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When asked by a questioner about the dignity of St. Joseph in Christian tradition, the late Father Francis L. Filas, S.J., the USA’s leading authority on the subject in his time, responded simply, “Like wife, like husband.” The man closest to Jesus and Mary rightly deserves all honor and praise.
St. Joseph rarely enjoys great press. Usually he is forgotten, or at least left standing obscurely in the background. His self-effacement seems to have influenced the scant attention given him by many Church teachers.
In a hymn honoring the Holy Eucharist, St. Thomas Aquinas describes the inadequacy of human language to express full appreciation of the Blessed Sacrament. St. Bernard and other great devotees of Mary voiced the same idea regarding our Blessed Mother. We may say the same about St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and the virgin father of Jesus.
Such appreciation unfolds slowly after much study and reflection. It does not become evident at once in a single glance. Even today many Catholics are inclined to think that St. Joseph is a wonderful saint, but he was not the real father of Jesus, so we honor him as protector of Mary. With that passing comment, such persons promptly overlook St. Joseph and relegate him to the background.
Knowing about him
Actually this opinion was the common outlook in the first thirteen centuries of Christianity. Church history shows that St. Joseph was the victim of benign neglect in the lives of our early saints, and fathers and doctors of the Church. St. Augustine and some other thinkers wrote of St.
Joseph, but his mention is sparse. The tide turned slowly in the next five hundred years and we find simple beginnings of a solid devotion to St. Joseph.
The theology of his vocation, dignity, holiness, and intercession began to flower only in medieval times; and the seventeenth century was the golden age. The enthusiasm of St. Teresa of Avila for St. Joseph was remarkable, vividly expressed in her writings, and perpetuated in the twelve new convents given his name.
The ground swell of attention began with the popes of the late nineteenth century. All the popes of modern times, from Pope Pius IX until our present Holy Father, have issued substantial teaching about Joseph on their official documents. Since 1870 the Church officially gave impetus to this new trend when Blessed Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church. The next pope, Leo XIII, set St. Joseph before us with a rank and place best described in his encyclical about Joseph, Quamquam Pluries, 1889: “There can be no doubt that, more than any other person, he approached that super eminent dignity by which the Mother of God was raised far above all created natures.”
Such an exalted understanding and appreciation of St. Joseph’s dignity do not blossom all at once. Sustained study and meditation on his twofold vocation are required. The extremes of too much or too little must be sedulously avoided. A typical reaction often encountered is that the Gospel says Joseph was a just man. What more can be said?
Plenty! In 1989 Pope John Paul II offered us a masterful explanation and reflection of the unique vocation of St. Joseph in God’s plan of salvation with Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer). This inspirational pastoral letter marking the centenary of Leo XIII’s landmark encyclical treats the person and mission of St. Joseph in the life of Christ and of the
Church. It recalls what makes him special, not only for us personally, but for the universal Church.
Some muse that Joseph’s role is not treated in any detail in Holy Scripture. But neither is the vocation of Mary. However, what little is said is highly significant. Theologians have reasoned to many of the functions and privileges granted Mary. The same process is followed in regard to Joseph. Once the divinity of Jesus and the divine virginal motherhood of Mary were firmly established in Catholic doctrine and in popular understanding, Joseph began to emerge without concern that his unique position as virgin father of Jesus and virginal husband of Mary would be misunderstood.
The evolution of devotion to St. Joseph is in reality another facet of devotion to Mary. Probing more deeply Joseph’s mission leads us to knowing more deeply the greatness of Mary. St. Joseph’s position in relation to Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, stems from his position with regard to Mary, Mother of the Redeemer. The parallel holds true also for Mary and Jesus. The better we know Mary, the better we know her Son, from whom she derives all her dignity and whom she reflects so faithfully. Pope Benedict XV clearly expressed this idea: “By St. Joseph we are led directly to Mary, and by Mary to the fountain of all holiness, Jesus Christ, who sanctified the domestic virtues by his obedience to St. Joseph and Mary.”
