On Tuesday 8 December 2020, Pope Francis announced a year to commemorate the 150th anniversary when Saint Joseph was proclaimed patron saint of the Universal Church. The year dedicated to Saint Joseph started from December 8, 2020 and terminates on December 8, 2021.
In his decree Pope Francis said that what motivated him to establish a Year of Saint Joseph was that “every member of the faithful, following his example, may strengthen their life of faith daily in the complete fulfillment of God’s will.” Saints surely help us from heaven to strengthen our life of faith in imitation of Saint Joseph. Here I would like to mention some of them who, through their writings, really encourage us to welcome in our soul Saint Joseph, Chaste Protector of the Virgin Mary and Zealous Defender of Christ.
One of the most eminent Church Doctors and bishop of Geneva, the famous Saint Francis de Sales, loved Saint Joseph so much that he spread everywhere he went the love he nurtured in his heart for the Guardian of the Redeemer. His love for the Splendour of Patriarchs is shown in assigning to Saint Joseph the special patronage of the religious order he founded, namely the Order of the Visitation. For Saint Francis de Sales, the Foster Father of Jesus stands as a perfect model for both the contemplative and interior life of his spiritual daughters. The novices were to look at Saint Joseph and consider him as their novice “master” and guide. In his famous homily he preached in the Church of Saint Joseph in Annecy in 1622, Saint Francis harped on the omnipotent intercessory power of the great Patriarch when he most solemnly proclaimed:
What more remains for us to say now, except that we cannot doubt at all that this glorious saint has great influence in heaven…Oh how happy shall we be, if we can merit a share in his holy intercession! for nothing will be refused him, either by Our Lady, or by her glorious Son. He will obtain for us, if we have confidence in him, a holy growth in all kinds of virtues, but especially in those that we have found that he possessed in a higher degree than any others, which are most holy purity of body and mind, the most lovable virtue of humility, constancy, courage and perseverance: virtues which will make us victorious in this life over our enemies and which will make us merit the grace to go and enjoy in eternal life the rewards prepared for those who shall imitate the example given them by Saint Joseph while he was in this life, a reward that will be nothing less than eternal happiness, in which we shall enjoy the luminous vision of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Another big fan of Saint Joseph was undoubtedly the famous Carmelite mystic and reformer, Saint Teresa of Avila. Her autobiography clearly mirrors her ardent trust in his powerful intercession.
I took for my patron and lord the glorious Saint Joseph, and recommended myself earnestly to him. I saw clearly that both out of this my present trouble, and out of others of greater importance, relating to my honour and the loss of my soul, this my father and lord delivered me, and rendered me greater services than I knew how to ask for.
I cannot call to mind that I have ever asked him at any time for anything which he has not granted; and I am filled with amazement when I consider the great favours which God hath given me through this blessed Saint; the dangers from which he hath delivered me, both of body and of soul.
To other Saints, our Lord seems to have given grace to succour men in some special necessity; but to this glorious Saint, I know by experience, to help us in all: and our Lord would have us understand that as He was Himself subject to him upon earth—for Saint. Joseph having the title of father, and being His guardian, could command Him—so now in heaven He performs all his petitions. […]
Would that I could persuade all men to be devout to this glorious Saint; for I know by long experience what blessings he can obtain for us from God. I have never known anyone who was really devout to him, and who honoured him by particular services, who did not visibly grow more and more in virtue; for he helps in a special way those souls who commend themselves to him. […]
But I ask, for the love of God, that he who does not believe me will make the trial for himself—when he will see by experience the great good that results from commending oneself to this glorious patriarch, and being devout to him.
Those who give themselves to prayer should in a special manner have always a devotion to Saint. Joseph; for I know not how any man can think of the Queen of the angels, during the time that she suffered so much with the Infant Jesus, without giving thanks to Saint Joseph for the services he rendered them then. He who cannot find anyone to teach him how to pray, let him take this glorious Saint for his master, and he will not wander out of the way.
In her autobiography Saint Teresa explains to us the soundest reason for loving and praying to Saint Joseph: Jesus and Mary did this before! Recounting in retrospect of a vision she had of Mary and Joseph Saint Teresa said: Our Lady seemed at once to take me by both hands. She said that I pleased her very much by being devoted to the glorious Saint Joseph.
