Sermon for the Feast of Saint Joseph,
Celebrated 19 March


Saint Joseph and the Christ Child - by GRECO, El - from Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo

Saint Joseph and the Christ Child was the central painting of the high altar for the Chapel of San Josť. Saint Joseph is shown as a figure of trust and protection to the Christ Child, who indicates the way. The tower-like figure of Joseph expresses perfectly the meaning of this painting. There is no 'mannerist' ambiguity in the relationship of figure to setting. The subject is a parallel to that of Saint Anne teaching the Virgin, and is an extract from the theme of the Christ Child walking between the Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph.

 

We should indeed honor Saint Joseph,
since the Son of God was graciously pleased to honor him,
by calling him His
Father

 

Sermon for the Feast of Saint Joseph


by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

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God, in the great love which He bears us, and in His great desire to see us saved, amongst the many means of salvation with which He has provided us, has given us in particular that of devotion towards the Saints. He wills that they, as His friends, should intercede for us, and by their merits and prayers, obtain graces for us which we do not of ourselves deserve. Not, indeed, that the merits of Jesus Christ are insufficient to enrich us with every grace, for they are superabundant; but because He is pleased, on the one hand, to honor His faithful servants by making them co-operators in our salvation; and, on the other, to increase our confidence that we shall obtain the graces which we require, when we seek them through the medium of the Saints. But who is not aware that, after the Divine Mother, Saint Joseph is, of all the Saints, the one who is the dearest to God; and that he has in consequence great power with Him, and can therefore obtain graces for his devout clients? Hence we shall see in the two following points:

First Point: How great should be our veneration for Saint Joseph, on account of his dignity.

Second Point: How great should be our confidence in the protection of Saint Joseph, on account of his sanctity.

 

First Point
How great should be our veneration for Saint Joseph,
on account of his dignity

We should indeed honor Saint Joseph, since the Son of God was graciously pleased to honor him, by calling him His Father. "Christ", says Origen, "gave to Joseph the honor due to a parent". He is also thus spoken of in the gospel, "And His father and mother were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning Him" - Luke 2:33. The Divine Mother also spoke of him under this name, "Behold Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing" - Luke 2:48. Since, then, the King-of-kings was pleased to raise Joseph to so high a dignity, it is a right, and a duty on our part, to endeavor to honor him as much as we can. "He indeed should be greatly honored by men, whom the King-of-kings has been pleased thus to exalt". "What Angel or Saint", says Saint Basil, "ever merited to be called the father of the Son of God? Joseph alone was thus called". Hence we can well apply to Saint Joseph the words of Saint Paul, "Being made so much better than the Angels, as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they" - Hebrews 1:4. Saint Joseph was more honored by God, in this name of father, than all the Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, and Pontiffs; for all these have name of servants, Joseph alone that of father.

Behold him, as father, made lord of that little family; little in point of numbers, but great on account of the two great personages who composed it, i.e. the Mother of God, and the only-begotten Son of God made man: "He made him master of His house" - Psalm 104:21. Joseph commanded in that house, and the Son of God obeyed, "And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them" - Luke 2:51. "This subjection", says Gerson, "whilst it shows the humility of Jesus Christ, also shows the greatness of the dignity of Saint Joseph". "And to what greater dignity, to what higher degree of exaltation", continues the same writer, "can a person be raised, than to that of commanding Him Who commands all kings?"

