Joseph the Husband of Mary.--St. Matt. i. 10.
by William Humphrey, 1873
St. Gregory Nazianzen, whose body lies beneath the roof of St. Peter's, whose soul has been with God for more than a thousand years, and whose writings have illuminated the Church of Christ, when speaking the praises of the dead husband of his sister Gorgonia, says:--'Will you that I describe him in one word? He was her husband. And what need I more say. So also we, speaking of the glorious St. Joseph, virtually say all that can be said when we repeat the words of the Evangelist:--Joseph virum Mariae--'Joseph the husband of Mary.'
There are two truths which it is very necessary that we should have clearly in our minds, and keep steadily before us, throughout the whole course of what we say in his honor. And the first is, that Jesus Christ had no earthly father. He had a real, true, earthly, human mother; but His only Father was Divine, the Eternal and Unbegotten, the First Person of the ever-blessed Trinity. He derived His Humanity from the veins of Mary, from the fountains of her blood, from the most precious matter to be found in entire creation, and that in a miraculous and supernatural manner through the operation of the Holy Ghost. 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee, and therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.'
The second truth which with equal clearness we must have in view is, that although Jesus did not derive His Humanity from the substance of Joseph, and although Joseph and Mary had severally bound themselves to God by a vow of perpetual virginity, which they ever faithfully observed, yet apart from this, and in every other way, Joseph was really, truly, and properly the husband of Mary. It was a valid, lawful, real, true, and proper matrimonial bond, which joined together in one those two virginal human beings.
It is mutual consent which effects matrimony. By such mutual matrimonial consent, the one spouse delivers and makes over to the other that dominion over himself or herself which has hitherto been his or her own. Such consent, once expressed, is in every case irrevocable. In this case it was dictated by no private judgment, nor was it the issue of any merely human affection. It was the result of a Divine inspiration. In giving this matrimonial consent, Mary and Joseph were fulfilling an eternal decree, and accomplishing the Divine will. Once given, it could not be retracted. What God had joined together man could not set asunder.
St. Augustine says that three things are required and suffice to the essence of matrimony:
1. Fidelity. And what fidelity between earthly spouses was ever like that of Joseph and Mary, who were in all things and ever of one judgment, of one heart and will, of one sentiment and affection?
2. Sacramentality. And what earthly union of human beings ever so visibly shadowed forth, so perfectly symbolized, so vividly and adequately represented, the union of the Divinity and the Humanity, in the one person of the Incarnate Word; the union between Him, the Heavenly Bridegroom, and the Catholic Church, His immaculate Bride; and the union which He establishes between Himself and the regenerate and sanctified human soul?
3. Offspring. And what offspring of two earthly parents was ever like Him who was at once Son of Man, begotten of the substance of Mary, and Son of God, consubstantial with the Eternal Father?
Theirs was, then, a true and real matrimony. It was not a fictitious matrimony--a make-believe, a mere blind, under cover of which the Incarnation was to take place. Mary was not a single but a married woman. She was as really a married woman as she was really a virgin. In that only was Joseph not her husband, as to which the cooperation of Joseph was not necessary.
But although Jesus did not derive the substance of His human Body from the veins of Joseph, yet there lay on Joseph, as it were, a shadow of the Divine paternity. Among his contemporaries, Joseph had the name and reputation of father of Jesus. Jesus was, 'as was thought, the son of Joseph.' Men said, 'His father and mother we know.' 'Is He not the son of the carpenter? Is He not the son of Joseph?'
But this common reputation was the least of His dignities. Not only from those who were ignorant of the divinity of Jesus, of His miraculous conception, and of the perpetual virginity of Joseph and Mary, had Joseph this honor; he had it from the pen of the Evangelist, and from the lips of Mary herself. The Evangelist writes of him: 'When His parents brought in the child Jesus;' and again, 'His father and mother at those things which were said of Him.' And Mary's own words, when after the three-days' loss she found her divine Child seated before the doctors in the Temple at Jerusalem, were: 'Son, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing.' Those words, moreover, we must remember, were not merely the words of even the Evangelist or of Mary; they were words written by the one and uttered by the other; but they were also in both cases dictated by the Holy Ghost, by Whom both were inspired. The name of Father of Jesus was thus bestowed on Joseph, not by man, but by God Himself. But, farther, along with this name, Joseph possessed the reality which that name represents. He possessed a real parental authority over the Divine Child; to which there corresponded, on His part, a real filial subjection.
