LADY’S NIGHT - Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary
HAPPY ST. JOSEPH’S DAY!!!
I hope that all of you had a wonderful day to feast and celebrate our glorious patron and father, the most chaste spouse of Mary and friend of the Sacred Heart, the holy St. Joseph!
I know that I recently moved my Lady’s Night posts to Sunday evenings, but, given this great Solemnity (and because I didn’t have time yesterday), I thought that tonight would be most fitting to post about Our Lady and her Joseph.
The Messiah, as you know, was prophesied to be a descendent of King David (cf. 2 Samuel 7:12). Joseph was a Son of David and into his family would be born the Son of Man in David’s City, Bethlehem, literally, the House of Bread, which would become the house of the Bread of Life.
Thus, our Joseph was chosen by God to play this important role in salvation history, namely, to be the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster-father of the Son of God.
There is an ancient tradition that out of all of David’s descendents, Joseph was chosen to be Mary’s spouse when the dry, stick that he held in his hand miraculously sprouted blossoms. Although, we don’t know exactly what flowers bloomed from the dead piece of wood, but lilies have always been associated with St. Joseph as a sign of his virtue and chastity; for the Gospels call him the just or righteous man (cf. Matthew 1:19). In Joseph’s flowering staff, we see a sign that God can make use of any instrument, no matter how poor; no matter how seemingly dead and barren, God can bring forth life, gracious blossoms to honor Him.
Our Joseph, though he was resplendent with virtue, was far exceeded by his Immaculate Bride in holiness. Ah, but who better to have as a spouse than the ever kind and compassionate Mother of God! Joseph loved his Lady and sought to care for her needs, even feeling sorrow when, due to his poverty, he could not provide for her in a more fitting way. Our Lady, most blessed among women, loved her Joseph, too, and sought to console him by her prayers and daily assisting his advance towards unity with God. However, what Our Lady did to most bring joy to Joseph’s heart was to bear the Light of the World and present Him to to her faithful husband.
Again, please recall my previous discussion about the visions of the Holy Family by Sr. Maria Cecilia Baij, O.S.B. in her book, The Life of Saint Joseph, noting once more the difference between public and private revelation.
Here is a glimpse of the relationship between Mary and Joseph shortly after the Incarnation (but before Joseph noticed Mary’s pregnancy) that Sr. Maria Cecilia describes in her book.
While Joseph was at work, he felt himself irresistibly drawn to go see Mary. He felt himself being possessed by an ardent, reverential, and always more holy love towards Her…It was actually the Incarnate Word, resting in Mary’s bosom that was attracting his soul. Although he did not realize this fact, the power of love, nevertheless, accomplished its task and often brought Mary and Joseph together, so as to give them the mutual happiness of seeing and conversing with each other. For Joseph, this was always an occasion of great delight. It was also most pleasing to the Incarnate Word to see Joseph there present before Him in so reverential a spirit, and so the Divine Savior would bestow His graces upon him. The most holy Mother discerning all this, experienced on Her part a similar happiness.
Joseph told Mary all that he felt within himself. He asked Her to forgive him if he was making a nuisance of himself with his frequent visits and disturbing Her peace. He declared that he simply felt himself forcibly drawn to see Her, and he had never experienced the degree of consolation he now experienced in Her presence. Consequently, he could hardly do otherwise than he was doing.
Mary was most kind, and told him to come without any fear of being troublesome to Her, for ever time that he visited Her they would sing a hymn together to God so that God would be praised by them, and they in turn, would receive His grace and favor. Thus encouraged, Joseph continued amid great consolations to make his visits to Mary. She seemed to become more beautiful and more filled with grace every time that he sought out Her company, which produced in him an ever increasing veneration.