Joshua excited the admiration of the whole world when he commanded the sun to stop in its course, that he might have time to conquer his enemies; and it obeyed, "the Lord obeying the voice of a man" - Joshua 10:14. But what comparison can there be between Joshua, whom the sun, an inanimate creature, obeyed, and Joseph, who was obeyed by Jesus Christ, the Son of God? As long as Saint Joseph lived, Jesus Christ respected him as a father, and until his death, that is for thirty years, always obeyed him as such, "He was subject to them". So that during all those years the constant occupation of the Savior was to obey Saint Joseph. During the whole of that time it was Joseph's charge to command, as the head of the family; and the office of Jesus was, as a subject, to obey Saint Joseph, who had been given to Him by God in place of a father. Hence, on the one hand, Jesus performed no action, did not even take a step, tasted no food, took no repose, but by the orders of Saint Joseph; and on the other, was all attention in listening to and executing all that Saint Joseph imposed upon Him. Our Blessed Lady said to Saint Bridget, "My Son was so obedient, that when Joseph said 'Do this' or 'Do that', He immediately did it". Hence John Gerson writes, "He often prepared the food and drink, washed the vessels, brought water from the fountain, and swept the house". Saint Bernard, speaking of Saint Joseph, says, "He was a faithful and prudent servant, whom our Lord made the solace of His Mother, the nourisher of His humanity, and, in fine', the only most faithful cooperator in the great council on Earth". Therefore, Saint Joseph was not only destined as a relief to the Mother of God, who had so many tribulations on Earth; not only was he the supporter of Jesus Christ, but he was also destined to cooperate, in a way, in the redemption of the world, for this was the work of the great council of the Three Divine Persons. God having also given him to His Son in the place of a father, He at the same time charged him to feed and defend His Son from the snares of His enemies, "Take the Child"; as if He had addressed him in the words of the Psalmist, "To thee is the poor man left; thou wilt be a helper to the orphan" - Psalm 9:14. Joseph, I have sent My Son on Earth; and I have sent Him poor and humble, without the splendor of riches or apparent nobility; hence, in the world, He will be despised, and called the Son of a carpenter, "Is not this the carpenter's Son?" - Matthew 13:55, according to thy humble trade; for I have willed that thou shouldst be poor, because I have destined thee to hold the place of a father over My Son, Who is poor; for He is not come to reign in the world, but to suffer and die for the salvation of men. On Earth, then, thou wilt hold My place of father over Him, and be His guardian, "To thee is the poor man left; thou wilt be a helper to the orphan". I abandon Him into thy hands. He will be persecuted, and thou wilt have to share in His sufferings; guard Him with care, and be thou faithful to Me. "Therefore", says Saint John Damascen, "God gave Saint Joseph the love, the care, the authority of a father over Jesus; He gave him the affection of a father, that he might guard Him with great love; the solicitude of a father, that he might watch over Him with care; and the authority of a father, that he might feel sure that he would be obeyed in all that he arranged as to the Person of this Son".

Having, then, made him, as Saint Bernard says, a cooperator in the work of redemption, He willed that he should be present at the birth of Jesus, that he might be a faithful witness of the glory which the Angels gave to God on this occasion; and also that it had been revealed to the shepherds, who, when they came to visit the Savior Who had been announced to them, related all to Mary and Joseph. Again, that he might be a witness of the coming of the kings, who, guided by a star, had come from afar to adore the Holy Child, as they themselves said, "For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to adore Him" - Matthew 2:2. God also willed that Joseph, together with Mary, should offer Him the new-born Babe, as they did, "they carried Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord" - Luke 2:22; and then sacrificed Him to death for the salvation of the world, according to the Scriptures, in which the Passion of Jesus Christ had already been foretold, and which were well known to Mary and Joseph.

God then seeing that, through jealousy, and fear of losing his kingdom, Herod wished to gain possession of the Divine Child to take His life, sent an Angel to Saint Joseph, to desire him, in His name, to take the Child and His Mother, and fly to Egypt: "Arise, and take the Child and His Mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the Child to destroy Him" - Matthew 2:13. Behold, Joseph, faithful and obedient to the voice of God, arose in the night (the very same night on which he received notice from the Angel, as interpreters explain it), took the Child and His Mother, and journeyed towards Egypt. Joseph, without loss of time, gathered together as many instruments of his trade as he could carry, which were required to enable him to support his poor family in Egypt. Mary, on the other hand, took the Child in her arms, and the poor linen for the use of her Son; and they set out alone, without a servant, as poor pilgrims, having to pass through so many desert places before they could reach Egypt, a country in which they had no relations or friends, and where they would only find barbarous and unknown people. When they got there, Saint Joseph, as Saint Bernard says, labored night and day to support his Holy Spouse and the Divine Child. Having afterwards returned from Egypt, according to the new command of the Angel: "Arise, and take the Child and His Mother, and go into the land of Israel. For they are dead that sought the life of the Child" - Matthew 2:20; Joseph at once left Egypt, and returned into Judea. But he was again told by the Angel not to remain in Judea, for fear of Archelaus, who reigned there in the place of Herod his father, who was dead; he went therefore to dwell in Nazareth, in the parts of Galilee, and remained there in the company of his beloved Jesus, living in poverty on the small profits of his humble trade, until the time of his death.

During this time it was, that, having gone with Mary and with Jesus, Who was then about twelve years of age, to visit the Temple, he returned home and met Mary, whom he believed to have been accompanied by Jesus, but Jesus had not returned; therefore for three days Joseph constantly wept, for he was separated from Jesus, the love of his heart; but that which caused him the greatest affliction was the fear that Jesus had left him on account of some displeasure which he might have caused Him, and therefore that He no longer considered him worthy to have charge of so great a Treasure, as Lauspergius writes. He was, however, afterwards consoled when he heard from Jesus Himself that He had remained in the Temple for affairs which concerned the glory of God. From that time he attended on Jesus until his death, when it was his happy lot to expire in the arms of Jesus and Mary, who attended upon him in that last moment; hence Saint Francis de Sales says that, "it is certain that, like the Blessed Virgin his spouse, he died of love".

 

Second Point
How great should be our confidence in the protection of Saint Joseph,
on account of
his sanctity


We should have great confidence in the protection of Saint Joseph, because, on account of his sanctity, he was very dear to God. To form an idea of the sanctity of Saint Joseph, we need only know that he was chosen by God to hold the place of father over the Person of Jesus Christ. Saint Paul writes, "Who also hath made us fit ministers of the new testament" - 2Corinthians 3:6; which, as Saint Thomas explains it, that "when God chooses any one for a particular charge, He gives him the graces which fit him for it". God having, then, chosen Saint Joseph to fill the charge of a father over the Person of the Incarnate Word, we must certainly believe that He conferred upon him all the gifts of wisdom and sanctity which became such an office. Nor should we doubt that He enriched him with all graces and privileges granted to other Saints. Gerson and Suarez say, that amongst other privileges he had three, which were special to him:

That he was sanctified in his mother's womb, as Jeremiah, and the Baptist

That he was at the same time confirmed in grace

That he was always exempt from the inclinations of concupiscence; a privilege with which Saint Joseph, by the merit of his purity, favors his devout clients, delivering them from carnal movements.

In the Gospel, Saint Joseph is called just, "Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man . . . " - Matthew 1:19. What is meant by a just man? Saint Peter Chrysologus says, that "it means a perfect man, one who possesses all virtues". So that Joseph was already holy before his marriage; but how much must his sanctity have increased after his union with the Divine Mother. The example alone of his holy spouse sufficed to sanctify him. But since Mary, as Saint Bernardine of Sienna says, is the Dispenser of all graces which God grants to men, in what profusion must we not believe that she showered them down upon her spouse, whom she loved so much, and by whom she was so tenderly loved. How much must the sanctity of Joseph have increased by his conversations and familiarity with Jesus, during the many years he lived with Him. If the two disciples going to Emmaus were inflamed with Divine love by the few moments which they spent in company with Our Savior, and by His words; so much so, that they said, "Was not our heart burning within us, whilst He spoke in this way, and opened to us the scriptures?" - Luke 24:32; what flames of holy love must we not suppose to have been enkindled in the heart of Saint Joseph, who for thirty years conversed with Jesus Christ, and listened to His words of eternal life; who observed the perfect example which He gave of humility and patience, and saw the promptitude with which He obeyed and helped him in his labors, and in all that was needed for the household. What a furnace of Divine love must this burning charity of Jesus have enkindled in the heart of Joseph; a heart which was entirely free from all Earthly affections. It is true that his love for Mary was also very great; but this love did not divide his heart, as is too often the case, according to the word of the Apostle, "But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided" - 1Corinthians 7:33. No, for love for his spouse filled him still more with Divine love. Hence, we cannot doubt that, during the time which Joseph spent with Jesus Christ, he advanced in such a degree in sanctity and merits, that he surpassed the merits of all the other Saints.