Jesus, dying on the Cross of Calvary, commended John to Mary with, 'Woman, behold thy son!' He manifested thereby a singular love to the virginal disciple by an act which was at once a communication to him of a name proper to Himself, and a substitution of him in His own place of filial solicitude for His own Mother. But 'Father of Jesus' is a greater name than 'Son of Mary.' The name of 'father' is a name of authority, and the dignity of Jesus exceeds infinitely the dignity of Mary.
The fourth dignity of St. Joseph consisted in this, that he was in a manner superior to, and head of both Mary and Jesus. 'The head of the woman is the man,' says St. Paul; and St. Peter writes in his Epistle, 'Wives, be subject to your husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.' So Mary reverenced her husband as her head and lord. He was in reality the head of that holy household. As such, it was to him, and not to Mary, that God revealed His will, that he should take the young Child and His Mother and go into the land of Egypt; and again, that he should return thence with them into his own city. To him also, and not to Mary, God gave the commandment, 'Thou shalt call His name Jesus.' And when, after the finding in the Temple, Jesus, the boy of twelve years old, went down with His parents to Nazareth, it is written that 'He was subject unto them''--subject to Joseph as well as to Mary; to Mary as in reality His Mother, and so possessing a real parental authority over Him; to Joseph as really her husband, and so really sharing with her that authority.
When God gives a special name, He at the same time constitutes a man in the position, condition, and office which that name expresses. A name divinely given is not a mere empty name. It is a sign and pledge of that which it conveys. Joseph possessed and exercised a real parental authority over the Incarnate Word; and He returned him a filial submission, subjection, obedience, and reverence. Those were his due, and that in two ways:--
In the first place, inasmuch as Joseph had communicated to him from the First Person of the Blessed Trinity, from Whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named, a shadow of the parental authority which is appropriated or specially attributed to Him as He is the Eternal Father.
And secondly, inasmuch as he, in his character of husband of Mary, and in virtue of that community of goods which exists between the spouses, as a result of the matrimonial bond, and whereby the goods of the one belong to the other also, had his share in whatsoever she possessed. Married persons together form one civil person, and the property of each is possessed in common, and belongs to both. Joseph therefore had his share, as Mary's husband, in Mary's greatest treasure, the prerogative of her parental authority. Again, as a treasure hid in a field belongs to the owner of that field, so Jesus, Who was conceived in Mary, belonged to Joseph.
These four dignities and prerogatives of Joseph I have stated and described, not in words, taken from the rapturous outpourings of some ecstatic saint, however lawful and laudable it would have been to do so, but in the cold, measured, rigorous language of the Schools, and following Suarez as my guide; and this advisedly, in order that we may see how solid are the foundations on which devotion to St. Joseph rests. I might have spoken of the opinion of various holy writers that he was sanctified in the womb, like Jeremias and the Baptist; that he was preserved by a special grace of God throughout his life from the commission of any, even venial, sin; that he had an infused foreknowledge of the Passion, and a mystical antecedent compassion therewith; and that his holy virgin body has been assumed into heaven, along with his glorified soul; but for the reason given, I have preferred to confine myself to these four dignities, as four fountains from which we may derive a conception of his sanctity in its kind and in its degree.
