Friday, 1 May 2009

Sermon for the Feast of Saint Joseph

God, in the great love which He bears us, and in His great desire to see us saved, amongst the many means of salvation with which He has provided us, has given us in particular that of devotion towards the Saints. He wills that they, as His friends, should intercede for us, and by their merits and prayers, obtain graces for us, which we do not of ourselves deserve. Not indeed that the merits of Jesus Christ are insufficient to enrich us with every grace, for they are superabundant; but because He is pleased on the one hand to honour His faithful servants, by making them co-operators in our salvation; and on the other, to increase our confidence, that we shall obtain the graces which we require, when we seek them through the medium of the Saints. But who is not aware that, after the Divine Mother, Saint Joseph is, of all the Saints, the one who is the dearest to God; and that he has, in consequence, great power with Him, and can therefore obtain graces for his devout clients? Hence we shall see in the two following points.

I. How great should be our veneration for Saint Joseph, on account of his dignity.

II. How great should be our confidence in the protection of Saint Joseph, on account of his sanctity.

First Point.

How great should be our veneration for Saint Joseph, on account of his dignity.

I. We should indeed honour Saint Joseph, since the Son of God Himself was graciously pleased to honour him, by calling him His Father. ‘Christ,’ says Origen, ‘gave to Joseph the honour due to a parent.’1 He is also thus spoken of in the Gospel: “And His father and mother were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning Him.”2 The Divine Mother also spoke of Him under this name: “Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing.”3 Since then, the King of kings was pleased to raise Joseph to so high a dignity, it is right, and a duty on our part, to endeavour to honour him as much as we can. ‘He indeed should be greatly honoured by men, whom the King of kings has been pleased thus to exalt.’4 Hence we can well apply to Saint Joseph the words of Saint Paul: “Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they.”5 Saint Joseph was more honoured by God, in this name of father, than all the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and pontiffs; for all these have the name of servants, Joseph alone that of father.

II. Behold him, as father, made lord of that little family; little, in point of numbers, but great on account of the two great personages who composed it,--the Mother of God, and the only-begotten Son of God, made man: “He made him master of His house.”6 Joseph commanded in that house, and the Son of God obeyed: “And He was subject to them.”7 ‘This subjection,’ says Gerson, ‘whilst it shows the humility of Jesus Christ, also shows the greatness of the dignity of Saint Joseph.’8 ‘And to what greater dignity, to what higher degree of exaltation,’ continues the same writer, ‘can a person be raised, than to that of commanding Him who commands all kings.’9

III. Josue excited the admiration of the whole world, when he commanded the sun to stop in its course, that he might have time to conquer his enemies; and it obeyed: “The Lord obeying the voice of a man.”10 But what comparison can there be between Josue, whom the sun, an inanimate creature, obeyed, and Joseph, who was obeyed by Jesus Christ, the Son of God? As long as Saint Joseph lived, Jesus Christ respected him as a father, and until his death, that is for thirty years, always obeyed him as such: “He was subject to them.” So that during all those years, the constant occupation of the Saviour was to obey Saint Joseph. During the whole of that time, it was Joseph’s charge to command, as the head of the family; and the office of Jesus was, as a subject, to obey Saint Joseph, who had been given to Him by God, in place of a father. Hence on the one hand, Jesus performed no action, did not even take a step, tasted no food, took no repose, but, by the orders of Saint Joseph; and on the other, was all attention in listening to, and executing all that Saint Joseph imposed upon Him. Our Blessed Lady said to Saint Bridget: ‘My Son was so obedient, that when Joseph said do this or that, He immediately did it.’11 Hence John Gerson writes: ‘He often prepared the food and drink, washed the vessels, brought water from the fountain, and swept the house.’12 Saint Bernard, speaking of Saint Joseph, says: ‘He was a faithful and prudent servant, whom our Lord made the solace of His Mother, the nourisher of His humanity, and, in fine, the only most faithful cooperator in the great council on earth.’13 Therefore, Saint Joseph was not only destined as a relief to the Mother of God, who had so many tribulations on earth; not only was he the supporter of Jesus Christ, but he was also destined to cooperate, in a way, in the redemption of the world, for this was the work of the great council of the Three Divine persons. God, having also given him to His Son, in the place of a father, He at the same time charged him to feed and defend this Son from the snares of His enemies: “Take the Child;” as if He had addressed Him in the words of the Psalmist: “To thee is the poor man left.”14 Joseph, I have sent my Son on earth; and I have sent Him poor and humble, without the splendour of riches, or apparent nobility; hence, in the world, He will be despised, and called the Son of a carpenter: “Is not this the carpenter’s Son?”15 according to thy humble trade; for I have willed that thou shouldst be poor, because I have destined thee to hold the place of a father over My Son, who is poor; for He is not come to reign in the world, but to suffer and die for the salvation of men. On earth then, thou wilt hold My place of father over Him, and be His guardian: “To thee is the poor man left.” I abandon Him into thy hands. He will be persecuted, and thou wilt have thy share in his sufferings; guard him with care, and the authority of a father over Jesus--He gave him the affection of a father, that he might guard Him with great love; the solicitude of a father, that he might watch over Him with care; and the authority of a father, that he might feel sure that he would be obeyed in all that he arranged, as to the person of this son.’