Acknowledging his greatness
Absolutely certain is the fact that God did not choose any unworthy man to be the husband of Mary, who was to be the Virgin Mother of God. Even if St. Joseph had been merely Mary’s protector and not her husband, he would still have occupied a position far surpassing that of any other human being. But Joseph is her husband, related to the Mother of God in a marriage that was not less genuine because it was virginal. God brought the marriage into existence for the express purpose of serving the Incarnation, so that the
Son of God might be received and reared within that holy conjugal union. Since, in all creation God could find none more worthy than Mary to be the Mother of Jesus, God could find none worthier than Joseph to be the husband of Mary, and to be related to Jesus by the spiritual ties of a true fatherhood.
In the words of Leo XIII, “If God gave Joseph as a spouse to the Virgin, He assuredly gave him not only as a companion in life, a witness of her virginity, and the guardian of her honor, but also as a sharer in her exalted dignity by reason of the conjugal tie itself.”
On Calvary when Jesus entrusted Mary to St. John’s care for the rest of her earthly life, it was a sign of divine predilection. And we marveled at John’s holiness. Yet, what must have been the divine predilection when Joseph was chosen to be Mary’s husband for the many years of the Hidden Life; to be one of the few persons entrusted with the secret of the Incarnation; to be the only man to receive the primacy of Mary’s affections for humans, and to return that love? Mary would not have been perfect in her wifely vocation if she loved any creature more than her husband. And for Joseph the converse was true.
The similarity of holiness between Mary and Joseph must, of course, be kept in balance. Mary’s relationship to Jesus was far superior to Joseph’s. But Pope Leo XIII reminded us that after Mary no one was of greater dignity than Joseph; none possessed greater holiness than Joseph.
Head of the Holy Family
How shall we understand that Joseph is all that he is because of Mary? This means Joseph was given his fatherly responsibility for Jesus because of his virginal marriage with Mary. Through this marriage Joseph was not a mere fosterer, nor was he an adoptive father of Jesus. He was much more than that. Jesus was given to Mary not simply because she was a single maiden, but because she was the virginal and true wife of St. Joseph. Jesus
was given to the family of St. Joseph, and that was accomplished only through Mary. Even though St. Joseph was not the physical father of Jesus, he was given the spiritual ties of fatherhood over a Son who was his own because he was the Son of Mary.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph comprise the Holy Family, the basic unit of God’s strategy for the Incarnation and Redemption. They belong together in the history of salvation. The three are inseparable, and should always be seen and understood together theologically, pastorally, and in church art. Their special identities in God’s plan are interrelated. To see them separately is regrettable and misleading.
Let’s not overlook St. Joseph. What St. Joseph did for Jesus and Mary, he will do for us personally and for the universal Church.
In this third millennium of Christianity, Jesus and Mary will bring us closer to Joseph as we realize more clearly and deeply the mission of the Holy Family in salvation history. Veneration of St. Joseph will increase in proportion to the intensity of our devotion to Jesus and Mary.
Like wife, like husband.
"...In her liturgy, the Church teaches that the Transfiguration was a way that the Father prepared the apostles to face the passion and death of Jesus. In front of the horror they would witness, they were not to wonder, 'What about the Son?' but rather to share in Jesus' certainty that the Father's love was with him and would not abandon him. As he did not begin his public ministry without a manifestation of the Father's love, Jesus himself does not embark upon his passion without praying to the Father. It was his dependence upon the loving will of his beloved Father that enabled Jesus to hand himself over so completely. Jesus' strength lay not in the power of his own human will, but in the loving will of his father...The Transfiguration and Holy Dependence by Father Richard Veras, Magnificat
It is amazing how wearing the cassock in the street reminds everyone who sees the priest of the presence of God. In all the different places where I have personally worn the cassock, it is always interesting to see how people notice the cassock and somehow change their conversation to include God, or religion, or at least check their language.
This is a reflection of the level of expectation that we have for our priests. We expect them to be holy. We expect them to embody holiness.
