Today, on this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, in this grace-filled season of Advent, the Church celebrates a major event — the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph being declared the Universal Patron and Protector of the Church by Blessed Pope Pius IX.
We are witnessing something truly remarkable and unprecedented. As of today, eleven dioceses in the United States have, to my knowledge, declared a Year of St. Joseph. Thousands of people around the world have or are in the process of consecrating themselves to St. Joseph. From all four corners of the globe, the cry is rising that now is the time of St. Joseph!
The veil covering St. Joseph in obscurity for centuries is being lifted, and the splendor of his mission is shining brightly; offering hope, transforming hearts, and impacting numerous lives the world-over.
We may ask the question, why has St. Joseph been reserved for these times? In a year that may feel darkened by a pandemic, lack of access to the Sacraments, civil unrest, natural disasters, not to mention all the ills we continue to witness, including gender ideology, attacks on marriage, human life, and the family, and the plague of fatherlessness, St. Joseph is providentially offered as a luminous beacon and as a sign of God’s constant solicitude and tender love for humanity.
In the patriarch Joseph, of the Old Testament, we see a prefigurement of the great St. Joseph. Joseph was tasked by Pharaoh with providing grain in a time of famine, and through him countless lives were saved. Today, we are witnessing a famine far greater and a hunger that is far deeper. It is a hunger for the Bread of Life, Jesus, whose mission it is to reconcile us to the Father and to lead us to His eternal embrace. It is a hunger for the only love that satisfies: God’s unconditional love. In every human being there is the conscious or unconscious yearning to hear these beautiful and affirming words from God the Father that reveal our truest identity: you are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased. Yet, the great tragedy is that many are living their lives not only unaware of who they are, but of whose they are. Many are unaware that they are infinitely loved by God, their Father, who thinks of them always and who desires their eternal happiness.
During Advent we are invited to ponder on the immensity of God’s love; a love ready to “rend the heavens and come down” (Isaiah 64:1). It should be a source of great wonder for us that the fatherly arms of St. Joseph, with the maternal arms of Mary, were the resting place of the Son of God on earth. We should also be in awe of the dignity of St. Joseph, who not only was the first, along with Mary, to gaze upon and adore the Word made flesh, but who had the mission of representing God the Father on earth. Pope Piux IX in his encyclical which communicated his decision to declare St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church, Quemadmodum Deus, said the following:
“Him whom countless kings and prophets had desired to see, Joseph not only saw but conversed with, and embraced in paternal affection, and kissed. He most diligently reared Him whom the faithful were to receive as the bread that came down from heaven whereby they might obtain life.”
The privilege and special mission of representing God the Father to Jesus belonged to St. Joseph alone. St. Joseph was the only man on earth to be called by the sweet name of “father” by his Son, Jesus! In these challenging times, St. Joseph is being offered as a great gift to us, and his paternal mission continues in heaven. Just as he protected, nourished, sheltered, and provided for his Son Jesus, he is ready to protect, nourish, shelter, and provide for each one of us who are members of his Son’s Body.
It is significant that St. Joseph appeared in Fatima during the Miracle of the Sun on October 13, 1917, and blessed the world with the Child Jesus. His fatherly blessing is what the world desperately needs. The enemy of souls knows that a powerful means of preventing each of us from recognizing our identity, our great dignity, and our destiny to be united to the loving fatherhood of God, is to distort and disfigure the very image of that love and of that fatherhood on earth. Scripture teaches us that earthly fatherhood derives its name from the fatherhood of God (Ephesians 3:14-15). Fathers are called to mirror the fatherhood of God to their children. But it is not hard to see that we are facing a crisis of fatherhood in society today, with absent fathers, abusive fathers, or fathers who simply do not know how to be a father. Sadly, many have been wounded by the very people who are meant to represent the face of God the Father to them.
The attacks on fatherhood in our world today are essentially an attack on the fatherhood of God. Yet, we have been frequently reminded in the last 150 years to “go to Joseph”, the best and most loving of all fathers, with great confidence. The titles of St. Joseph in his litany, such as, “Comfort of the Afflicted”, “Pillar of Families”, “Terror of Demons”, and, “Zealous Defender of Christ”, all point towards a father who is strong, passionate about the family and about our salvation, and fully capable of coming to our assistance. He is able to unmask the true face of God the Father for us and lead us to Him. Husbands, fathers, and priests can find a powerful support and guide in St. Joseph. He is ready to strengthen them in their own mission and help them more fully and wonderfully reflect God’s fatherhood in their lives.
So, with the arrival of this great anniversary year, how can we cultivate a deeper devotion and love of St. Joseph?
I would strongly recommend that individuals, families, parishes, and communities make use of the excellent book available by Fr. Donald Calloway, Consecration to St. Joseph: the Wonders of Your Spiritual Father. This book excels in deepening our understanding of the mystery of St. Joseph; helping us to better appreciate what a gift he is to the Church and to each one of us in particular. Most importantly, the book aims to lead us to the tender heart of our spiritual father through a 33 day process of consecration. Already, many around the world are experiencing the extraordinary power and protection of St. Joseph in their lives and in their families through this consecration. For more information about this book and the consecration process, please visit: www.consecrationtostjoseph.org.
During this time of Advent, let us run to our spiritual father and implore him to shelter us under his cloak and in his Most Chaste Heart. Let us take St. Teresa of Avila’s words to heart:
“I wish I could persuade everyone to be devoted to this glorious saint, for I have great experience of the blessings which he can obtain from God. I have never known anyone to be truly devoted to him and render him particular services who did not notably advance in virtue, for he gives very real help to souls who commend themselves to him.”
St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church and our spiritual father, pray for us!