V. Having then made him, as St. Bernard says, a cooperator in the work of redemption, he willed that he should be present at the birth of Jesus, that he might be a faithful witness of the glory which the angels gave to God on this occasion; and also that it had been revealed to the shepherds who, when they came to visit the Saviour who had been announced to them, related all to Mary, and Joseph; again that he might be a witness of the coming of the kings, who, guided by a star, had come from afar to adore the Holy Child, as they themselves said: “For we have seen His star in the East, and are come to adore Him.”16 God also willed, that Joseph, together with Mary, should offer him the new-born babe, as they did: “they carried Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord,”17 and then sacrificed Him to death for the salvation of the world, according to the scriptures, in which the Passion of Jesus Christ had already been foretold, and which were well known to Mary and Joseph.

VI. God then seeing, that through jealousy, and fear of losing his kingdom, Herod wished to gain possession of the Divine Child to take His life, sent an angel to Saint Joseph, to desire him in His name, to take the Child and His Mother and fly to Egypt: “Arise and take the Child and His Mother, and fly into Egypt; and be there until I shall call thee; for it will come to pass that Herod will seek the Child to destroy him.”18 Behold Joseph, faithful and obedient to the voice of God, arose in the night (the very same night on which he received notice from the angel, as interpreters explain it), too the Child and His Mother, and journeyed towards Egypt. Joseph without loss of time, gathered together as many instruments of his trade as he could carry, which were required to enable him to support his poor family in Egypt. Mary, on the other hand, took the child in her arms, and the poor linen for the use of her son, and they set out alone, without a servant, as poor pilgrims on a journey, which was so long and full of dangers, having to pass through so many desert places before they could reach Egypt; a country in which they had no relations or friends, and where they would only find barbarous and unknown people. When they got there Saint Joseph, as Saint Bernard says, laboured night and day to support his Holy Spouse and the Divine Child. Having afterwards returned from Egypt according to the new command of the angel: “Arise and take the child and His Mother, and go into the land of Israel,”19 Joseph at once left Egypt and returned into Judea. But he was again told by the angel not to remain in Judea, for fear of Archelaus, who reigned there in the place of Herod, his father, who was dead; he went therefore to dwell in Nazareth, in the parts of Galilee, and remained there in the company of his beloved Jesus, living in poverty on the small profits of his humble trade, until the time of his death.