Then, when the Incarnate Word was born, it was Joseph’s great delight to hold the Infant Savior in his arms and to press Him close to his heart. There, in such great intimacy, the Heart of God would speak to the poor heart of his servant and foster-father (cor ad cor loquitur) as Sr. Maria Cecilia describes,
Joseph frequently held the Divine Savior in his arms, but always after first preparing himself for it by his ardent desires. Every time that he so received Him, he was filled afresh with grace and glowing love. The fortunate Joseph realized this fact and rendered fervent thanks to his beloved Lord for it. Mary, being likewise conscious of it, added Her own thanksgiving to the Savior in Joseph’s behalf.
Sometimes, the Divine Infant would look smilingly upon Joseph and would permit His divine Voice to be perceived within Joseph’s heart, saying to him: “Oh my Joseph, how much do I love you! How pleased I am to accept your service and your love! After My beloved Mother, I love you most of all.” This would cause Joseph to be overcome with love and gratitude to his God, and he would answer the Divine Infant in words that expressed his own ardent and heartfelt affection: “Oh my Savior, You are the sole object of my love. You are my entire good, my contentment, my life, my rest! After You, I also love Your Mother, because She is Your Mother and the holiest of creatures, so full of grace and virtue. I love Her as my spouse and most dear companion, whom You have given to me by virtue of Your immense goodness. I also love all creatures as the work of Your hands, and I love them all in You and through You, Who are my very life and my only good!”
As the Infant Jesus grew, so did our Joseph’s love for Him and His Virgin Mother. What must have it been like for St. Joseph to be the head of the Holy Household in Egypt and Nazareth. For he was given the responsibility for guarding and providing for Jesus and Mary: One was God Himself and the other was conceived without original sin.
Indeed, these most holy individuals [of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph] actually competed with each other in the practice of humility and the other virtues. Joseph strove earnestly to be a faithful and precise imitator of Jesus and Mary. Though already very virtuous, he recognized that he was, nevertheless, very much inferior to Them. Hence, he often humbled himself and said to his holy spouse: “Oh, how ashamed I feel of my wretchedness when I see You and Jesus so rich in virtue and merits. I am indeed poor and miserable. I ought to be a most perfect imitator of each one of You, but I realize that I am far from it. Oh, my beloved spouse, obtain for me the graces I need.” In this manner, Joseph advanced to an ever greater fullness in grace.
Whenever Joseph brought their food supplies home, which usually consisted of vegetables, podded grains, and a few fish, Mary asked Joseph how he liked to have his food prepared. Such a request generally distressed the Saint because he preferred to satisfy the desires of his spouse rather than his own. However, in order to comply with the divine will, he would answer Her request and would make known his wishes, but in reality he still attempted to accommodate himself to Her desires by having Her prepare things in a very simple manner. He himself had a great longing, at times, for a more rare dish, but he would say nothing about this to Her.
Mary, however, discerned everything. Hence, when on occasion he would come to eat after a strenuous day’s work, he would find that Mary had already prepared for him the particular dish he had secretly longed to have. Sometimes he ate of it, but at other times he gave it to the poor, with Mary’s consent, denying himself all the enjoyment of it. After Joseph had discovered that Mary was discerning all his secret wishes, he would immediately suppress any desire for some special fare, and by doing this he hoped to prevent Mary from detecting these incipient desires and from paying any attention to them. Mary smiled to Herself at this idea of Her spouse. In order to please him, She stopped paying attention to these urges, which She knew to be coming upon him. She did so because She wanted to conceal the evidence of the gifts and graces which God had bestowed upon Her; this ability to discern what was going on in the mind of Her spouse was certainly one of them.
Joseph, on the other hand, would devote considerable thought to what he should provide on his part for Jesus and Mary in regard to Their welfare. However, if he ventured to ask Them what they would like to have, They would merely express their gratitude for his inquiry, and then tell him not to burden himself with such deliberations, inasmuch as They could not deviate from their ordinary regimen, composed of bread and water, vegetables, legumes, fruit, and an occasional fried fish. The Saint made no further rejoinder, but bowed his head and again abased himself. They both assured him, however, that They were pleased with this good will and that he would be rewarded for it, just as if he had actually performed the deed.
