Meditation on the Patronage of St. Joseph
by Pierre Chaignon, 1907
1. Power of St. Joseph in Heaven.
2. Our Reliance upon His Love for us.
3. How We may Secure a Great Share in His Protection.
First Point.–Power of St. Joseph in heaven. We can form an idea of it from the teaching of the Church on the subject, and from the offices he filled on earth.
I. The liturgy of the Church is not merely her public and solemn prayer. It is also her popular and authentic teaching. What do we discover from the offices of the two principal feasts of St. Joseph, but especially that of his patronage? We find that the prevailing idea of the Church regarding St. Joseph is that unlimited power has been granted in heaven to the chaste husband of Mary, as it had been granted in Egypt to Joseph, the son of Jacob. In reading the office of this day, we imagine that we hear the Lord saying to us what Pharao said to the Egyptians: “Go to Joseph; I have deposited My authority in his hands; he is the medium of My graces, enjoys a like power of granting with Myself.” “He established him lord over his house and manager of all his possessions.” This is what the Church repeats exultingly adding: “Alleluia, alleluia!” Such is the judgment of the Church regarding the influence of this admirable saint. Let us consider the offices which he filled.
II. In the days of which we speak, God had on earth a two-fold treasure: Jesus, whom He proclaimed His well-beloved Son, and Mary, who had said of herself by the mouth of the inspired writer: “God has possessed me from the beginning of His ways.” To St. Joseph He confided this two-fold priceless treasure. He established him the head of His family, master over His house, steward over the most precious of His possessions, over Jesus, He gave him the authority of a father over His Son, and over Mary the authority of a husband over his wife.
This authority of Joseph was fully acknowledged, for there never was a son more obedient, nor a wife more submissive. We must not imagine that these glorious titles of St. Joseph, to which so marvelous a power was attached, are, so to speak, disregarded, now that he is in heaven. This can not be. The well-grounded sentiment of the Church is, that the foster-father of Jesus Christ possesses in heaven unlimited power of intercession. While some holy and learned doctors have taught that Mary approaches the throne of her Son, not as a suppliant, but as a sovereign, not to ask, but to command, others have said, speaking of St. Joseph, that the prayers of such a husband and father amount to commandments regarding his spouse and his son; that Almighty God, far from depriving him of his glorious privileges, has enhanced them in his life of glory. They have declared that some saints are invoked for particular necessities, as if the power to assist us were divided among them; but that St. Joseph has received universal power to efficaciously aid us in all our wants of body and soul; that as the Son of God never refused him anything while living under his dependence, now that He is sitting at the right hand of His Father, He, a fortiori, grants him all that he asks.
On this ground, the Catholic Church invites us to have recourse to St. Joseph with the same confidence the Egyptians showed to the first Joseph, to whom they said: “Our life is in thy hand; only, let my Lord look favorably upon us, and we will gladly serve the king.” (Gen. xlvii.)
Second Point.–We may rely upon the love of this illustrious saint. In the designs of God everything is foreseen. In creating the heart of Joseph, He was creating the heart of the spouse of Mary, and of the foster-father of Jesus. He wished that there should exist in this visible Trinity, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, a conformity of affection resembling that which unites the three adorable persons of the Trinity, invisible and eternal. On the same model as the hearts of Jesus and Mary, the heart of Joseph was formed; and it is from this point of view we should endeavor to conceive, as far as we can, the perfections which adorned it. Some of these were energy, an elevetion of sentiment necessary to those who have great destinies to accomplish, but principally sensibility, compassion, a desire for doing good, noble inclinations, developed by continual and extraordinary graces lavished upon it during thirty years through the grateful love of Jesus and Mary. Could they more fittingly reward his devotion toward them than in constantly increasing his charity, and rendering more perfect the resemblance of his heart to their own?
To ask if we may rely upon St. Joseph, if he be willing to help Christians to save their souls, to assist priests and pastors in their labors, to advance the glory of God, would be as much as to ask if we are the objects of the affection of Jesus and Mary, for it is from their hearts that he derives his feelings toward us. It would be like asking if a good father desires the happiness of his children, for St. Joseph has adopted us all in Jesus Christ, of whom we are the members, and who desires to call us His brethren; it would be to question the zeal of this great saint. From the moment that the angel had revealed to him the mystery of the Incarnation accomplished in his august spouse, his life was a continual contemplation. What did he contemplate, if not the love of God for us, impersonated in the Word made flesh? “God has so loved the world.” Ah, how often must that cry of admiration have burst forth from him! When he beheld the divine Infant in the stable, in the arms of His Mother, or in his own; when he lavished upon, or received from Him, most tender caresses; when he saw Him growing up under his eyes, and later on helping him in his humble avocation; when Jesus made known to him His intentions in coming into the world, and what He would suffer for the glory of God and the salvation of souls–was not all this, as it were, new fuel to increase the flame of his love of God and of men?