VII. During this time it was, that, having gone with Mary and with Jesus, who was then about twelve years of age, to visit the temple, he returned home and met Mary, whom he believed to have been accompanied by Jesus, but Jesus had not returned; therefore for three days Joseph constantly wept, for he was separated from Jesus, the love of his heart; but that which caused him the greatest affliction was the fear that Jesus had left him on account of some displeasure which he might have caused Him, and therefore, that He no longer considered him worthy to have charge of so great a treasure, as Lanspergius writes.20 He was, however, afterwards consoled, when heard from Jesus Himself that He had remained in the temple for affairs which concerned the glory of God. From that time he attended on Jesus until his death, when it was his happy lot to expire in the arms of Jesus and Mary, who attended upon him in that last moment; hence Saint Francis of Sales says, ‘that it is certain that, like the Blessed Virgin his spouse, he died of love.’

Second Point.

How great should be our confidence in the protection of Saint Joseph, on account of his sanctity.

I. We should have great confidence in the protection of Saint Joseph, because on account of his sanctity he was very dear to God. To form an idea of the sanctity of Saint Joseph, we need only know that he was chosen by God to hold the place of a Father over the person of Jesus Christ. Saint Paul writes: “Who also hath made us fit ministers of the new testament.”21 which, as Saint Thomas explains it, means, that ‘When God chooses any one for a particular charge, He gives him the graces which fit him for it.’22 God having then chosen Saint Joseph to fill the charge of a Father over the person of the Incarnate Word, we must certainly believe that He conferred upon him all the gifts of wisdom and sanctity which become such an office. Nor should we doubt that He enriched him with all the graces and privileges granted to other Saints. Gerson23 and Suarez say, that amongst other privileges he had three, which were special to him. 1. That he was sanctified in his mother's womb, as Jeremias and the Baptist. 2. That he was at the same time confirmed in grace. 3. That he was always exempt from the inclinations of concupiscence, a privilege with which Saint Joseph, by the merit of his purity, favours his devout clients, delivering them from carnal movements.

II. In the Gospel, Saint Joseph is called just: “Whereupon, Joseph her husband, being a just man.”24 What is meant by a just man? Saint Peter Chrysologus says, that ‘it means a perfect man, one who possesses all virtues.’ So that Joseph was already holy before his marriage, but how much must his sanctity have increased after his union with the Divine Mother. The example alone of his holy spouse sufficed to sanctify him. But since Mary, as Saint Bernadine of Sienna says,25 is the dispenser of all the graces which God grants to men, in what profusion must we not believe that she showered them down upon her spouse, whom she loved so much, and by whom she was so tenderly loved! How much must the sanctity of Saint Joseph have increased by his conversations and familiarity with Jesus, during the many years he lived with Him! If the two disciples going to Emmaus, were inflamed with Divine love by the few moments which they spent in company with our Saviour, and by his words; so much so, that they said, “Was not our heart burning within us, whilst he spoke in the way:”26 what flames of holy love must we not suppose to have been enkindled in the heart of Saint Joseph, who for thirty years conversed with Jesus Christ, and listened to His words of Eternal Life; who observed the perfect example which He gave of humility and patience, and saw the promptitude with which He obeyed and helped him in his labours, and in all that was needed for the household! What a furnace of Divine love must this burning charity of Jesus have enkindled in the heart of Joseph--a heart which was entirely free from all earthly affections! It is true that his love for Mary was also very great; but this love did not divide his heart, as is too often the case, according to the word of the Apostle: “But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided.”27 No, for love for his spouse filled him still more with Divine love. Hence, we cannot doubt, that during the time in which Joseph lived with Jesus Christ, he advanced in such a degree in sanctity and merits, that he surpassed the merits of all the other Saints.

III. Admitting this, the Apostle writes, that in the next life, Jesus Christ “will render to every man according to his works.”28 What great glory must we not suppose that He bestowed upon Saint Joseph, who served and loved Him so much whilst he lived on earth! At the last day our Saviour will say to the elect, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat...I was a stranger and you took me in: naked and you covered me.”29 These, nevertheless, have fed Jesus Christ, have lodged Him, or clothed Him, only in the persons of the poor; but Saint Joseph procured food, a dwelling, and clothes, for Jesus Christ in His own person. Moreover, our Lord has promised a reward to him who gives a cup of water to the poor in His name: “For whosoever shall give you to drink a cup of water in My name...he shall not lose his reward.”30 What then must be the reward of Saint Joseph, who can say to Jesus Christ, ‘I not only provided Thee with food, with a dwelling and with clothes; but, I saved Thee from death, delivering Thee from the hands of Herod.’ All this helps to increase our confidence in Saint Joseph; it makes us reflect, that on account of so many merits, God will refuse no grace which Saint Joseph asks of Him, for his devout clients.