In conceiving and estimating the sanctity of a Saint, we may proceed in either of two ways--either by way of comparison or by way of contemplation. Now, in order to comparison, there must be some points of agreement and resemblance between those whom we compare. But to whom shall we liken St. Joseph--Quis inventus est similis illi? And so with whom shall we compare him? He differed from all others, whether angels or men, in his office. It was his own peculiar prerogative, and therefore his sanctity, whether as the preparation, disposition, accompaniment, result, or crown of his office, is in a category of its own. Let us, then, consider St. Joseph by way of contemplation, and particularly in his relation to ourselves. To him the Church applies the words of the Psalm: Constituit eum dominium domus Suce, et principem omnis possessionis Suae--' He made him master of His house, and ruler of all His possession.' God, as God, is the Lord, because God, as God, is Creator and Preserver in their existence, of all His creatures. But this title of Lord, along with a real lordship and dominion which it denotes, has been bestowed on and belongs to the Man Jesus Christ, as He is the Incarnate Word. He has a possession alike by right of primogeniture and by right of conquest,--as the First-born of every creature, and again, as having conquered death and hell, and risen triumphant and victorious from the grave, the First-fruits from the earth, and the First-begotten from the dead. The Man Jesus Christ has, then, a possession, and that possession is a House, built up of living stones on a foundation laid by Himself, after His own idea and plan, and resting on Himself as its Lapis Angularis, its chief corner-stone. Moreover, this House is a temple--the Temple of God, and that Temple is twofold.
'Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up,' said Jesus to the Jews. But He spake of the temple of His Body. His Body, created, finite, human, passible, and mortal, was the Temple of God in the highest possible sense; for in it dwelt 'the fulness of the Godhead corporally;' -and from that human Soul which inhabited It was constantly ascending heavenwards an adequate, because an infinite, worship of Its Maker. The Infinite God was infinitely worshipped by the Man Jesus Christ, by reason of the Infinity of the Divine Person, Who was Incarnate, Whose that Humanity was, and Who offered that worship. It was absolutely impossible that the Creator God should receive a higher worship than that of the created human Soul of the Son of Mary;--and the Body which enshrined that Soul, and from which that worship streamed forth, was therefore, in the highest possible sense, the Temple of God.
But again, we read in Holy Scripture of another Body of Christ, of a mystical Body--an extension of that natural Body, and of which that natural Body is the head, and men in union therewith are the members.
This Body also is a Temple from which a worship is constantly ascending towards God. It therefore is also, in a special sense, the House of God, and in a special manner His possession. 'Ye,' says St. Paul to the Corinthians, 'are the Body of Christ, and members of member;' and to the Colossians, 'He is Head of the Body the Church.' Singly, individually, and apart, we are each of us members of Christ and temples of the Holy Ghost. Unitedly, collectively, and as a whole, we form a Body, with Him as our one Head in heaven. As a body and a soul meet in the unity of a human person, and form one whole man, and as the human and divine natures met in the unity of a Divine Person, and formed -- Totum Christum--one whole Christ; so do the members of the mystical Body, the Catholic Church, and their Divine Head meet in the unity of one moral person, and form one individual whole--the Mystical Christ.
Farther, from the essential unity of the members with their Head, and so one with another, springs that community of goods, and that identification of interests, which is the solid foundation of the intercourse and commerce between earth and heaven--the practical as well as the speculative communion of Saints. Hence it is:
1. That our feeble prayers and imperfect works have power and value before God, because they lie before Him, not in their own inherent nakedness and poverty, but as assumed into the unity of, and identified with the human intercessions and works of the Incarnate Word.
2. Hence also it is that the prayers and works of one individual man may produce an effect, not only in himself, but on another member of the mystical Body, for whose benefit they are applied. We can pray and satisfy, not only for ourselves, but also for others, our brethren of the One Family, our fellow members of the One Body, our fellow worshippers within the One Temple.
This intercession, moreover, is ordained and regulated according to the mind and will of God, Who has 'constituted angels and men in a wonderful order'--alike in heaven and on earth. His creatures lie before God, not as a multitude of separate, dissevered, dissociated, unconnected, independent units, but as a body or society, composed of members between each of whom is an intimate, essential union, interdependence, and association. Just as in the natural order we depend on others in all the relations of life, so in the supernatural order God wills us to depend on others, our fellow creatures, in all the relations of the supernatural life.