Joseph’s love and reverence for Mary was continually being augmented, and he always desired to be with Her. He regretted that when he went to work he had to be separated from Her, making it impossible for him either to see, hear, or speak with Her. Even though he would have Jesus with him, he still longed to be with Mary also, for She was his most dear spouse, and a creature of such eminent dignity and extraordinary virtue.
Joseph never gave any external evidence that his feelings were in any way affected. When he left Mary to go to work, he would do so in a fully resigned spirit. He frequently conquered his impulses to go and see Her, offering this as a sacrifice to God. Jesus, however, Who was aware of this holy longing of the ardent Joseph, often found ways and means whereby He could send him to Mary, and so provide consolation for his spirit. He wanted Joseph to have this consolation in addition to that which He, Himself, was already granting to him by His own presence. For upon seeing Mary, Joseph’s love for God would increase, and his heart would become animated with the desire for greater holiness. It was a special prerogative of the Mother of God to cause anyone whose gaze rested upon Her with a true and chaste love, as was the case with Joseph, to become permeated with a holy enthusiasm and heavenly desires.
Ah, see how our beloved Joseph loves his foster-Son and his Bride! And see how Our Lady and Jesus love their Joseph!
My brothers, as sons of God and sons Mary, give yourselves as well to the paternal care and most just heart of Joseph. Be his faithful and obedient sons. Turn to St. Joseph and ask him to teach you how to be men, men like him. Often sons try to be like their dads, imitating their habits both good and bad. We want to make our fathers proud. Let us, then, be imitators of St. Joseph, our beloved father, following his example of righteousness and love for Jesus and Mary.
The young Jesus willed to labor at Joseph’s side at his workbench. Let us be also be Joseph’s apprentices in holiness, laboring tirelessly for our own sanctification and that of others. He will teach us to serve Jesus, to identify with the poor, to practice humility and patience, to joyfully submit to the will of God in all things, to persevere in chastity, and to honor Mary: the highest honor of our race.
He will teach us, too, how to treat women, by recognizing their special dignity as daughters of his Immaculate Spouse, and by purifying our thoughts and desires. Our gracious father is often invoked as Joseph Most Strong, so it is definitely not weakness to be the guardian of a woman’s virtue rather than its taker. God did not create us to be weak, imperfect though we are, so let us be strong like our father, Joseph, courageous in the pursuit of holiness, heroic in the practice of virtue, and thereby honor our loving patron.
It is a challenge to be men like St. Joseph, for the world provides alternative examples of manhood. Yet, take most any actor, musician, or mogul and compare them to St. Joseph—then see who is a real man. The challenge is worth the sacrifice and suffering, brothers! The salvation of our souls is worth it. The sanctification of the world is worth it. Our future brides and daughters are worth it.
Will we meet this challenge? See here the mountain; will we climb it? See the ocean wide; will we swim it? See the narrow gate; will we enter it? See the road to Calvary; will we walk it?
Now, my sisters, O lovely daughters of Mary, entrust yourselves also to the mighty care and patronage of St. Joseph. For he who loves Mary, his spouse and Queen, will surely also take you under the mantel of his protection. Mary trusted Joseph with her life and that of her Son. So, trust Joseph with the care for your soul. As he was gentle and tender with the Child Jesus and his chosen Bride, he will be as tender and gentle with your soul—ever prompting you to imitate his Lady’s virtues, to pray with great fervor and devotion, and to love his Jesus with your whole being and desire above all to be united with Him forever.
And to my sisters who are called to the married life, I implore you, see Joseph as the model of the man you will marry. Do not settle, my dear sisters! Do not settle for less than a son of Joseph. We need you to help us be men like him by encouraging us to be his faithful imitators. Don’t settle. Demand holiness from us! Be patient, however, with our poor attempts. Pray for us, that we may be men worthy of you.
In all things…
Ite ad Ioseph (“Go to Joseph”, Genesis 41:55)