IV. Saint Bernardine of Sienna adds, that “we cannot doubt that Christ not only does not refuse to Saint Joseph in heaven, that familiarity and reverence, which, as a Son towards His father, He accorded him when he lived on earth, but rather, that it is now perfected.”31 Remark the words, familiarity and reverence; that Lord, who, on earth revered Saint Joseph as His father, will certainly deny him nothing that he asks in heaven. Besides this, we may add, that although on earth, Saint Joseph had not the authority, by nature, of a father over the humanity of Jesus Christ, he nevertheless had it, at least in a certain manner, as the spouse of Mary, who, as the real Mother of the Saviour, had authority over Him: He to whom the tree belongs also has a right to its fruit. This caused Jesus, when on earth, to respect and obey Saint Joseph as His superior. This also causes Jesus, now in heaven, to consider the prayers of Saint Joseph, in the light of commands.32

V. Let us now listen to what Saint Bernard writes of the power of Saint Joseph to dispense graces to his devout servants: ‘To some of the Saints power is granted to succour in particular necessities, but, to Saint Joseph power is granted to succour in all necessities, and to defend all who, with devotion, have recourse to him.’ That which Saint Bernard wrote as his opinion, Saint Teresa confirmed by her own experience: she says, ‘It would seem that to other Saints our Lord has granted power to succour in some particular necessity, but experience proves, that Saint Joseph succours in all.’ Of this we are certain; for as on earth, Jesus Christ was pleased to be subject to Saint Joseph, so in heaven He does all that the Saint asks. Let us therefore imagine that we hear our Lord, when He sees us afflicted in the midst of our miseries, address us all in the words in which Pharaoh addressed his people at the time of the famine in Egypt: “Go to Joseph”33 if you desire consolation. By our Lord’s grace, there is not at present a Christian in the world who is not devout to Saint Joseph; but, amongst them all, those receive the most abundant graces, who recommend themselves to him the most frequently, and with the greatest confidence. Let us therefore never let a day pass without many times recommending ourselves to Saint Joseph, who, after the most Blessed Virgin Mary, is the most powerful of all the Saints with God. Let us never allow a day to pass without offering him some particular prayer, but especially during the novena for his feast; let us redouble our prayers, and fast on the vigil; and let us seek from him the graces which are useful for our souls, for he will always obtain them for us. In particular, I exhort you to ask for three special graces: for the forgiveness of your sins, the love of Jesus Christ, and a good death. As to the forgiveness of sins, I thus argue: when Jesus Christ lived in this world, in the house of Saint Joseph, could a sinner who desired to obtain the forgiveness of his sins from our Lord, have found a more efficacious means to obtain this consolation than through Saint Joseph? If then, we desire to be pardoned by God, let us have recourse to Saint Joseph, who now that he is in heaven, is more loved by Jesus Christ, than he was loved by Him on earth. Let us also ask Saint Joseph for love towards Jesus Christ; this I firmly believe to be the particular grace which Saint Joseph obtains for those who are devout to him--tender love towards the Incarnate word; and the Saint merited this by the tender love which he himself bore Him on earth. Let us also ask him for a happy death: all know that Saint Joseph is the patron of a good death; for he had the happiness to die in the arms of Jesus and Mary; therefore his devout servants should hope with confidence that at their death, Saint Joseph will visit them, accompanied by Jesus and Mary, and that he will help them. Of this there have been many instances.