We depend on others, and others depend on us. Our own salvation may, in the Divine plan, depend on a prayer being offered, or on an act of satisfaction being done on our behalf by another member of the mystical Body; and again, the salvation of another may, according to the same Divine scheme, depend upon a prayer being offered, or an act of satisfaction being done by us on his behalf. Looked at from the natural point of view, and with the eye of sense, these things appear to be mere coincidences--the result of circumstances and chance. Looked at from the supernatural point of view, and with the eye of faith, they are seen to be links in a hidden chain of supernatural second causes, and to be integral parts of the Divine plan.
Even of men while yet on earth, weighed down by their corruptible bodies, and struggling with sin, this is true. Their prayers are powerful with God, not for themselves only, but also for others. Much more, then, is it not true in regard of those who are freed from the burden of their mortal bodies, and who, as the case may be, are either already clothed with incorruptible, impassible, immortal, and glorious bodies, as in the case of Mary; or who, as is the case with the generality of the Saints, are existing in Heaven, in the enjoyment of the Beatific Vision, but as yet with the imperfection of disembodied spirits, and in expectation of the final consummation--to wit, the resurrection of the body. If the effectual fervent prayer of a just man, who, although just, may yet, as says the Scripture, fall seven times, availeth much: of how much more avail must be the intercession of those spirits of just men made perfect, who stand in the immediate presence of the unveiled God?
The doctrine, which is of Divine faith, that the beatified members of the Church triumphant in Heaven continually intercede for the members of the Church militant on earth, that they may be victors in their struggle with the world, the flesh, and the devil, is a natural consequence and result of the doctrine of the perfect unity of the mystical Body; as is also that other doctrine, that satisfactions made by them while yet on earth, and so in the estate of meriting, and which have not been required for the satisfaction of their own offenses, may be applied on behalf of others, their brethren and fellow members, by those to whom that power has been committed and belongs.
This mutual interest, interchange, and interdependence of all the members of the whole mystical Body one with another, is what we mean when we say, 'I believe in the Communion of Saints.' But, farther, the interference, intervention, and mediation of the Saints in our affairs is directly under the Divine regulation and ordination. It follows a certain order, and proceeds on certain principles. We on earth have relations with the Blessed in Heaven, not only collectively, but individually. There are particular Saints with whom our relations are more direct and more intimate than with others, and those are what are called our protectors or patrons. Their interest in us, and our correlative duties towards them, are alike founded in a real relation existing between us and them. This relation may be very diverse; but the diversity in no case affects its reality. Certain Saints are patrons of countries, of religious orders, of various classes, conditions, and callings, or of individuals. This relation may be a similarity between their past condition while on earth, and the present condition and circumstances, or sympathies, or sufferings, of their clients. Or, again, they may have been placed, either by others or by an act of their own will, under the patronage and protection of a special Saint, as, for instance, of him whose name they bear. In any case, the relation is a real one, resting on a solid ground, and the effect of a true cause. And the result of this relation is the interest of that Saint in, and the efforts of that Saint for, those with whom he is specially and personally connected. This Communion of Saints is no mere poetical fancy; it is not a beautiful dream, the growth of a luxuriant imagination; it is no devout exaggeration: it is a simple fact and an objective power.
Now, the Incarnate Word condescended, not only to assume our human nature, but also to enter into special relations with individual human persons,--to have disciples, to have friends, and to have parents. This last was the most intimate of all His human relations. Not only did He depend for the existence of His Body on Mary's free gift from her own substance, and for His daily bread, on the solicitude and toil of Joseph; but He also entered into a relation of subjection to both: Subditus erat illis--'He was subject to them'--to His 'parents,' to their parental authority. And this was a real relation. It was not a shadow, much less an affectation of a relation; and it was not interfered with by the fact that they were His creatures, and that He was their Creator; any more than the royalty of a king interferes with his filial relation and filial subjection to the parental authority of the queen-mother, although she is in reality his subject.
Our Divine Lord, then, willed to depend on Joseph as His protector for the care of His Body, and for the supply of its daily wants. When that office of protection was no longer necessary, Joseph passed away, an old man and full of years, to his rest in the bosom of Abraham. Jesus and Mary could not follow him thither; they could not transfer their habitation, and reconstitute the Holy Family of Nazareth in the Limbus of the Fathers. They had work to do on earth. But when that work was done, and the Body of the dead Christ found rest in the sleep of death, His Soul went to seek Joseph, to glorify him with the Beatific Vision, to deliver him from his place of temporary exile, to bring him again from his second Egypt of Expectation, and to appoint him another work;-- or rather to set him again in his old office, but in a new relation.
