Of all the saints on the Liturgical Calendar, aside from Jesus and Mary, by far the greatest saint is “Glorious Saint Joseph”. He indeed is in a category by himself! The theologians classify the greatness of those in glory with the following titles: Latria, which means adoration that we give to the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Hyperdulia given to the Blessed Virgin Mary means the highest veneration. Dulia, given to the saints, implies veneration. Finally, Glorious Saint Joseph is rightly given Protodulia, meaning that among the saints he is given first place; “Proto” means first!
Saint Bernadine of Siena expounds upon the reason for this theological hierarchy. In simple terms, this Franciscan Doctor of the Church asserts that God gives special graces commensurate or corresponding to the specific office or mission given to the individual.
Husband and wife married sacramentally have the sacramental grace of Matrimony to grow in mutual love for each other as well as to procreate children for the Kingdom of God. Priests, through Holy Orders, can grow daily in sanctity by preaching the Word of God and administering with joy the Sacraments to the People of God. God gives graces corresponding to the state of life.
Therefore, in the case of Glorious Saint Joseph, God entrusted this greatest of all saints with two sublime missions; one mission even greater than the other. First, St. Joseph God called to be the spouse (husband) of the Queen of the angels and saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary. How sublime! However, God the Father entrusted Glorious Saint Joseph with an even more exalted and sublime mission—namely, the Office of being the “Foster Father” of the Son of the living God, Jesus, and the Son of the eternal Father. This is even more sublime, ineffable, beyond the ability of human words to express.
Therefore, with this double mission and vocation, God obviously poured a super-abundance of graces into the heart, mind and soul of Glorious Saint Joseph.
The titles given to Glorious Saint Joseph express a literary and poetic beauty that is exalted: “Renowned offspring of David, Light of Patriarchs, Spouse of the Mother of God, Foster Father of the Son of God, Diligent Protector of Christ, Head of the Holy Family, Guardian of virgins, Pillar of families, Solace of the wretched, Hope of the sick, terror of demons, Protector of Holy Church…. ”
Saint Teresa of Avila who extolled the power of Saint Joseph and thanked him for saving her life, said that she never knew of any time in which Saint Joseph did not immediately help her. One of the most pertinent titles for Saint Joseph, so important with so many crises in the modern world is Saint Joseph, patron of fathers. Let us briefly highlight the sublime virtues that Saint Joseph expressed and lived out in a concrete and daily basis as father.
1. The Representation of God the Father. Glorious Saint Joseph was called to mirror and reflect God the Father to Jesus His Son. Although indeed a very tall order to say the least, all fathers must strive with all of the energy in their wills to pattern their lives after Saint Joseph and strive to reflect and image to their children the Father—“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be they name…”
2. Presence. Today we suffer from the complex and confusion of the “Drop out Dad”. We might even call it the “Drop out Dad syndrome”. Divorce, adultery, alcoholism, and being a workaholic—all too many Dads suffer from these serious manifestations that result in the neglect of their family and children. This results in the Dad not being present to his children, either physically, morally, spiritually or emotionally. This then is tantamount to wounding children who most likely will perpetuate this vicious cycle with their own children. Not so with good Saint Joseph! He was constantly present to God his Father and this overflowed in an abundant river of warm, loving, tender, strong presence to his spouse and to His Child. In imitation of St. Joseph, the Father, may fathers be totally present to their children. It can be done and it must be done so as to transform the world!
3. Tenderness. Some fathers today are cold, mean, calculating, abrupt, sharp and cutting in word and gesture thereby resulting in provoking and planting a dreadful fear in their children! Pope Francis reminds us the importance of tenderness in dealing with others in his words and actions—especially to the poorest of the poor. From the heart and life of Saint Joseph emanated and exuded an infinite river of tenderness, kindness, meekness, gentleness, mercy and compassion. What a joy just to be in his loving presence! Being tender is not lacking manliness but a true manifestation of a dimension of manliness present in the very heart of God the Father, reflected in the Parable of the Prodigal Son and the person of God the Father.
4. Firmness and Strength. It might seem paradoxical that Saint Joseph represented the epitome of gentleness, but at the same time he radiated manliness, firmness, courage and strength worthy of the highest admiration. The long trek to Bethlehem with all the trials and inclement weather challenges; rejection upon arrival and acceptance; the long, tiring and dangerous flight into Egypt to save his wife and child and providing for them until the death of Herod. A weak-minded, soft and sensual, much less masculine man would have collapsed like a house of cards when confronted with any of these hard and challenging situations. Children desperately need both tenderness and firmness in their fathers—a harmonious balance of these opposite virtues. May Saint Joseph intercede for our fathers right now!
5. Faithful til the End. More than ever today we need individuals that are faithful to their word, their commitment, their vocation and mission. Despite the many obstacles presented in the Gospels, and many other incidents not recorded, Saint Joseph was faithful from start to finish. All too many men today when confronted with painful trials bail out or simply jump ship. Drinking, porn. drugs, gambling, and a plethora of vices fathers succumb to instead of biting the bullet, placing their nose to the grindstone, and plowing through the heavy snow storms of life. Fathers must meditate upon the life, actions, examples and the person of great Saint Joseph. Fathers should consecrate themselves to Glorious Saint Joseph. Fathers should pray to Saint Joseph, imitate Saint Joseph and love Saint Joseph. If all the fathers in the world would take Glorious Saint Joseph as model and guide, the world, the families and the society as a whole would be rapidly transformed. Glorious Saint Joseph, Spouse of Mary and Foster Father of Jesus, the Son of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen!