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Sayings of Holy Men about St. Joseph

18 min • Digitized on May 20, 2021

From Saint Joseph of Jesus and Mary, page 98
By Rev. Matthew Russell, S.J.

There are other ministries appertaining to the order of the Hypostatic Union, which in its kind is more perfect, as we affirmed of the dignity of the Mother of God, and in this order is constituted the ministry of St. Joseph; and although it be in the lowest grade of it, nevertheless in this respect it surpasses all others, because it exists in a superior order.—Suarez.

Since Joseph was to be the guardian, companion, and ruler of the Most Blessed Virgin and of the Child Jesus, is it possible to conceive that God could have made a mistake in the choice of him? or that He could have permitted him to be deficient in any respect? or could have failed to make him most perfect? The very idea would be the grossest of errors. When God selects anyone to perform some great work, He bestows upon him every virtue needful for its accomplishment.—Bernardine de Bustis.

The mysterious action of the Holy Spirit will not cease to move and inflame the hearts of the faithful, until the whole army of the Church Militant shall pay fresh homage to Joseph, raising monasteries, temples, and altars dedicated to his name. Yes, new and magnificent feasts will be celebrated in his honour, vows will be offered under his invocation, and those whose petitions have been granted will gladly fulfil them at his altar. God will give deeper penetration to human intellects; and learned men, meditating on the interior and hidden gifts in Joseph, will be fain to acknowledge that no one ever possessed similar super-heavenly riches. Others are called the friends of Christ, but Joseph is called His father. The saints invoke Mary by the title of Queen, and this Queen is the Spouse of St. Joseph.—Isidore Isolano, O.P. (A.D. 1522)

Have I erred in saying that no one ever exceeded Joseph in sanctity, always, of course, excepting, as she ever must be excepted, his Spouse? If such an assertion is to be esteemed temerity, then call Gerson, the famous Parisian Chancellor, temerarious; temerarious a Bernardine de Bustis, a John of Carthagena, an Isidore surnamed Isolano, and, finally, a Suarez, whose judgment is equivalent to that of an entire university. And is it in ambiguous or obscure terms that Suarez expresses himself? Listen to his words: “I do not see how it is a temerarious or improbable, but rather a pious and probable, opinion, should any hold that St. Joseph in grace and glory surpassed all the other saints, for there is nothing in Holy Scripture repugnant to such a belief.”—Segneri.

Marvellous is thy sublime elevation, O Joseph! O incomparable dignity, that the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven, the Sovereign Lady of the world, should not disdain to call thee her lord! Truly, truly, I know not which most to admire, the great humility of Mary, or the sublime grandeur of Joseph.—Gerson.

The Council of Constance approved the thought of Gerson, that St. Joseph should be the Protector of Christendom, and from that time the Church began to look upon the Holy Patriarch as her Universal Protector.—Patrignani.

He, as constituted head of the Family immediately belonging to the service of a God-Man, transcends in dignity all the other saints; wherefore he is happily established in an order which is superior to all the other orders in the Church.—The Same.

When Jesus came to cast fire upon earth, and desired that it should be enkindled, He chose some favoured souls in which He was sure to find it always burning. It found its expression in the “Magnificat,” it made the Baptist leap for joy, it brought delight to the home of St. Zachary and St. Elizabeth, and shed a bright ray over the aged features of Simeon and Anna. Who can doubt, then, its power over the loyal and true heart of St. Joseph, and its daily and hourly increase, whilst in their journeys He was resting on that heart and was filling it with such feelings as St. John afterwards drew at the Last Supper from that inexhaustible spring of charity? … St. Joseph, above all, is the Patron and model of those who labour and are heavily burthened. He and our Divine Lord worked side by side for more than eighteen years, and were known to their neighbours only by the kind of work which was their only support. May our lives be guarded by St. Joseph’s powerful intercession; may he soothe us in sickness and cheer us in death, even as he himself sought and gained the only grace he desired to have the grace of dying in the arms of Jesus and Mary.—Dr. Thomas Grant, first Bishop of Southwark.

It cannot be denied that in the first ages of the Church there appears a greater devotion to St. John the Baptist than to St. Joseph; nowadays the very reverse is the fact. Why is this, if it be not because the worship of the Spouse of Mary and the father of Jesus is better suited to us than that of the mighty Saint who was the herald of His coming? There is no jealousy in heaven, and the great St. John, the very apostle of disinterested love, would willingly point to St. Joseph and say, as he did to our Lord, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” The thought of the sweet Saint who guarded Jesus and Mary in their weary flight through the wilderness was to be more useful to Christians than the remembrance of the stern voice which sounded through the desert.—Father Dalgairns, of the London Oratory.