During the great Forty Days, the soul of Joseph was with the risen Jesus. This is certain, for we know that He who, as an ancient father says, descended alone into Limbus, returned thence with a great multitude. He brought thence with Him all those whose purgation was at an end, and by whose sufferings the Divine Justice had been satisfied; or in the words of Holy Scripture, He returned, 'leading captivity captive.' Among those immaculate souls was certainly St. Joseph's, and as certainly his beatified soul did not enter Heaven before the Ascension of Jesus, to Whom it belonged to open the gate of Heaven to all believers, and to enter as the first-fruits from the earth, and as the first-begotten from the dead. The soul of Joseph, then, was in the company of the risen Jesus, hearing and seeing, so to speak, if we may use such words of a disembodied spirit, those things which He said and did after His Resurrection; and that, not as an uninterested listener and spectator, but attentive as one who had a place and a part, a position and an office in the work of the risen Christ for the application of the one Sacrifice once offered upon the Cross of Calvary. That work was the organization of the mystical Body, the constitution and construction of that supernatural society which was to extend to every land and throughout all time, which was to be the depositary of the promises, the channel of Divine grace, and the custodier, witness, and interpreter of Divine truth to the children of men. And when at last the work of the great Forty Days was ended, Joseph ascended with his Son to Heaven, and received there a place, and his own place in the celestial hierarchy, an office, and his own office in the economy of God's dealings with mankind. We have now to define what that precise place was, and wherein that office consisted.
There was now--at the date of the Ascension --alike in Heaven and on earth, a Body of Christ. In Heaven was His human, natural, but glorified Body, exalted to the Throne of God, and seated at the right hand of the Eternal Father. On earth was a mystical Body, still struggling wearily on the way of its pilgrimage. Escaped it was indeed from the land of Egypt, delivered from the house of bondage, passed through the Red Sea; but beset by enemies on every side, far from home, a pilgrim in the desert, a stranger in a strange land, looking forward to and tending towards the place of its rest beyond the Jordan, in the Land of Promise, in the Heavenly Jerusalem, the City of Peace. To care for this Body, to watch over and protect it with a father's love, to be its created providence, was the destiny and function of Joseph in Heaven. His Divine Son made him Lord of His House and Ruler of all His Possession.
Such is the line of thought suggested by the Decree of the Vicar of Jesus Christ, whereby, listening to the prayers of the whole Episcopate, and so of the whole body of the faithful throughout the world, he has solemnly declared St. Joseph Patron of the Catholic Church, and placed himself and all his subjects anew under his august and powerful protection. He compares him with his type the first Joseph, the son of the Patriarch Jacob, who, for the welfare of his people, became ruler over all the land of Egypt. He speaks of his sublime dignity, as next to that of his Immaculate Spouse. He reminds us that the Church has always specially sought his intercession in times of trouble. And finally he indicates the fittingness of the present time--when the Church is beset by enemies on every side, and so weighed down by heavy calamities, that ungodly men imagine that the gates of hell have at length prevailed against her--for a renewed and solemn act of consecration of the whole Church on earth to St. Joseph, in his relation as Patron and Protector of the mystical Body of Jesus Christ. What, then, is our relation to St. Joseph, and how is it affected by this Decree, directed to the whole world, and so individually to each one of us?
In the first place, it intensifies our vision of the Holy Family, of the Created Earthly Trinity, once on earth and now in Heaven. Secondly, it deepens our sense of dependence on God and God's creatures whom He has so highly exalted. And finally, it increases our confidence in St. Joseph as a power with God, actively operating on our behalf.
