Tomorrow the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church. She had a deep love for St. Joseph and she turned to him as her spiritual father throughout her life. In this Year of St. Joseph, we too should turn to him as our spiritual father who leads us into a deeper, intimate union with Our Lord. While there are countless reasons to turn to St. Joseph for guidance and intercessory needs, here are three examples of times when his intercession is particularly efficacious.
When Struggling With Chastity and Purity of Heart
We live in a time when it is increasingly more difficult to remain pure of heart and chaste. With media constantly seeking to lead us away from a life of holiness, through which we seek to place the body in the service of the soul, we can become overwhelmed by temptations against chastity in our daily lives. St. Joseph, who was chaste and pure, is the spiritual father who can lead and protect those who are struggling with lust and impurity. St. Teresa of Avila turned to him as the protector of her purity and vow of celibacy. She stated:
I have taken for my advocate and protector, the glorious St. Joseph, to whom I have recommended myself with all the fervor of my heart, and by whom I have been visibly aided. This tender father of my soul, this loving protector hastened to snatch me from the wretched state in which my body languished, as he had delivered me from greater dangers of another nature, which threatened my honor and my eternal salvation.
St. Teresa recommends him with immense fervor because she knows what an efficacious intercessor St. Joseph is for those who are struggling with temptations against impurity or chastity. It is hard not to battle temptations in a culture that inundates us with lustful imagery and impure thoughts. Turn to St. Joseph when temptation strikes and trust in his intercession, no matter the difficulty.
In Trials and Tribulations
If there is one thing we are promised in this life, it is suffering and difficulties. Christ tells us we must follow Him on the Way of the Cross, which means we must learn to surrender entirely to Him in every obstacle and agony. St. Joseph encountered many difficulties as the foster-father of Jesus. He had to lead Our Blessed Mother and Jesus to Egypt away from everything they knew. St. Joseph suffered tremendously knowing that he would not be present with Mary and Jesus at the crucifixion. There were also the daily difficulties of providing for his family while living in poverty. He knew immense suffering. Therefore St. Teresa of Avila turned to him in all of her difficulties:
Those who are devoted to prayer should, in a special manner, cherish devotion to St. Joseph. I know not how anyone can ponder the sufferings, trials, and tribulations the Queen of Angels endured whilst caring for Jesus in his childhood, without at the same time thanking St. Joseph for the services he rendered the Divine Child and his Blessed Mother.
It is impossible to separate St. Joseph from the trials suffered by Mary and Jesus. He was with them in those agonies until his death. Through prayer, we learn to entrust ourselves fully to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in order to persevere in all He permits to happen in our lives for our sanctification. In these periods of suffering, we should also turn to the earthly father of Jesus who can help us by his intercession to follow God’s will as he did during his life here on earth.
To Grow in Virtue
The path to holiness is trod by those who seek—by God’s grace—to foster the virtues in their daily lives. This begins through prayer, the Sacraments, and sacrificing in one’s vocation. Living the virtues in our daily lives can be difficult and we often struggle with bad habits or habitual sins that get in the way of our advancement in holiness. St. Teresa of Avila experienced the intercession of St. Joseph in her own life and the lives of those around her that helped in the advancement of virtue:
I have never known anyone who was truly devoted to him and honored him by particular services who did not advance greatly in virtue, for he helps in a special way those souls who recommend themselves to him.
If we are serious about our desire to grow in the virtues, then we should turn to St. Joseph daily for his help within our families, parishes, workplaces, and in our interactions with others. If there is a particular virtue, we know we are most in need of, we should entrust it to his intercessory care, knowing that as our loving spiritual father, he will take all of our requests to Jesus. St. Joseph’s intercession is particularly powerful with Jesus, since He has such a great love for his foster-father. St. Teresa of Avila explains:
The Lord wants us to understand that just as he was subject to St. Joseph on earth—for since bearing the title of father, being the Lord’s tutor, Joseph could give the child commands—so in heaven God does whatever he commands.
How is this possible? First, because St. Joseph desires God’s will, which means his requests will conform to the desires of Jesus already. Second, Jesus was obedient to St. Joseph in His earthly life, which shows us the tremendous humility and trust Our Lord has in his foster-father. We too should humbly beg for his help in leading us to a deeper love of Jesus and desire to faithfully live out God’s will.
This Year of St. Joseph is a much-needed opportunity to turn to the man God entrusted Himself to. No matter the difficulties we may face in life, St. Teresa of Avila, a great saint and Doctor of the Church, tells us that we can turn to St. Joseph with complete trust. Let us turn to both of these amazing saints to help us grow in greater holiness.
image: Painting of St. Teresa of Avila in Saint-Joseph des Carmes (Paris), photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)