Several great saints had great devotion to St. Joseph: St. Bernardine of Siena (d. 1444) preached, “He was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of His greatest treasures, namely, His divine Son and Mary, Joseph’s wife. He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying, ‘Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.’”
St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582) in her Life wrote,
I took St. Joseph as my advocate and protector, and recommended myself very earnestly to him. He came to my help in the most visible manner. This loving father of my soul, this beloved protector, hastened to pull me out of the state in which my body was languishing, just as he snatched me away from greater dangers of another nature which were jeopardizing my honor and my eternal salvation! For my happiness to be complete, he has always answered my prayers beyond what I had asked and hoped for. I do not remember even now that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant. I am astonished at the great favors which God has bestowed on me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which He has freed me, both in body and in soul.
In more recent times, Blessed Brother André Bessette (d. 1937) had a tremendous devotion to St. Joseph. While he was a young man, he had a dream, seeing a church in an unfamiliar setting. From this dream, he was inspired that a beautiful church be built in honor of St. Joseph on Mount Royale in Montreal, Canada. Today, St. Joseph’s Oratory is the largest church in the world dedicated to St. Joseph. Blessed André never spoke of this being “his” project; rather, he said, “Personally I am nothing. God chose the most ignorant one. If there was anyone more ignorant than I am, the good God would have chosen him.” Through the intercession of St. Joseph, Blessed André performed various cures, but stated, “It is St. Joseph who cures. I am only his little dog.” Blessed André’s life reflects true devotion to St. Joseph: the simple, quiet, humble man who served the Lord and His family, the Church.
Popes through the ages of the Church have also recognized the importance of St. Joseph: Pope Pius IX declared him the patron of the Catholic Church (1870).
Pope Leo XIII in Quamquam Pluries (1889) wrote,
Joseph was the guardian, the administrator and the legitimate and natural defender of the divine household of which he was the head. It was thus natural and very worthy of St. Joseph that, as he supported in another era all the needs of the Family of Nazareth which he wrapped in his holy protection, he now covers with his heavenly patronage and defends the Church of Jesus Christ.
Pope John Paul II in Redemptoris Custos (1989) exhorted the faithful to look to St. Joseph in our troubled age:
This patronage must be invoked, and it is always necessary for the Church, not only to defend it against dangers ceaselessly cropping up, but also and above all to support it in those fearful efforts at evangelizing the world, and spreading the new evangelization among nations where the Christian religion and life were formerly the most flourishing, but are now put to a difficult test…. May St. Joseph become for all a singular master in the service of the saving mission of Christ that is incumbent on each and every one of us in the Church: to spouses, to parents, to those who live by the work of their hands or by any other work, to persons called to the contemplative life as well as to those called to the apostolate.
Lastly, St. Joseph has been honored in our liturgy. Since the legalization of Christianity in A.D. 313, a Mass has been offered in his honor, beginning in the East. Pope John XXIII, on November 13, 1962, ordered St. Joseph's name inserted into the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I), a proper recognition for the guardian of the universal Church. Moreover, St. Joseph's feast day of March 19 is a solemnity and traditionally a holy day of obligation throughout the universal Church (Code of Canon Law, No. 1246); however, the United States was granted an exemption from the requirement at the request of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884) because of the difficulty of observing holy days in a non-Catholic environment. In 1955, Pope Pius XII established the feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1 to present St. Joseph as the exemplar of all working men and to focus on the true dignity of human labor in contrast to the “May Day” celebrations of communist countries.
May each of us honor and cherish the example of St. Joseph, trusting in his prayers to help us on the path of salvation.
Fr. Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls and a professor of catechetics and theology at Notre Dame Graduate School in Alexandria. If you enjoy reading Fr. Saunders's work, his new book entitled Straight Answers (400 pages) is available at the Pauline Book and Media Center of Arlington, Virginia (703/549-3806).
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)
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