Monday, March 19, 2007

The silent saint: getting to know St. Joe

Whoever wants a master to teach him how to pray, let him take this saint as a guide and he will not go astray. –St. Teresa of Avila, speaking of St. Joseph
Today's saint, the great St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus and husband of Mary is one of the Church's towering figures despite being a man of few words. While it is true—as Protestants point out—that of his life we know little, it is just as accurate that for Catholics his devotion has never been lacking.

Like his Old Testament namesake the "Master Dreamer" with the colorful coat (if irrelevant musical), this Joseph was also a man of inspired dreams, and much of his mission was revealed to him in this manner. The Lord used dreams to tell Joseph about Mary's "special" pregnancy and to take her as his wife, to tell him to flee to Egypt to escape Herod's attempt on their son's life, and to return to Israel when it was once again deemed safe. Unlike Mary and many of the saints, Joseph endured these shattering life changing moments without question, and apparently squelched the squeals of the gossips (that he couldn't control himself and/or his wife when Mary was pregnant before their marriage, or that he couldn't control his kid, when at twelve Christ went against their will to preach in the temple) with quiet dignity. And despite all the upheaval, Joseph managed to provide for his family and teach his only son a trade, which seemed to suit Jesus well, at least until his second career as missionary messiah took off.

And so on the basis of this scant yet significant data, St. Joseph's devotion grew from local feast days in Egypt and the East in the early centuries to a universal feast on March 19th in 1479, to being named patron of Mexico in 1555, protector of the China Missions in 1678, and patron of the Universal Church (during Vatican I) in 1870. Joseph is also the patron saint of Italy, a happy death, and real estate (but do you really have to bury his statue upside down for your property to sell?).

Still the question remains. With this scant historical evidence, does Joseph deserve all the accolades? The answer can only be a resounding yes—and then some. The man who held the hand of the handmaiden of the Lord, not to mention showing Jesus the ropes of manhood, cannot be honored enough. "When we do not know how to pray we turn to St. Joseph," St. Bernard used to say, and although on the surface that would seem the Holy Spirit's role, on second thought, it only makes sense that Christ's quiet earthly mentor should intercede in life's speechless moments too.

3 comments :

JimAroo said...

Sorry I didn't get in earlier on my main man, St Joseph. Let's consider some thigs we do know. God spoke thru an angel to Mary just once but from then on when the Holy Family needed instructions he went to Joseph 3(!) times. Even tho his his wife was the Immaculate Conception and his foster son was God the Son, God the Father still made Joseph the head of the Holy Family. Now that is an endorsement!

St Teresa of Avila said that if you wanted a prayer intention answered quickly, go to Joseph, The other saints drag their feet!

St Joseph, Terror of Demons, chaste Husband of Mary, Patron of the universal church, pray for us (and do it quickly)

JimAroo said...

more St Joseph

He is a powerful patron for all fathers to lead their families in the way of the Lord. As men, we can invoke him to protect our marital chastity. We are called to practice the virtue of chastity in marriage. Check out this definition from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

"Chastity is the virtue which excludes or moderates the indulgence of the sexual appetite. It is a form of the virtue on temperance, which controls according to right reason the desire for and the use of those things which afford the greatest sexual pleasure."

To moderate our desires for the good things of this life gives glory to God!

St. Jospeh help me be a chaste lover of my wife always.

Tom O'Toole said...

Jim,

Thanks for your comments ... you're obviously a big St. Joe fan. Indeed, as with his spouse, you can't say too much good about him!