Saint Joseph, most happy among men! Thou, among all the sons of Adam, had the happiness and good fortune of possessing God Himself in such a manner that He conducted Himself and was reputed as thy only Son! The eternal Father gave to thee His Son, and the Son gave to thee His real and true mother, and the Holy Ghost entrusted to thee His spouse, while the whole blessed Trinity in its turn yielded and espoused to thee as thy legitimate wife its chosen one, its only one, elect as the sun! Dost thou realize, oh men, his great dignity? Dost thou know his excellence? Dost thou understand, that his spouse is the queen and lady of heaven and earth and that he was the depository of the inestimable treasures of God Himself? Be mindful, O man, and know, that Saint Joseph filled the angels and seraphim with wonder and astonishment at his good fortune and at the sacramental mystery connected with his matrimony. Holy Saint Joseph, accept the congratulations for such great happiness in the name of the whole human race! Thou art the archive of the history of the divine mercies, the master and spouse of she who is inferior only to God Himself; thou findest thyself enriched and prosperous in the sight of all men and of the angels themselves forever!
The holy child Saint Joseph was born most beautiful and perfect of body and caused in his parents and in his relations an extraordinary delight, something like that caused by the birth of Saint John the Baptist, though the cause of it was more hidden. The Lord hastened in him the use of his reason, perfecting it in his third year, endowing it with infused science and augmenting his soul with new graces and virtues. From that time the child began to know God by faith, and also by natural reasoning and science, as the cause and Author of all things. He eagerly listened and understood profoundly all that was taught him in regard to God and his works. At this premature age he already practiced the highest kinds of prayer and contemplation and eagerly engaged in the exercise of the virtues proper to his youth; so that, at the time when others come to the use of reason, at the age of seven years or more, St Joseph was already a perfect man in the use of it and in holiness. He was of a kind disposition, loving, affable, sincere, showing inclinations not only holy but angelic, growing in virtue and perfection and advancing toward his espousal with most Holy Mary by an altogether irreproachable life. The more angelic and holy he grew to be, so much the more worthy was he to be the spouse of most holy Mary, the depository and treasure-house of heavenly sacraments. He was to be a miracle of holiness, as he really was.
The most pure Mary, for her part, had a vision at the age of thirteen and a half years in which the Most High commanded Her to accept a husband for her protection and company. As she had already many times repeated and renewed the vow of chastity while serving God in the temple, one can understand her astonishment to learn that she was now to accept an earthy spouse and husband. This trial was far greater for her than Abraham's trial when he had been asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, the only pledge of all his hopes, for Abraham could not love his son in the same degree as most holy Mary loved inviolate chastity.
Mary resigned herself entirely to the will of God, who spoke to the high priest, Saint Simeon, commanding him to arrange a suitable husband for Mary. Saint Simeon spoke to the other priests of the temple, and as it was the custom that firstborn maidens not leave the temple without being provided for, it was their duty to find a husband worthy of a maiden so modest and virtuous, yet also of noble lineage and of the house of David.
The Blessed Virgin did not wish to marry, considering herself incapable of fulfilling the duties connected with it, though she continued to trust in the infinite mercy of God and subjected herself to His divine pleasure in her regard.
One day during her prayer, Our Lord appeared to Mary to comfort her, saying:
“My Spouse and my Dove, let thy afflicted heart expand and let it not be disturbed or sad; I will attend to thy yearnings and to thy requests, I will direct all things, and will govern the priests by my enlightenment; I will give Thee a spouse selected by Myself, and one who will put no hindrance to thy holy desires, but who, by my grace will prosper Thee in them. I will find for Thee a perfect man conformable to my heart and I will choose him from the number of my servants; my power is infinite, and my protection and aid shall never fail Thee.”
There we have it – a testimonial from the lips of Our Lord Himself as to the sanctity of Saint Joseph. The vast perfection of his virtues and graces were conferred upon St Joseph for the purpose of making of him a worthy protector and spouse of Her, whom God selected as his Mother. According to this standard, and according to the love of God for his most holy mother, is to be measured the holiness of Saint Joseph. If there had been in the world another man more perfect and more worthy, the Lord would have chosen this other one for the spouse of his mother. Since he was chosen by God, Saint Joseph was no doubt the most perfect man on earth. Having created and destined him for such a high end, it is certain that God, in his almighty power, prepared and perfected him in proportion to the exaltedness of his end.
On the day, then, in which Our Lady completed the fourteenth year of her life, the men who were the descendants of the tribe of Judah and of the race of David, gathered together in the temple. Among them was Saint Joseph of Nazareth, then living in Jerusalem. He was thirty-three years old, handsome and of pleasing countenance, but also of incomparable modesty and gravity. Above all he was most chaste in thought and conduct, and most saintly in all his inclinations. From his twelfth year he had made and kept the vow of chastity, and was known for the utmost purity of his life, holy and acceptable in the eyes of God.
All the suitors and priests prayed to the Lord asking to be governed by the desire of the Holy Ghost. The Most High spoke to the heart of the high-priest, inspiring him to place into the hands of each man a dry stick, with the command that each ask his Majesty with a lively faith, to single out the one whom He had chosen to become the spouse of Mary. And as the sweet odor of her virtue and nobility, the fame of her beauty, her possessions and her modesty was known to them all, each one coveted the happiness of meriting her as spouse. Among them all only the humble and must upright Joseph thought himself unworthy of such a great blessing; and remembering the vow of chastity which he had made, and resolving anew its perpetual observance, he resigned himself to God's will leaving it all to His disposal and being filled at the same time with a veneration and esteem greater than that of any of the others for the most noble maiden Mary.