There were saints nearer to our Lord than either martyrs or apostles; but, as if these sacred persons were immersed and lost in the effulgence of His glory, and because they did not manifest themselves, when in the body, in external works separate from Him, it happened that for a long while they were less dwelt upon. As comparatively quiet times succeeded, the religious meditations of holy men and their secret intercourse with Heaven gradually exerted an influence out of doors, and permeated the Christian populace, by the instrumentality of preaching and by the ceremonial of the Church. Hence, at length, those luminous stars rose in the ecclesiastical heavens, which were of more august dignity than any which had preceded them, and which were late in rising for the very reason that they were so specially glorious. Those names, I say, which at first sight might have been expected to enter soon into the devotions of the faithful, with better reason might have been looked for at a later date, and actually were late in their coming. St. Joseph furnishes the most striking instance of this remark; here is the clearest of instances of the distinction between doctrine and devotion. Who, from his prerogatives and the testimony on which they come to us, had a greater claim to receive an early recognition among the faithful than he? A Saint of Scripture, the Foster-father of our Lord, he was an object of the universal and absolute faith of the Christian world from the first, yet the devotion to him is comparatively of late date. When once it began, men seemed surprised that it had not been thought of before; and now they hold him next to the Blessed Virgin in their religious affection and veneration.—Cardinal Newman.

For thirty years Christ lived with Mary and Joseph, and thus formed a shadow of the Heavenly Trinity on earth. O the perfection of that sympathy which existed between the three! Not a look of one but the other two understood, as expressed, better than if expressed in a thousand words; nay, more than understood accepted, echoed, corroborated. It was like three instruments absolutely in tune, which all vibrate when one vibrates, and vibrate either one and the same note or in perfect harmony.—The Same.

Joseph was pure and innocent in a way unlike any other man who ever lived, our Lord excepted. His soul was white as snow. He had nothing whatever within his heart to make him ashamed, and he would have found it most difficult to find matter for confession. O Joseph, make me so blameless and irreproachable that I should not care though friends saw into my heart as perfectly as Jesus and Mary saw into thine. O gain me the grace of holy simplicity and affectionateness, so that I may love thee, Mary, and, above all, Jesus, as thou didst love Jesus and Mary. Joseph was as humble as he was sinless. He never thought of himself, but always of the Infant Saviour, whom he carried in his arms. O holy Joseph, make me like thee in purity, simplicity, innocence, and devotion. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, pray for me.—The Same.

What a beautiful death was St. Joseph’s! Nursed in the arms of Jesus and Mary, his last hours were one long ecstasy. No anxious, no distressing thought was possible in that sweet company. For him death was only falling asleep to wake in Paradise. St. Joseph is therefore the Patron of a good death. Pray earnestly to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, that you may die in peace in their blessed company.—Father Richard Clarke, S.J.

One of the great modern saints, to whom the Church owes the development of the devotion to St. Joseph, is St. Bernardine of Sienna. He was a great theologian as well as a great preacher, and a great saint and worker of miracles, and we have the advantage of possessing his sermons as revised by himself. They are, in truth, like those of Bourdaloue, very often complete theological treatises on the subjects with which they deal. In his famous sermon on St. Joseph, St. Bernardine lays down a great principle of the Kingdom of God as the foundation of his reasonings concerning the Saint. He says it is a general rule as to all singular graces which are communicated to any rational creature of God, that whenever the Divine favour chooses anyone for any singular grace or sublime state or position, He gives, with the vocation, those gifts of grace which are necessary for the person so chosen, and for the office to which he is chosen. He says that it is not only the graces absolutely necessary which are thus conferred, but those also which belong to the office by a kind of convenience, to embellish, and, as it were, decorate it duly and in fair proportion. This is the substance of the principle on which St. Bernardine insists. It is easy to see that this rule extends far beyond the occasion for which he uses it, which is the drawing out the graces which St. Joseph received as the Spouse and husband of Mary, and the reputed father of our Lord Himself.—Henry James Coleridge, S.J.

