The Titles of Saint Joseph and His different Offices
If one may judge of the greatness of the Saints by the importance
of the charges confided to them, Saint Joseph must indeed be marvelously great. Saint
Peter and Saint Paul in their epistles to the first Christians, claim only two
titles, those of servants and apostles of
Jesus Christ, as being sufficient to prove the excellence of their vocation.
Saint John Chrysostom agrees with them, this double title being, according to him, more
excellent than that of monarch of the whole earth. Now, Saint Joseph has many very high
titles, and held glorious offices for which he received from God special graces. I
shall only allude shortly to some of these privileges.
1. He was the worthy spouse of Our Lady, if
indeed any spouse could be worthy of her; for the Holy Trinity in designing him for such
an honor, endowed him with all the qualities necessary for bearing that name with dignity
and propriety. And as this glorious title is, so to speak, the original source or root
from which proceeded all the glories of Saint Joseph, Saint Matthew considered he could
say nothing higher of him than call him spouse of Mary.
2. He was the foster father of Jesus Christ, and
Our Lady did not hesitate to give him this title; thus when she found the Child Jesus in
the temple. she said to Him:
"Thy father and I have sought Thee
3. He was the representative of God the Father,
Who, in communicating to him the honor of paternity to the Incarnate Word, willed that he
should call Him by the name of Son, a name which He alone gives in Heaven to the Uncreated
Word. Thus God Who formerly had said He would give His glory to no one, now, by an
exceptional favor communicates, in a manner, to a mortal that paternity which is the
special glory of the Eternal Father. What is still more, God, according to Saint John
Damascene and Saint Bernard, in giving to Joseph the name of father, gave
him also a father's heart ----- that is, the authority,
the solicitude, and the love of a father.
4. Joseph was also the representative of the Holy Ghost,
Who confided to him the Virgin Mary, placing His spouse under Joseph's dependence and
direction. Great God! what a favor! The Father and the Holy Ghost intrust to him what is
most dear to them! To what sublimity of virtue must he have attained to acquit himself
worthily of such a charge!
5. Our Lady, in giving him her hand, gave him also her whole
heart. Never did a wife love her husband so tenderly, so ardently, nor revere him more
profoundly. Mary and Joseph, says Saint Bernardin of Siena, were but one heart and soul;
they were two in one same mind, one same affection, and each of them was the other's
second self, because Our Lady and he were, so to speak, only one person. The heart of Mary
with that of Joseph, and the heart of Joseph with that of Mary, who ever could imagine a
union so intimate, a grace so great!
6. Joseph was the superior of Jesus and Mary,
whose submission to him was so complete as to enrapture the Angels. Those pure spirits
tremble in Heaven before the infinite majesty of the great God; what must they have
thought when they saw Joseph command the little Jesus as a father, and the Divine Infant
disport Himself on the breast of Joseph, like a bee in the bosom of a lily! As for the
Queen of the world, as she had vowed, so she rendered to her chaste spouse all possible
respect and obedience, never considering him otherwise, says Gerson, than as her lord and
master. What a dignity to be the master of that Virgin more noble than the Seraphim!
7. He it was who nourished Jesus and Mary. A true father to that
family, he gained their bread by the labor of his hands, and the sweat of his brow. He led
them into Egypt, acting in this mystery as the representative of the Most Holy Trinity.
What an honor to nourish Him Who nourishes the whole world, to give bread to Him Who
covers our fields with plentiful harvests!
8. He is called by the Abbot Rupert guardian of the Child
Jesus. Without an earthly father, his Divine Ward cast Himself into the arms of
Joseph, His only protector, defender and support.
9. He was also the treasurer of the Savior, and
of Joseph more than of any other may it be said: Blessed is the faithful and wise
servant, whom God has established as grand master of His family, to whose hands He has
committed all His treasures, the government of all His possessions. What confidence
does not this office imply!
10. We do not hesitate to say that Joseph was the savior
of the Savior. Joseph, son of Jacob, was called the Savior of the world, and he
was not only the type, in the first place, of Jesus Christ, but also of Saint Joseph, who
had the honor of preserving the Divine Infant from the fury of Herod. As Our Lord deserves
the name of Savior of man, because He preserves man from eternal death, so it is allowable
to call Saint Joseph savior of the Savior, because he preserved Him from
temporal death. Glorious Saint to whom were entrusted the person of the Incarnate Word,
and all the secrets of the Eternal Father! The Angel might himself have carried the Child
into Egypt; but not daring to do so, he came as the messenger of Heaven and of God
Himself, to Joseph who was chosen for that employment.
11. To these titles add another distinguished title, that of
having been the master of his Master. Jesus was like an apprentice in the
workshop of Joseph, who taught Him to work as a carpenter, so that everyone said of Jesus:
"Is not this the carpenter's son, a carpenter Himself? Have we not often seen Him
handling the plane and the chisel, helping His father Joseph?" What must Saint
Joseph have thought when he saw his Divine Apprentice, taking pains at His work ----- He
Who by a single word had created the universe!
12. Joseph was the presumptive heir of Jesus Christ,
and of Our Lady, since the father then naturally inherited from his son,
and the husband from his wife. What an incomparable advantage!
13. In all orders of things great privileges are attached to
being the eldest, the first. The first Apostle,
the first Martyr, the first Seraph, the first
son of the Patriarchs, all have special rights which belong to no others;
therefore I conclude that Saint Joseph has singular prerogatives above all other men, for
he was the first to contemplate the admirable humanity of Our Lord Jesus,
the first to adore Him, the first to touch Him, the first
to serve Him, to nourish Him, and to dwell with Him, the first to hear
Him speak and to be enlightened by His Divine instructions. He is the first
confessor for the faith, since he first suffered for the love of Jesus
Christ, forsaking his home and his country to fly with Him; the first
Apostle making the Messias known to men, by announcing Him in Egypt; the first
man, perhaps, who made profession and vow of virginity, and kept it in the state of
marriage; in a word, the first Christian and the first
model for the children of the Church. All these distinctions give Joseph. great
pre-eminence over all other Saints, and are almost infinite, so that we may apply to him
what Jacob said of his eldest son Reuben: "Excelling [his brethren] in gifts,
greater in command."
14. Theologians teach that the office of Saint
Joseph was more exalted than any other in the Church. We do not speak of Our Lady,
who is always above all comparison. They acknowledge, it is true, that in the
ecclesiastical hierarchy, and in the order of sanctifying grace, the office of the
Apostles is the most sublime; but they recognize in the Mother of God, and in Saint
Joseph, an order, a hierarchy apart, that of the hypostatic union,
destined to the immediate service of the person of the Word made flesh, and this second
hierarchy is superior in dignity to the first. The Apostles, as we said above, are only
the servants of Jesus Christ; Mary and Joseph are His mother and His father.
But shall I be able to relate all that God has done for Saint
Joseph? No; I plainly confess that there is neither mind, nor pen, nor
tongue capable of imagining, writing, or expressing the grandeur and incomparable
prerogatives of this spouse of the Virgin, this father of Jesus Christ, this governor of
both! And yet, speak I must! Pardon, O great Saint, my unpardonable boldness! Yet, if your
holy spouse, Our Lady, will deign to inspire me with a part of what she knows, if she will
give fluency to my pen and warmth to my heart, I shall be able to say enough to content
your pious clients, and edify your faithful servants.