares which are laid for her children, and spares no pains to repulse the enemies who surround her. Therefore, she has special recourse to the protection of those Saints who preached or defended it with the greatest success; as, for example, that of the princes of the Apostles, SS. Peter and Paul. It was in the midst of the greatest dangers of the Church, according to some writers, that the devotion to St. Joseph took its rise. A fatal schism had arisen in the West, which, like a furious hurricane, attacked the faith on all sides, and threatened destruction. A council was held at Constance to devise means to remedy the evil. Then Gerson, in a discourse which he pronounced before this august assembly, proposed, among other means of calming the tempest and bringing about a change of morals, to invoke St. Joseph in a special manner, and to propagate devotion towards him, in hopes that it would be a forerunner of that peace which was so ardently desired According to him, the illustrious patriarch, having been the guardian, and, in some sort, the tutor of Jesus Christ, he would also fulfill the same offices to Christianity in general. His discourse was favorably listened to and approved by the Council.
The Holy Ghost seemed to approve of Gerson's language, and manifested His approval by inspiring the people of the West with the thought of honoring St. Joseph by a special devotion. They seemed convinced that the prayers and merits of this great Saint not only averted the evils which threatened Catholicity, but that they also drew down upon them the richest blessings; so says Isidore de l'Isle, a pious and learned Dominican.
Since the Church has experienced the efficacy of St. Joseph's protection, whether in propagating or manifesting forth the faith in all its purity, she is inspired with a fresh motive to honor him---namely, the benefit thence to be derived by the Faithful. Therefore, she seems to regard St. Joseph as the protector of all Christians, and, as such, she judges him worthy to be chosen, invoked, and imitated by all ages and conditions of men.
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