Admitting this, the Apostle writes, that in the next life Jesus Christ "will render to every man according to his works" - Romans 2:6. What great glory must we not suppose that He bestowed upon Saint Joseph, who served and loved Him so much whilst he lived on Earth. At the last day Our Savior will say to the elect, "For I was hungry, and you gave Me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me in; naked, and you covered Me; sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me" - Matthew 25:35-36. These, nevertheless, have fed Jesus Christ, have lodged Him or clothed Him, only in the persons of the poor; but Saint Joseph, procured food, a dwelling, and clothes, for Jesus Christ in His own Person. Moreover, Our Lord has promised a reward to him who gives a cup of water to the poor in His name, "For whosoever shall give you to drink a cup of water in My name, because you belong to Christ: amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward" - Mark 9:40. What then, must be the reward of Saint Joseph, who can say to Jesus Christ, "I not only provide Thee with food, with a dwelling, and with clothes; but I saved Thee from death, delivering Thee from the hands of Herod". All this helps to increase our confidence in Saint Joseph; it makes us reflect that, on account of so many merits, God will refuse no grace which Saint Joseph asks of Him for his devout clients.

Saint Bernardine of Sienna adds, that "we cannot doubt that Christ not only does not refuse to Saint Joseph in Heaven that familiarity and reverence which, as a Son towards His father, He accorded him when He lived on Earth, but rather, that it was now perfected". Remark the words, familiarity and reverence; that Lord, Who, on Earth, revered Saint Joseph as His father, will certainly deny him nothing that he asks in Heaven. Besides this, we may add that, although on Earth Saint Joseph had not the authority, by nature, of a father over the humanity of Jesus Christ, he nevertheless had it, at least in a certain manner, as the spouse of Mary, who, as the real Mother of the Savior, had authority over Him; he to whom the tree belongs has also a right to its fruits. This caused Jesus, when on Earth, to respect and obey Saint Joseph as His superior. This also causes Jesus, now in Heaven, to consider the prayers of Saint Joseph in the light of commands.

Let us now listen to what Saint Bernard writes of the power of Saint Joseph to dispense graces to his devout servants: "To some of the Saints, power is granted to succor in particular necessities; but to Saint Joseph, power is granted to succor in all necessities, and to defend all who, with devotion, have recourse to him". That which Saint Bernard wrote as his opinion, Saint Teresa confirmed by her own experience; she says, "It would seem that to other Saints, Our Lord has granted power to succor in some particular necessity; but experience proves that Saint Joseph succors in all". Of this we are certain; for, as on Earth, Jesus Christ was pleased to be subject to Saint Joseph, so in Heaven He does all that the Saint asks. Let us therefore imagine that we hear Our Lord, when He sees us afflicted in the midst of our miseries, address us all in the words in which Pharaoh addressed his people at the time of the famine in Egypt, "Go to Joseph" - Genesis 41:55, if you desire consolation. By Our Lord's Grace, there is not at present a Christian in the world who is not devout to Saint Joseph; but, amongst them all, those receive the most abundant graces who recommend themselves to him the most frequently and with the greatest confidence. Let us therefore never pass a day without many times recommending ourselves to Saint Joseph, who, after the most Blessed Virgin Mary, is the most powerful of all the Saints with God. Let us never allow a day to pass without offering him some particular prayer; but especially during the Novena for his Feast, let us redouble our prayers, and fast  on the vigil; and let us seek from him the graces which are useful for our souls; for he will always obtain them for us. In particular, I exhort you to ask for three special graces:

For the forgiveness of your sins

For the love of Jesus Christ

And for a good death.