Another holy Carmelite, who dedicated her life in meditating Jesus Childhood and his life spent with Mary and Joseph, the Venerable Margaret of the Most Holy Sacrament, exhorts us a lot, as Christians, to venerate Saint Joseph as the most worthy Spouse of Mary, the Mother of God, as well as the Custodian of the “Immaculate Word”. When writing to her friend in monastic life who was entrusted with the task of helping another sister the Venerable Margaret of the Most Holy Sacrament takes the opportunity of reminding her and us as well to work in union with Saint Joseph amid the many tasks which everyday life presents to us:
I am delighted to find you installed in your present post. I conjure you to unite yourself to our dear and amiable Child Jesus, who, in Saint Joseph’s workshop, did not consider Himself the master, but merely as an assistant. Unite your labors to those of that Blessed Child: accustom yourself to look upon the sister whom you have been appointed to assist, in the same light as that in which He considered Saint Joseph. I am also an assistant to one of our sisters, and I will endeavor to be faithful to the practices which I now recommend to you.
Even Saint Faustina Kowalska was a great fan of Saint Joseph. In fact, in her love for the Foster Father of Jesus, who is himself the King of Mercy, Saint Joseph is the one who draws souls to the Merciful Heart of God. In entry 1203 of her diary, the most humble Faustina writes:
Saint Joseph urged me to have a constant devotion to him. He himself told me to recite three prayers [the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be] and the Memorare once every day. He looked at me with great kindness and gave me to know how much he is supporting this work [of mercy]. He has promised me this special help and protection. I recite the requested prayers every day and feel his special protection.
It is interesting to call to attention the fact that The Memorare prayer, which Saint Faustina is talking about, is the same one addressed to Saint Joseph that her Congregation, the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, prayed daily:
Remember, O most pure spouse of Mary, and my dearly beloved guardian, St. Joseph, that never was it known that anyone who invoked your care and requested your help was left without consolation. Inspired with this confidence, I come to you and with all the ardor of my spirit I commend myself to you. Do not reject my prayer, O Foster Father of the Savior, but graciously receive and answer it. Amen.
Another great saint that has left us stupendous writings on Saint Joseph is, without a shadow of a doubt, Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer y Albás. He was a Spanish priest who founded Opus Dei, an organization of laypeople and priests dedicated entirely to that immense reality full of hope and joy that everyone is called to holiness by God and that ordinary life is the privileged platform for holiness.
In his book Christ is Passing By, Saint Josemaría Escrivá beautifully comments on Saint Joseph’s Faith. He writes in number 42:
He kept the commandments of God without wavering, even though the meaning of those commandments was sometimes obscure or their relation to the rest of the divine plan hidden from him… Joseph’s faith does not falter, he obeys quickly and to the letter. To understand this lesson better, we should remember that Joseph’s faith is active, that his docility is not a passive submission to the course of events. For the Christian’s faith has nothing whatever to do with conformity, inertia or lack of initiative.
Within the same book, precisely in number 46, the great Escrivá reflects on working like Saint Joseph:
You, who celebrate with me today this feast of Saint Joseph, are men who work in different human professions; you have your own homes, you belong to so many different countries and have different languages. You have been educated in lecture halls or in factories and offices. You have worked in your profession for years, established professional and personal friendships with your colleagues, helped to solve the problems of your companies and your communities. Well then: I remind you once again that all this is not foreign to God’s plan. Your human vocation is a part—an important part—of your divine vocation. That is the reason why you must strive for holiness, giving a particular character to your human personality, a style to your life; contributing at the same time to the sanctification of others… sanctifying your work and your environment: the profession or job that fills your day, your home and family and country where you were born and which you love.
In number 56 of the book Christ is Passing By, Saint Josemaría meditates on Saint Joseph as Model of the Interior Life. He writes:
In human life, Joseph was Jesus’ master in their daily contact, full of refined affection, glad to deny himself to take better care of Jesus. Isn’t that reason enough for us to consider this just man, this holy patriarch, in whom the faith of the old covenant bears fruit, as a master of the interior life? Interior life is nothing but continual and direct conversation with Christ, so as to become one with him. And Joseph can tell us many things about Jesus. Therefore, never neglect devotion to him—Ite ad Ioseph: “Go to Joseph”—as Christian tradition puts it in the words of the old testament (Gen 41:55).
These brief reflections humbly show us how various saints, who lived in different epochs, in Church history, nurtured a special devotion to Saint Joseph. How many people prayed and got successfully helped by the Splendor of Patriarchs. Most of all, how many people grew in personal holiness thanks to Saint Joseph who came and still comes to their aid with a father’s heart, Patris Corde!
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap