Saint Joseph, Our Catholic Treasure:
The 5 Motivations for Devotion

Excerpted From
Devotion to St. Joseph,
Rev. Fr. Joseph Anthony Patrignani, SJ,
Translated from the French; Approved by
the Archbishop of New York, 1887

Third Motive for Devotion to St. Joseph------The Example of the Holy Angels.

When the holy patriarch Jacob saw with his own eyes the glory of his well-beloved son, forgetting his position of father, he prostrated himself before the sceptre of Joseph, and rendered him the most respectful homage. What sentiments of veneration and respect must the example of this old man have excited in the hearts of his other children towards a brother become so honorable and exalted! After having contemplated the Son of God and His mother at the feet of Joseph, you will, perhaps, judge it superfluous, dear reader, that we should point out to you the homage and veneration paid to him by the Angels. It is not astonishing, you will say, that the lords of a court, those even of the highest rank, should honor a person to whom their sovereign Himself has rendered the homage due to a king. I agree with you, however, if what I have to say does not appear to you to contribute to our Saint's glory. Your devotion, at least, will have cause to rejoice as well as your love for St. Joseph, at the sight of the homage which he receives from the Angels, those humble servants of Jesus and Mary. The blessed spirits honored St. Joseph, as they had two powerful motives to do: firstly, because he was their equal by his purity and his other virtues; secondly, because he surpassed them by his eminent dignity.

Our Divine Master greatly praises virginity. Virgins, though captives in this miry prison which is called the flesh, know, however, how to preserve, in all its purity, a flower which one would think could only bud and blossom in its own climate---that is to say, in Heaven; so that, although a stranger upon earth, it shines with a lustre as pure as it is unalterable, and exhales a perfume which rises even to the throne of God. For this reason, virgins have frequently been honored by the same title as the celestial spirits: thus, the name of Angel was given to St. Aloysius, to Stanislas Kostka, and to thousands of others; but how much more justly still is St. Joseph the equal of the Angels, he who in purity excelled all the other Saints, as the lily exceeds the other flowers in majesty!

The virginity of Joseph was, it must be confessed, a marvel without example at the time, since he was the first who practiced it in the married state. Thus grace, in uniting two virgins in the persons of Mary and Joseph, added in their hearts a new lustre to that more than Angelic purity which constituted their glory and their merit.

Blessed spirits! you will permit me to say that the purity of Joseph far surpassed your own. At the sight of the Angel Gabriel appearing under a human form, at the words which he pronounced, the Queen of Virgins was troubled, said St. Ambrose [ off.] Never was she thus alarmed at the aspect or the words of her spouse: she did not fear to live nor to converse with him. I will say boldly, with St. Francis de Sales, Joseph surpassed in purity the Angels of the highest hierarchy during the twenty to thirty years in which he lived with the Mother of God. The eyes of Mary, says Gerson, distilled a sort of virginal dew, which constantly purified the hearts upon which it fell; and since this Heavenly dew fell abundantly each day upon the heart of Joseph, which was perfectly disposed to receive its sweet influence, a new lustre was daily added to the purity of the holy patriarch.

Therefore, it is not astonishing that Joseph should have become, so to speak, a pure spirit, nor that he has merited to be reckoned rather among Angels than among men, according to a celebrated interpreter of the Holy Scriptures. [Cornelius a Lapide, on St. Matthew.]
But if Joseph was not inferior to the Angels in purity, he was still more their equal by the prerogatives merited him by his eminent sanctity. It would be rashness in me to endeavor to paint to you the fulness in which Joseph enjoyed the possession of the power and functions of each of the celestial hierarchies; other writers have undertaken it before me, and penetrating even into Heaven, they show us Joseph equal to the Guardian Angels of the first order by the vigilance he exercised over the Son of God confided to his care; equal to the Archangels, by his transmitting to Mary the commands of God; equal to the Powers, because he manifested to the Egyptians the power of the Word Incarnate, whose presence overthrew their idols; equal to the Virtues, because he governed the Holy Family; equal to the Principalities and Dominations, because he commanded the King and Queen of Heaven; equal to the Thrones, being himself the throne of Jesus when he carried Him in his arms; equal to the Cherubim, since he penetrated into the most profound mysteries of the Wisdom Incarnate; equal to the Seraphim, being raised on the wings of love, even to the highest state of contemplation, wherein he was enabled to repose sweetly on the bosom of that Divine Master whom the blessed spirits see unceasingly and never tire of beholding. In quem desiderant angeli prospicere. [St. Peter, Ep. I. c. i.]

We all know that resemblance induces love; therefore the Angels of all the various orders, beholding on earth a man, who, by a particular privilege of grace, equaled them in purity and sanctity, could not fail to love him in a special manner. Thus it was not without design that the Angel, upon his first appearance to Joseph, called him by his name---Joseph, son of David. We see by the Scriptures that it was not customary for the Angels to act thus in bringing messages from Heaven to men. "Son of man, arise, " said the Angel to Ezekiel; "Rise quickly," said he to St. Peter; "Write what you see, "said he to St. John the Evangelist. The Angels seem ignorant of, or to make no account of the names of these illustrious personages. But such was not their course towards St. Joseph; they called him by his own name; they treat him as a prince, a descendant of King David---Joseph fili David. This glorious title belonged to him, and the Angels bestowed it upon him, to honor by that distinction one whom eminence and sanctity had already distinguished. Further more, they loved to acknowledge him as their fellow-citizen, though he was still living in this land of exile, for, in fact, Joseph was only bodily on earth; his soul seemed already dwelling in Heaven, enjoying its delights. So speaks Holy Church, when, addressing the holy patriarch, she says, "O admirable destiny! even in this life equal to the Angels, you share their happiness and enjoy the vision of God." [Roman Breviary, Feast of St. Joseph.]

The New Testament makes no mention of any man so favored with Angelic visitants as St. Joseph. According to the Gospel, he received no less than four. Sylveira, a celebrated commentator of Holy Scripture, writing upon this subject, asks why God, Who had Himself warned the Magi not to return to Herod, makes use of an Angel to apprise Joseph of the project formed by that prince against the life of the Divine Infant? His answer is, that the Lord, Who never quitted Joseph, made known to him His will by the Angels in order to give the latter an opportunity of conversing with a Saint for whom they entertained so great respect and affection. We are led to wonder why Gabriel, in revealing to Joseph the cruel projects of Herod, contented himself with ordering him to fly into Egypt, without specifying the time he is to spend there, and that visiting him there seven years after, he warns him to return into Judea, but without telling him where to fix his residence, to provide for the safety of the Holy Family, which he will come to tell him later. Why, then, these three visits, when one would suffice? Why leave matter of so great solicitude to the decision of St. Joseph? Sylveira well tells us: "The Angel," says he, "so loved to repeat his visits to Joseph, in order to admire the grandeur of his faith in such profound mysteries and the tranquillity of his soul in such strange events, that he esteemed the satisfaction of seeing him frequently above the glory of enlightening him completely in a single apparition." . . .

Fourth Motive for Devotion to St. Joseph------The Example of Holy Church.
The chaste Joseph . . . during many centuries 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.
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 beginning she was persuaded, it is true, that he 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 virginityand 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 Savior 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 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 Savior, 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 Savior 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 Savior. 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 wbeat 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

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 Savior 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 Chruch, 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.]

Fifth Motive for Devotion to St. Joseph------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 center 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
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 Savior, in His infancy, would only enter Egypt carried thither by St. Joseph, in the same manner the faith of the Savior 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 in 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 accomplish ment 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 Savior, 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 fulfil 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.