The priest is who we go to when we want our sins forgiven. It is he who brings us Our Lord at the altar rail. He is the one who teaches us with sermons and instructs us in the faith. When our marriage is falling apart, we turn to him for help. When our children fall away we go to him for encouragement, support and prayer. We ask him what is good for our children's education, how to find our vocation, and how to increase in sanctity according to our state in life.
We would not turn to the priest in these things if we didn't look up to him as a model of holiness. And when he is not that model and when he falls short of our expectations, we are disappointed. We feel almost robbed and betrayed.
The priest's job is not an easy one. He is the proxy of Our Lord, who stands in the place of Christ as he offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. When he forgives our sins, it is not he, but Our Lord who forgives them, and when his hand is raised in absolution it is the hand of Christ who absolves.
When he blesses, he is only blessing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. When he preaches, it is through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
This close union between the priest and his Divine Master again includes the obvious requirement that the priest be holy. Just as a lawyer would be a useless lawyer if he did not know the law, or a parent, not worthy of the title, if they did not care for their child..
And while the ideal we expect is that our priests be holy, in reality we find that all too often we are disappointed. Holy priests are as few and far in-between today as they were in the day of St. John Vianney.
The holiness of our pastors directly reflect on the holiness of their flock. A holy priest will have a devout parish. A devout priest will have a mediocre parish. A mediocre priest will have a sinful parish, and a sinful priest will have a desolate parish. This coming year our Holy Father has dedicated to the priesthood, and there are several indulgences available for those who pray for priests throughout the year. 
This is a year of opportunity, and it is also a year of reminder of the obligation that we have to pray for our priests. The priest is always prompt to assure us of his prayers for us. How many hours does he spend behind the locked doors of the church, interceding for us before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament! In all our needs we turn to him and he is always ready to spend time in prayer for us and to intercede for our needs before his Divine Master.
A few years ago the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter formed an auxilliary branch united to the Fraternity called the Confraternity of St. Peter. Members may join from any walk in life, from religious and priests to laity in any trade or vocation. And the members dedicate a little of their time each day to pray for the success of the work of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, for the sanctification of priests, and for many holy vocations to the priesthood. Now with over 2000 members worldwide the Confraternity has become a powerhouse of prayer united to pray for the support of the Fraternity.
The prayers requested of the members of the Confraternity are minimal, so that as many members as possible may be able to join. Besides these prayers, opportunities are given for members to advance on the path of virtue and holiness by enriching themselves in the spirituality of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a spirituality centered on the Mass and sanctifying ourselves by uniting our daily lives to the spiritual riches found in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
To this end recollections are given and some apostolates of the FSSP offer evenings of recollection once a month. Also each year a pilgrimage is planned, and in the future retreats are envisioned.
Last year the Confraternity went to Rome to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, while at the same time the pilgrimage encompassed Benedictine shrines in honor of Pope Benedict, who has so gracioulsy extended the Latin Mass throughout the world by the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.
This year a pilgrimage within the United States has been envisioned, and we will be taking the path of the Mission Churches in California. As we go from church to church and admire the seeds of faith that pioneer missionaries spread in our country, it will not only be a pilgrimage but also a retreat, and conferences will be given on the importance of sacrifice in order to live and increase in our faith. Differing from the conventional closed-wall retreat we are used to, this will be more of a "mission of Missions" where we will combine the spiritual benefits of a pilgrimage with the spiritual enrichment of a retreat. We will see what trials and difficulties these missionaries suffered to bring the Faith to us, as we also meditate on the fact that sacrifices are necessary to grow that seed of faith in our own souls.
Finally it should be mentioned here that just as any event of the Confraternity, this is not for members only, but everyone is invited to join the members of the Confraternity on this pilgrimage. It will certainly be an opportunity to increase our spiritual lives, both for members of the CSP as also for everyone else who would like to join us.
With the year of the priesthood that we are now entering, we should examine ourselves and ask ourselves if indeed we pray for our pastors as we should. Or do we forget to pray for them? Or worse - do we overlook the fact that they need prayers, and oftentimes are more busy praying for our needs than for their own? We need to pray for our priests. We need to spend a little of our time each day praying for these men who spend their every moment of every day for the good of our souls.