First, it intensifies our vision of the Holy Family. St. Joseph stands no longer in the background in our conception of that Family. He is set forward in his relation as Head of the Holy House--as when the angel was wont, in the days of Nazareth and Egypt, to confer with him in that capacity. He appears to us no longer, as in an old painting of the Nativity, standing in the background, and almost less noticeable than the shepherds and the magi; but rather, as in a picture of the Flight into Egypt, where he leads the way of the wilderness. Here the Virgin Mother and the Divine Child are still the principal figures; but St. Joseph has an active post, guiding, planning, solicitously careful, and casting his mantle for protection round the Body of Jesus Christ.
A spiritual writer observes, that while Mary was in a manner associated by our Divine Lord with Himself in His priestly office, inasmuch as she ministered directly by an act of her will, and! by her spoken words, in effecting the existence of His Human Body, and ministered also in their joint oblation of that Body on the Altar of the Cross; St. Joseph seems rather to resemble a deacon to whose office it pertains not to consecrate, but to bear the Sacred Body, to care for Its safety and the fitness of Its surroundings. In another way too St. Joseph resembles a deacon; it is in his function of solicitude for the temporalities of the Church. To fulfill this was the proximate occasion of the ordination of the first deacons by the Apostles. And it seems to be more with the outer than with the inner life of the Church that, in his relation of Protector and Patron, St. Joseph is immediately concerned, although with the inner life he has also much to do. He is, for instance, the special patron of the Bona Mors.
Secondly, these thoughts deepen our sense of dependence, not only upon God, but upon God's creatures; and tend to make us realize the hierarchical character of the Divine Dispensation. There is One Mediator of God and men, the Man Jesus Christ; but the mediation of the Saints in no way derogates from the oneness of His Mediation--nay, it is its legitimate natural result and necessary consequence. Those only fail to apprehend this who are outside the unity of the One Mystical Body. And yet even they, were they to consider the ways of God within their own souls, and His marvelous association of themselves with Him in the work of their salvation, might obtain some light as to the beauty and fitness of this other association of His creatures with Himself in the affairs of men. Our own conversion to God must be an act of our own intellect and will, in order that it may be a real human act, and our own act, as well as the act of God. He acts, in the processes of our spiritual life, not only in us, but with us.
We work out our salvation, and He works in us to will and to do according to His own good pleasure. God does not simply use us. He makes us fellow workers together with Him; we really cooperate with Him. We are God's coadjutors in the work of our own salvation. And as with us, so also with His Saints in Light. God gives to the prayers of the Saints, to those acts of their intellects and wills, a value and efficacy and power with Himself, in virtue of and corresponding to their sanctity, and by reason of their identification with Jesus Christ, His Son and their Lord.
But if this be so with the saints in general, with how much more force does it not apply to St. Joseph? Grave writers teach that he obtains his requests non impetrando sed imperando--not so much by prayer as by command. What mean those singular words? Certainly not that Joseph has power to coerce the will of Jesus Christ, so as that He should grant a favor contrary to the dictates of His own reason. But as certainly they do not mean nothing. The words would be meaningless if they did not indicate a real distinction between the prayers of the parents of Jesus and those of other Saints. They mean this:--In the treasure-house of Divine graces there are certain which God wills to bestow at the intercession and through the intervention of special Saints, and not otherwise. Else why should we invoke one Saint rather than another? and why should we invoke the lesser as well as, and sometimes rather than, the greater Saints? God, then, wills to bestow certain graces and benefits at the intercession of and through St. Joseph, which no lesser and no other Saint can procure. Moreover, nothing that he asks can be but entirely agreeable to the Human Will of the Son of Mary; and asking in his character of foster-father, and as clothed with his parental authority, nothing that he asks will he ask in vain. As in the house of Nazareth the fact that all the commands of Joseph were entirely agreeable to Him whom he commanded, and were in no way opposed to the dictates of either His Divine or His Human Will--as this in no way interfered with or affected the reality of his parental authority, and the correlative filial subjection of the Son of Mary--so also now as to the intercessions of Joseph, which are said to be rather by way of command than of prayer, their supreme accordance with the will of the glorified Jesus in no way deprives them of their character of command. How powerful and efficacious are the intercessions of St. Joseph we learn from St. Theresa, who tells us that many and great graces, nay, all that she had, she had got from God through the intercession of St. Joseph.