VI. Boverio relates, that in the year 1541 brother Alexius of Vigevano, a Capuchin lay-brother was dying, and begged the brothers to light some tapers: they asked him why? He replied that it was because Saint Joseph and the most Blessed Virgin would shortly come to visit him. He had scarcely pronounced these words than he exclaimed, ‘Behold Saint Joseph and the Queen of heaven; kneel down, my fathers, and welcome them!’ and so saying, he sweetly expired on the 19th of March, the day which is consecrated in honour of Saint Joseph. Saint Vincent Ferrer, Father Patrignani,34 and others relate, that a merchant in the city of Valencia used every year, on Christmas day, to invite to dinner an old man and a woman, nursing a child in honour of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. This good man appeared after his death to a person who was praying for him, and told him that hat his death Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had visited him, and said: In life thou didst receive us into thy house in the person of those three poor persons; we are now come to receive thee into our house; and they then took him to paradise. In the Franciscan legendary, on the 14th of February, it is related that Sister Prudentiana Zagnoni, who had great devotion to Saint Joseph, was favoured at her death with the vision of Saint Joseph, who came close to her bed with Jesus in his arms. She began to converse first with Saint Joseph, then with Jesus, thanking them for so great a favour, and in this sweet company breathed forth her happy soul. In the history of the discalced Carmelites it is related that when the Venerable Sister Anne of Saint Augustine, a Carmelite nun, was dying, some of her sisters saw Saint Joseph and Saint Teresa, who attended upon her, and that the servant of God was filled with joy. A nun in another convent saw her ascend to heaven between Saint Joseph and Saint Teresa. Father John de Allosa, in his book on Saint Joseph, relates, that a religious of the order of Saint Augustine appeared to a companion and said, ‘that God had delivered him from hell on account of a particular devotion which he had for Saint Joseph.’ He then declared that the Saint, as the adopted father of Jesus Christ, had great power with Him.

From “The Glories of Mary,” translated by "a Father of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer." Published by J. J. Wallwork, London, 1852.

Note: Under the first point, there is no paragraph IV. This was preserved from the source text.

1Josephum parentis honore coluit Christus. -- Orig. Hom. xvii. Luc. Cap. 2.

2Luc. ii, 33.

3Luc. ii, 48.

4Ab hominibus valde honorandus, quem Rex regum sic voluit extollere. -- Card. d’Ailly de 12 Hon. S. Joseph.

5Heb. i, 4.

6Ps. civ, 21.

7Luc. ii, 51.

8Et erat subditus illis: quæ subjection sicut notat humilitatem in Christo, ita dignitatem signat in Josepho. -- Serm. de Nat. B.M.V.

9Quid sublimius quam imperare. Ei, qui in femore habet scriptum Rex regum, et Dominus dominantium?

10Josue x, 14.

11Lib. vi, Rev. c. 58.

12In Joseph. Distinct. 3.

13Fidelis servus et prudens, quem constituit Dominus suæ matris solatium, suæ carnis nutricium; solum denique in terris magni consilii coadjutorem fidissimum. -- Hom. ii, sup. Missus.

14Ps. x, 14.

15Matt. xiii, 55.

16Matt. ii, 2.

17Luc. ii, 22.

18Matt. ii, 13.

19Matt. ii, 20.

20Exeg. Dom. ii, post. Nat. D.

212 Cor. iii, 6.

22Pars 3. q. 27. a. 4

23S. de Nat. B.M.

24Matth. i, 19.

25Pro Fest V.M. s. 13, a. 2, c. 3.

26Luc. xxiv, 32.

271 Cor. vii, 33

28Rom. ii, 6.

29Matth. xxv, 35.

30Marc. ix, 40.

31Dubitatandum non est quod Christus familiaritatem, reverentiam, atque sublimissimam dignitatem quam sibi exhibuit dum ageret in humanis tanquam filius patri suo, in cœlis utique non negavit, quin potius complevit et consummavit. -- S. de S. Joseph. art. iii.

32Dum pater orat natum, velut imperium reputatur. -- Gerson, Jos. Orat.

33Gen. xli, 55.

34Div. di S. Gius. 1. 2, c. 7.

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