May God grant us many holy priests. If every priest in this world was as holy as the Cure of Ars, we would no longer recognize the world we live in. It would be a different place.
For more information about the Confraternity of St. Peter or if you are interested in the Pilgrimage of the California Missions our website is http://www.confraternityofstpeter.org/
The Confraternity of St. Peter or by calling 916-223-3112.
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What do we see in the greater number of Christians? Alas, a feeble and tepid faith...
What use do we make, my brethren of the precious gifts of our faith, and of the means of salvation which we find in the bosom of the Catholic Church?
What connection is there between our manner of living and the sanctity of our religion?
Can we say, my brethren, that our life corresponds with the precepts of the Gospel, with the example that Jesus Christ has given us?
That is to say, do we love poverty, humiliations, and contempt?
Do we prefer Christianity above all honors, and everything which this world possesses and desires?
Do we entertain that respect, that longing, and that zeal to draw all the graces we can from the sacraments, which our Lord so lavishly bestows upon us?
Let us examine ourselves on this question, my brethren.
Alas! how numerous and bitter are the reproaches which we must make to ourselves regarding these questions!...
If you hear the Word of God, listen immediately; be strong in your faith in spite of difficulties, and never allow it to waiver, but preserve it constantly; so that you, with the Wise Men, will have the grace of beholding your God face to face.
Saint John Mary Vianney
August Queen of Heaven, sovereign Mistress of the Angels, who didst receive from the beginning the mission and the power to crush the Serpent’s head, we beseech thee to send thy holy Angels, that under thy command and by thy power, they may pursue the evil spirits, encounter them on every side, resist their bold attacks, and drive them hence into the abyss of woe.Prayer source
Most holy Mother, send thy Angels to defend us and to drive the cruel enemy from us. Amen.
All ye holy Angels and Archangels help and defend us.
"Words cannot express the perfection of his adoration. If Saint John leaped in the womb at the approach of Mary, what feelings must have coursed through Joseph during those six months when he had at his side and under his very eyes the hidden God! If the father of Origen used to kiss his child during the night and adore the Holy Spirit living within Him, can we doubt that Joseph must often have adored Jesus hidden in the pure tabernacle of Mary? How fervent that adoration must have been: My Lord and my God, behold your servant! No one can describe the adoration of this noble soul. He saw nothing, yet he believed; his faith had to pierce the virginal veil of Mary. So likewise with you! Under the veil of the Sacred Species your faith must see our Lord. Ask St. Joseph for his Lively, constant faith."
- St. Peter Julian Eymard
Every 3,000 miles or so, we change the oil in our car. There may not be any major problem with our engine. But slowly, over time, minor impurities have been building up. If we leave those impurities unattended, they will eventually result in major and costly problems for our car.
Every once in a while, we move the furniture and vacuum behind our couch. If we don’t get to it one week, it’s no big deal. If we don’t get to it the next week, it’s no big deal. If we fail to move the couch and vacuum behind it for six months, it will be filthy with dust.
Every so often we have to weed our gardens. If we don’t the weeds will take over and the garden disappears.
The sacrament of penance is like an oil change for the soul. It’s like moving the furniture of our souls and getting to the places that escape everyday cleaning. It is like periodically checking the garden of our souls for weeds that hamper our discipleship...
It was 1965. My brother and sister-in-law (“sis” for short) had wanted to have a baby in the first five years of their married life but all attempts failed. Anxious and getting desperate, my sis agreed to travel to a then-sleepy town called San Giovanni Rotondo — about a four-hour drive from Rome, Italy — to meet Padre Pio, the Capuchin friar who bore the nail wounds of Jesus on the cross.Article
She said, “I waited for three hours at the confessional room. Finally, I saw Padre Pio motioning to me to speak. I was holding my knees to keep them from shaking. My confession was brief but I felt that he knew that I was there for something more important. After giving me the Absolution, he looked up and whispered, ‘Next year, you will have a baby boy.’”