It is most important for us clearly to apprehend, and adequately to realize, this distinction between the intercessions of Joseph and Mary and those of other Saints; as, failing to do this, we should not only deprive ourselves of a glorious truth, which sheds a vivid light on the Divine condescensions and the exaltation of the creature, but there would also be lacking to us a most powerful motive of confidence in our recourse to St. Joseph. It is true, as we have said, that as in a picture of the Holy Family, Jesus and Mary have the principal place, and first attract the eye, while Joseph stands in the background, so has it been in the devotional life of the Church of God. And yet, just as in that picture, Joseph, although in the background, is still there--for without him the picture would be incomplete--so also in the Church of God, and in the minds of Christian men, St. Joseph has always had his place as an object of devotion, although not in the explicit, pronounced, and developed form in which he is presented to us today. Devotion to him is not a luxuriant outgrowth of Christianity; it is an integral part, essential and necessary to its completeness.
There may have been two reasons for the fact that hitherto the devotion to St. Joseph has not been such as it must in future of necessity become. First, because in the early ages of the Church, when she had to teach the first principles of Christianity to Jew and Gentile, to barbarian and idolater, to men of carnal, sensual, and earthly minds, there might have been danger in proposing in all its fulness the parental character of Joseph, lest men should fail to grasp the truth that from Joseph Jesus did not derive His Sacred Humanity. Secondly, we may discern a reason in the fact of Joseph's being the created earthly shadow of the Eternal Father. The First Divine Person, Whom in the Earthly Trinity he represents, has ever indeed His place in men's minds, but He is not so prominent and consciously present to our thoughts as the Son and the Holy Ghost. We turn naturally and instinctively to Jesus, Who, in virtue of His Humanity, is one with us, flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood; and next to the Holy Ghost, as sent to us, and shed abroad in our hearts; and last of all our thoughts ascend to the Unseen and the Unsent, the First Person, the Eternal Father. So also it is with the Incarnate Word, with the Spouse of the Holy Ghost, and with him on whom lay the shadow of the Divine Paternity. These are reasons which suggest themselves.
Whether they be the reasons we know not--it is the secret of God. But now the time has come, and the words of Solomon are verified: 'He that is the keeper of his Master shall be glorified.' How can we better commend ourselves to Jesus and to Mary than by our devotion to Joseph, to whom can we commit the care of our temporal affairs better than to him who cared for those of Mary and Jesus? Whom better can we invoke to watch over our dying beds than he, the pillow of whose dying bed was smoothed by the hands of Mary, and who breathed his last in the arms of Jesus?
Prayer to St. Joseph:
O Joseph, Virgin Father of Jesus, most pure Spouse of the Virgin Mary, intercede for us with Jesus, the Son of God, that by the power of His Grace we may be protected, battle successfully in life, and be rewarded by Him in death.(Indulgence of 300 days)
Prayer of Husband or Wife
O God, who hast ordered the holy state of matrimony, wherein I am engaged, grant me grace to comply with all its obligations, and to perform them in such a manner as is becoming a Christian, not an unbeliever. Preserve my love undefiled, according to Thy divine command, and let the duty of love help to conduct me with comfort through all the obligations and difficulties of my state. Grant me discretion to manage all circumstances for the best; a true love for peace; and such a discreet compliance as to resign my own thoughts and inclinations for preserving it. Inspire me with true humility and patience that I may submit to and bear with all crosses in the manner the apostle requires. Furnish me with all other helps that whatever difficulties may occur, I may persevere with cheerfulness in discharging the duties of my state, and never yield so far to any weakness, ill-humor, or impatience, as to weaken, much less to break, the bond which Thou hast sanctified, and which cannot be dissolved but by death. May I always be faithful and indefatigable in the discharge of the duties of my state, doing and suffering whatever falls to my lot, with such absolute submission to Thy will, that both in peace and trouble, in prosperity and adversity, I may ever remember to resign myself cheerfully, O God, to Thy pleasure or permission; and, under all difficulties, still labor to work out my salvation; through Christ our Lord. Amen.