Over a decade ago Fr. Redemptus Short, O.C.D., (a dear Carmelite friend and confessor) offered this sage counsel: “consecrate yourself and your family each and every day to the Holy Heart of St. Joseph.” Fr. Redemptus explained that St. Joseph’s Holy Heart is an abundant source of grace – though unfortunately one which is often over-looked – and he gently urged me to frequently enlist the powerful intercession of this beloved saint.
Whenever Fr. Redemptus spoke, I listened. He was always right. From that day forward I added the consecration to St. Joseph’s Holy Heart (in addition to the consecration to Jesus Sacred and Merciful Heart, and Mary’s Immaculate Heart) to my prayers at rising and retiring, and our family prayers at each meal. It didn’t take much convincing; for I have always had a deep devotion to St. Joseph. Who wouldn’t?
I’ve always seen St. Joseph as the strong, silent, righteous, chaste, protector of the Holy Family, and of the Universal Church. Scripture and tradition portray St. Joseph as the Just Man, full of compassion toward Mary, and unwilling to expose her to the penalty of the law (Matthew 1:19). He is seen as a practical man, a laborer who provides for his family by the sweat of his brow. Yet St. Joseph also possesses the heart of a philosopher and a theologian: he is willing to reflect on his dreams and act upon them in accordance with God’s plan for not only himself, but also for those whom he has been given the responsibility to protect (Matthew 1: 20-24, Matthew 2:13-14). St. Joseph is thorough and decisive: he immediately acts upon the command to flee with the Christ-Child and His Mother that is given in a dream by the Angel of the Lord (Matthew 2:13-14). Yes, St. Joseph is a wise and intrepid protector, but the quintessential virtue of his character is the depth of his love, a love contained within his Holy Heart.
St. Joseph’s profound capacity for authentic love is evident throughout each of the scriptural passages where he is mentioned. In the few short lines of Matthew 2:18-20, we can sense his agony as St. Joseph grapples with a decision to divorce his betrothed unobtrusively, rather than expose her publicly to the capital penalty of the law. He is a just and righteous man, whose human heart must have ached with a sense of betrayal upon discovering Mary’s untimely pregnancy. Yet, scripture offers no hint of a desire for revenge, nor sense of rage. Rather, we see that out of love, St. Joseph is willing to act in a way that will preserve his righteousness, while preventing Mary from being stoned to death for this out of wed-lock birth.
Each time the Angel of the Lord speaks to St. Joseph, his reaction is swift and decisive. He does exactly what the angel commands – immediate obedience. Again, Joseph demonstrates a great capacity for love – he loves God, and is willing to put aside his own human goals, plans, desires, dreams and hopes, and in their stead to embrace the will of God. He accepts Mary’s baby as His own, and loves Him with the deepest love a human father can offer. The physical danger of fleeing Herod’s soldiers, the voluntary exile to Egypt, the daily chores and labor requisite to feed and shelter his family were all embraced within a spirit of holy love.
As Joseph absorbs the predictions of Simeon for both Jesus and Mary, his mind must have been flooded with questions. Scripture tells us: “The Child’s parents were amazed at what was said about Him (Luke 2:33).” Yet, Joseph rests neither in awe nor trepidation. Rather, he chooses to trust God, and thus embarks upon the task of raising the Christ-Child, Who in turn “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him (Luke 2:40).” St. Joseph’s strength and protection, rooted in love, were essential components of the family structure within which God had elected to raise His Divine Son, Jesus.
I can only imagine the depth of anxiety Joseph and Mary experienced searching for the young missing Jesus after the Passover celebration (Luke 2: 41-52). Every parent’s worst nightmare is a missing child. It was pure love that propelled Joseph and Mary to search rigorously for three days – days replete with grief, frustration and exhaustion. The explanation: “Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house (Luke 2:49)?” must have seemed incomprehensible at the moment. Yet, because of love, the Holy Family was able to move beyond the exasperation of an agonizing search, and return to Nazareth to live in peace.
It is precisely because of St. Joseph’s capacity for unconditional love that God the Heavenly Father chose him to head the Holy Family. God the Father willed that St. Joseph be placed in authority over His Divine Son. He willed that St. Joseph would teach the Christ-child – in both word and example – what it meant to be a human man.
God the Father instilled an abundant capacity for love in the Holy Heart of St. Joseph. Through his intercession, we too may receive a plenitude of grace – both temporal and supernatural.
St. Teresa of Avila possessed an abiding devotion to St. Joseph, and instructed those in her care to “Go to St. Joseph” with their necessities.
In Chapter 6 of her Autobiography, St. Teresa states:
“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.”
St. Joseph is a powerful protector, patron and intercessor. As such, I am initiating a new series on this blog: “Wednesdays: Through the Holy Heart of St. Joseph.” This series will be an attempt to combine prayer, theology, philosophy, reflection, photography, and art to render glory and honor to God, by focusing on the merits of the Holy Heart of St. Joseph.
May St. Joseph carry you and yours in his Holy Heart with the tenderness with which he carried the Christ-Child in his capable arms.
Ad Jesum per Mariam,