Monday, March 19, 2012

"Guardian of the Mystery of God"

"Wedding of Mary and Joseph" 17th century American painting

"I took for my advocate and lord the glorious Saint Joseph and commended myself earnestly to him; and I found that this my father and lord delivered me both from this trouble and also from other and greater troubles concerning my honor and the loss of my soul, and that he gave me greater blessings than I could ask of him. I do not remember even now that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant. I am astonished at the great favors which God has bestowed on me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which He has freed me, both in body and in soul. To other saints the Lord seems to have given grace to succor us in some of our necessities but of this glorious saint my experience is that he succors us in them all and that the Lord wishes to teach us that as He was Himself subject to him on earth (for, being His guardian and being called His father, he could command Him) just so in Heaven He still does all that he asks. This has also been the experience of other persons whom I have advised to commend themselves to him; and even to-day there are many who have great devotion to him through having newly experienced this truth."

-From the Autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila

St. Joseph is known for his ability to grant favors, be they related to food or real estate.  The Sicilians have a special devotion to St. Joseph, who interceded on their behalf to stop a devastating famine. Since this miracle, it has become an Italian tradition to build an altar to St. Joseph on this day. The altar has three levels, one for each person of the Trinity, with a statue of St. Joseph at the top, and is decked with decorations as well as symbolic foods, such as fava beans, artichokes and baked goods.

There are actually two feasts that commemorate Saint Joseph. March 19th is the Feast of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and May 1st is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Today we commemorate the striking fact that God Himself was obedient to an earthly father. In a way this day is also a feast of the Holy Family, insofar as it celebrates the event of God Himself entering into a true human family. Saint Joseph was not simply an accessory to this family. God and his angels worked very hard, as we hear in Scripture, to ensure that the Christ Child would be given into the arms of not only his Blessed Mother, but also her spouse and a "righteous man." As Pope John Paul II wrote in "Redemptoris Custos":

Raphael, "The Holy Family With a Palm Tree"
"One can say that what Joseph did united him in an altogether special way to the faith of Mary. He accepted as truth coming from God the very thing that she had already accepted at the Annunciation. The Council teaches: "'The obedience of faith' must be given to God as he reveals himself. By this obedience of faith man freely commits himself entirely to God, making 'the full submission of his intellect and will to God who reveals,' and willingly assenting to the revelation given by him."(7) This statement, which touches the very essence of faith, is perfectly applicable to Joseph of Nazareth.
Therefore he became a unique guardian of the mystery "hidden for ages in God" (Eph 3:9), as did Mary, in that decisive moment which St. Paul calls "the fullness of time," when 'God sent forth his Son, born of redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.'"

 We recently learned that there is a beautiful chaplet devoted to Saint Joseph, which meditates on the seven sorrows and seven joys he experienced before and during the life of Christ. It is a beautiful prayer that is perfect for this feast. You can find it here in its entirety. We highly recommend it for anyone. After all, Saint Joseph has so many patronages---he is the patron saint of at least ten countries, a good handful of U.S. states and dioceses, house hunters, a happy death, a holy death, expectant mothers, immigrants, laborers, engineers, families, fathers....and the list goes on. 

St. Joseph, Guardian of the Mystery of God, pray for us!

El Greco, "St. Joseph and the Christ Child"

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