The theologians tell us that there is in the Kingdom of God an order still higher than that of the Apostolic commission, and this is the order of the carrying out the Hypostatic Union of the Human and the Divine natures in our Lord. Now it was in this order that the commission both of Our Blessed Lady and of St. Joseph lay, and he was second in it to no one, except only to that Blessed Mother of God. His whole life and work in the Kingdom of God was spent in immediate contact with our Lord, and not simple contact merely, as might have been the lot of one who had lived with Him and been His constant companion for so many years, without having any special office in relation to Him. The office of St. Joseph could not be discharged without the most intimate and perpetual communication and companionship with Him and His Blessed Mother. He lived for our Lord and for her, he laboured for them, and watched over them, and guided and ruled them. It is in this, his participation in the order of the Hypostatic Union, that the saints see the reason for the foundation of the belief in his pre-eminent sanctity, in which, after the Mother of God, he has no compeer except in the blessed precursor, St. John, with whose name that of St. Joseph is coupled by the Church.—The Same.

In the writings of the ancient Fathers are to be found, not only what may be called prolific germs, but also positive and explicit statements of doctrine, which sufficiently show how deep in the consciousness of the Church lay the belief of Joseph’s exalted dignity and sanctity, and how definite a shape it had assumed even in the early ages. The devotion paid to him has, it is true, been much more distinctly formulated in later centuries, when his place in the Celestial Hierarchy came to be more fully recognised; but from the first this great Saint had a peculiar attraction for many holy and gifted souls, who regarded him with singular veneration and affection, as the citations given abundantly testify.—Edward Healy Thompson. 1

1 We are glad to quote this devout layman, whose Life and Glories of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, Foster-father of Jesus, and Patron of the Universal Church, is one of the finest and most complete treatises on this Holy Patriarch that any literature possesses.

Spend your life in honouring St. Joseph, and your love and homage will never equal the love and homage paid to him by Mary; it will approach never so distantly to the obedience, the love, the homage paid to him for thirty years on earth by the Son of God. But in proportion as your heart grows towards him in the reverence and unbounded confidence of a son, will you trace in your soul a more faithful copy of the Incarnate Word.—Cardinal Vaughan.

How can we sufficiently admire the unremitting, uncomplaining, self-sacrificing toil of Joseph, who was honoured by the Eternal Father with the office of governing and working for His Eternal Son and the Ever-Blessed Virgin Mother! How shall we wonder at the sweet, gentle, assiduous labours of Mary, watching over the comfort of her husband and her Child, never forgetting nor omitting anything which might cheer or alleviate their earthly lot, and brightening their home with her beautiful and loving smiles. How shall we adore the gracious Child, advancing daily in wisdom and age, and grace with God and man; manifesting ever more and more to His parents’ wondering eyes the hidden perfections of His Godhead, and captivating their love by His reverent obedience and sweet attentions and gentle loving ways. What a school of love was there! Jesus the Ocean of created love and charity; Mary full of grace and love as much as was possible to a pure creature; Joseph, the Guardian-Father of Jesus, the Virgin-Husband of Mary, the Companion and Disciple of both, and filled by God with that supreme love which such offices required. Every kind of created tenderness was there, following upon charity, and unspeakably dear to the God of charity, who has known how to create so many varieties and sweetnesses of love in the heart of man. There was the ineffable mutual love of husband for wife, and of wife for husband, intensified as well as purified by the virginity of both. There was the love of father and the love of mother for their Child; for He was the Child of both, pre-ordained to be the recompense and bond of their virginal union. There was the love of the Child for His parents, intense and perfect, as must have been every kind of love in the Sacred Heart of God.—Edward Bagshawe, Bishop of Nottingham (A.D. 1887).

I have seen a little picture which represents St. Joseph with the Divine Infant, who points towards him, saying: Ite ad Joseph! To you I say the same, Go to Joseph! Have recourse with special confidence to St. Joseph, for his protection is most powerful, now above all that he is the Patron of the Universal Church.—Pius IX.

Why St. Joseph should be regarded specially as the Patron of the Church, and why the Church in turn should promise much to herself from his guardianship and patronage, these are the decisive causes and reasons: that he is the husband of Mary and the putative father of Jesus Christ. From this have proceeded all his dignity, grace, sanctity, and glory. Certainly the dignity of Mother of God is so exalted that nothing greater can be made; but nevertheless, because there existed between Joseph and most Blessed Mary the bond of marriage, it is beyond all doubt that he approached nearer than any other to that most excellent dignity by which the Mother of God far surpasses all created natures.—Leo XIII.

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