We have not the right idea of the love of Jesus Christ for us, if we do not know that He neither did nor possessed anything on earth save for our interests. The fact of His choosing a father and mother, and the fact of their possessing such a strong love for our welfare, convey to us the knowledge of Our Lord being forced, in a manner, to yield to their requests those graces which, of ourselves, we could not have obtained. The Church positively declares this in the orison of St. Joseph: Ut quod possibilitas nostra non obtinet ejus nobis intercessione donetur. Let us all, therefore, go to Joseph; but let priests remember that they have particular claims to his assistance; for, as they labor for the glory of God, for the purpose of spreading the knowledge of Jesus and Mary, and of saving souls, they realize the most ardent desires of his heart.
Third Point.–How can we secure for ourselves a greater share in the protection of St. Joseph? This great saint comes to the help of those who do not know him, or, though they know him do not honor him, and in this, as in everything else, he is the faithful imitator of Jesus and of Mary. However he, like they, always has stronger affections, and more generous devotedness for those who love him. “I love those who love Me.” The more we declare ourselves his children, by invoking him with confidence, the more does his heart act as the heart of a father. It is known how grateful St. Teresa was to St. Joseph for the favors she had received from him. After making mention of this, she adds: “For the love of God, I beg of those who do not believe me, to make an experiment of it. They will experience how advantageous it is to have recourse to this glorious patriarch, and to honor him in an especial manner.”
Let us, therefore, to-day select him as the first of our patrons, the most intimate of our friends, and our most powerful intercessor. God chose him from among all men, to be His faithful co-operator in the accomplishment of the greatest of His designs. Solum in terris magni consilii coadjutorem fidelissimum. (St. Bernard.) O Priest of God, most useful will be his co-operation in everything you undertake for your sanctification, and the salvation of your neighbor. Consecrate yourself to him, renew with great fervor the act of your former consecration. Make him the father of your spiritual family, the pastor of your flock. Decide now, in a positive manner, what testimony of love you will offer St. Joseph every year, every week, every day. If you spread his devotion with perseverance, your zeal will be agreeable to him, through the many opportunities you will afford him of assisting souls; and as a reward he will be the means of bringing abundant graces upon you. Memento igitur nostri, beate Joseph, et tune orationis suffragio apud tuum putativum filium intercede, sed et beatissimam virginem sponsam tuam nobis propitiam redde. (St. Bern. Sen., serm. 1 de St. Joseph.)
Resume of the Meditation
First Point.–How great is St. Joseph’s influence in heaven! The Church sees a symbol of his power in that of the son of Jacob in Egypt. “God established him master over His house, and governor over all that He possesses.” In the days of our saint, God had on earth two treasures really priceless, namely, Jesus and Mary. To St. Joseph He gave over Jesus the authority of a father over His son; and over Mary the authority of a husband over his wife. Never was authority more perfectly respected than his. Is it less regarded in heaven? Thence came the feeling, so well grounded, that St. Joseph has unlimited power over the hearts of Jesus and Mary. The Church, therefore, invites us to turn to the second Joseph with the same confidence which animated the Egyptians when they said to the first Joseph: “Our life is in thy hand, only let my Lord look favorably upon us.”
Second Point.–We may rely upon the love of this great saint. The heart of Joseph was modeled on the hearts of Jesus and Mary, for everything in the designs of God is foreseen. Jesus and Mary, in return for the services which Joseph rendered them, ceased not, during thirty years, to labor for his greater perfection. Consider the result.
Third Point.–How we can obtain a greater share in his protection. He entertains particular affection for those who love and honor him. The more we will act as his children, the more will his heart be for us the heart of a father. How many prodigies have occurred in our own days to strengthen what St. Teresa has written on this subject? What further testimonies of our devotion will we show him?
A Prayer to St. Joseph
O holy Joseph, chaste spouse of the Mother of God, most glorious advocate of all such as are in danger or in their last agony, and most faithful protector of all the servants of Mary your dearest spouse, I, in the presence of Jesus and Mary, do, from this moment, choose you for my powerful patron and advocate, for the obtaining a most happy death; and I firmly resolve and purpose to invoke thy aid, and never to say or do, or even to suffer any under my charge to say or do, anything against your honor. Receive me, therefore, for your perpetual servant, and recommend me to the constant protection of Mary, your dearest spouse, and to the everlasting mercies of Jesus my Savior. Assist me in all the actions of my whole life, all which I now offer to the greater and everlasting glory of Jesus and Mary, as well as to your own. Never, therefore, forsake me; and whatsoever grace you see most necessary and profitable to me, obtain it for me now and at the hour of my death, to which I now invite you against the uncertain hour in which it shall happen, that whatsoever at this moment, and on my death-bed, I cannot of myself obtain, may by your gracious prayers be bestowed on me by the Savior of my soul, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, together with the father and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.
V. Pray for us, O holy St. Joseph.
R, That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
O God, who by thy wonderful providence, didst vouchsafe to choose St. Joseph to be the spouse of thy most holy Mother! grant, we beseech thee, that he whom we venerate as our protector on earth, may be our intercessor in heaven: who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.