As for the forgiveness of sins, I thus argue; when Jesus Christ lived in this world, in the house of Joseph, could a sinner who desired to obtain the forgiveness of his sins from Our Lord, have found a more efficacious means to obtain this consolation than through Saint Joseph? If, then, we desire to be pardoned by God, let us have recourse to Saint Joseph, who, now that he is in Heaven, is more loved by Jesus Christ than he was loved by Him on Earth. Let us also ask Saint Joseph for love towards Jesus Christ; this I firmly believe to be the particular grace which Saint Joseph obtains for those who are devout to him, tender love towards the Incarnate Word; and the Saint merited this by the tender love which he himself bore Him on Earth. Let us also ask him for a happy death; all know that Saint Joseph is the Patron of a good death; for he had the happiness to die in the arms of Jesus and Mary; therefore his devout servants should hope with confidence that, at their death, Saint Joseph will visit them, accompanied by Jesus and Mary, and that he will help them. Of this there have been many instances.

Boverio relates that in the year 1541, Brother Alexius of Vigevano, a Capuchin lay-brother, was dying, and begged the brothers to light some tapers; they asked him why? He replied, that it was because Saint Joseph and the most Blessed Virgin would shortly come to visit him. He had scarcely pronounced these words when he exclaimed, "Behold Saint Joseph and the Queen of Heaven; kneel down my fathers, and welcome them"; and so saying, he sweetly expired on the 19th of March, the day which is consecrated in honor of Saint Joseph. Saint Vincent Ferrer, Father Patrignani, and others, relate that a merchant in the city of Valencia, used every year, on Christmas-day, to invite to dinner an old man and a woman nursing a child, in honor of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. This good man appeared after his death to a person who was praying for him, and told him that at his death Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had visited him, and said: "In life thou didst receive us into thy house in the person of three poor persons; we are now come to receive thee into our house"; and they took him to Paradise. In the Franciscan legendary, on the 14th of February, it is related that Sister Prudentiana Zagnoni, who had great devotion to Saint Joseph, was favored at her death with the vision of Saint Joseph, who came close to her bed with Jesus in his arms. She began to converse first with Saint Joseph, then with Jesus, thanking them for so great a favor, and in this sweet company breathed forth her happy soul. In the history of the Discalced Carmelites it is also related that when the Venerable Sister Anne of Saint Augustine, a Carmelite nun, was dying, some of her sisters saw Saint Joseph and Saint Teresa, who attended upon her, and that the servant of God was filled with joy. A nun in another convent saw her ascend to Heaven between Saint Joseph and Saint Teresa. Father John de Allosa, in his book on Saint Joseph, relates that a religious of the Order of Saint Augustine appeared to a companion, and said, "that God had delivered him from Hell on account of the particular devotion which he had had for Saint Joseph". He then declared that the Saint, as the adopted father of Jesus Christ, had great power with Him.

 

Ancient Miraculous Prayer to Saint Joseph

This prayer was found in the fiftieth year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In 1505 it was sent from the Pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle. Whoever shall read this prayer or hear it or keep it about themselves shall never die a sudden death, or be drowned, nor shall poison take effect on them; neither shall they fall into the hands of the enemy, nor shall they be burned in any fire, nor shall they be overpowered in battle.

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O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.

O Saint Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

O Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath, Saint Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us.

Amen

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Many miracles have been attributed to this daily prayer.
Make this prayer known everywhere . . .