While they were thus engaged in prayer, the staff which Saint Joseph held was seen to blossom and at the same time a dove of purest white and resplendent with admirable light, was seen to descend and rest upon the head of the saint, while in the interior of his heart God spoke:
“Joseph, my servant, Mary shall be thy Spouse; accept Her with attentive reverence, for she is acceptable in my eyes, just and most pure in soul and body, and thou shalt do all that she shall say to thee.”
At this manifestation the priests declared Saint Joseph as the spouse selected by God Himself for the maiden Mary. Calling her forth for her espousal, the chosen one issued forth like the sun, more resplendent than the moon, and she entered into the presence of all with a countenance more beautiful than that of an angel, incomparable in the charm of her beauty, nobility and grace; and the priests espoused her to the most chaste and holy of men, Saint Joseph. Thus it happened that he became the spouse of her whom God had chosen to be His own mother.
As soon as Mary was informed that the Lord wished her to enter the married state with Saint Joseph, she earnestly besought the Lord to sanctify him and inspire him with most chaste thoughts and desires in conformity with her own. The Lord listened to her prayer and permitted her to see what great effects his right hand wrought in the mind and spirit of the patriarch Saint Joseph. They were so copious, that they cannot be described in human words. He infused into his soul the most perfect habits of all the virtues and gifts. He balanced anew all his faculties and filled him with grace, confirming it in an admirable manner. In the virtue and perfection of chastity the holy spouse was elevated higher than the seraphim; for the purity, which they possessed without body, Saint Joseph possessed in his earthly body and in mortal flesh; never did an image of the impurities of the animal and sensible nature engage, even for one moment, any of his faculties. This freedom from all such imaginations and his angelic simplicity fitted him for the companionship and presence of the most pure among all creatures, and without this excellence he would not have been worthy of so great a dignity and rare excellence.
Saint Joseph lived his life as a humble carpenter, poor in earthly possessions. He continued his trade in order to be able to take care of the holy family, and to gain something for distribution among the poor, but also because it was necessary to work and not to remain idle. In all virtues Saint Joseph was wonderfully distinguished, but especially in charity; for he dwelt at the fountainhead of that living water, which flows on to eternal life.
The Death of Saint Joseph
Saint Joseph reached the end of his earthly life just beyond the age of sixty years, having lived with Mary as her husband a little longer than twenty-seven years. His love of God was really the cause of his mortal sickness and of his death. The manner of his death was a privilege of his singular love, for his sweet sighs of love surpassed and finally put an end to those of his sickness, being far more powerful. As the objects of his love, Christ and his mother, were present with him always, and as both of them were more closely bound to him than to any of the woman-born, his most pure and faithful heart was unavoidably consumed by the loving effects of such a close union. In order that his death might be more the triumph of his love than of the effects of original sin, the Lord suspended the special and miraculous assistance by which his natural forces were enabled to withstand the violence of his love during his lifetime. As soon as this divine assistance was withdrawn, nature was overcome by his love and the bonds and chains, by which this most holy soul was detained in its mortal body, were at once dissolved and the separation of the soul from the body in which death consists took place. Love was then the real cause of the death of Saint Joseph.
Saint Joseph was one of those who enjoyed the privilege of neither seeing nor feeling the presence of the demon in his last hour; for as soon as they approached to deal with him as they do with the rest of men, they felt a powerful force which kept them at a distance and the holy angels then hurled them back into the abyss.
According to the visions of the Venerable Mary of Agreda, the last words which Saint Joseph spoke to his spouse were:
“Blessed art thou among all women and elect of all the creatures. Let angels and men praise Thee; let all the generations know, praise, and exalt thy dignity; and may in thee be known, adored and exalted the name of the Most High through all the coming ages; may He be eternally praised for having created thee so pleasing in His eyes and in the sight of all the blessed spirits. I hope to enjoy thy sight in the heavenly fatherland.”
Then, Jesus, coming near, received Saint Joseph in his arms, where, reclining his head upon them, the saint said:
“My highest Lord and God, Son of the eternal Father, Creator and Redeemer of the World, give thy blessing to thy servant and the work of thy hand; pardon, O most merciful King, the faults which I have committed in thy service and intercourse. I extol and magnify Thee and render eternal and heartfelt thanks to Thee for having, in thy ineffable condescension, chosen me to be the spouse of thy true mother; let thy greatness and glory be my thanksgiving for all eternity.”
The Redeemer of the world gave Saint Joseph His benediction, saying:
“My father, rest in peace and in the grace of my eternal Father and mine; and to the Prophets and Saints, who await thee in limbo, bring the joyful news of the approach of their redemption.”
At these words of Jesus, Saint Joseph expired and the Lord himself closed his eyes. At the same time the multitude of the angels, who attended upon their King and Queen, intoned hymns of praise in loud and harmonious voices. By command of the Lord they carried his most holy soul to the gathering-place of the Patriarchs and Prophets, where it was immediately recognized by all as clothed in the splendors of incomparable grace, as the putative father and the intimate friend of the Redeemer, worthy of highest veneration. Conformable to the will and mandate of the Lord, his arrival spread unutterable joy in this countless gathering of the saints by the announcement of their speedy rescue.
Blessed be the Author of such great wonders and blessed be the most fortunate of mortals, Saint Joseph, who so worthily corresponded to their love. He deserves to be known and extolled by all the generations of men and all nations, since the Lord has wrought such things with no other man and to none has He shown such love. Having been favored with such high privileges, and due to the great holiness of Saint Joseph, he is powerful to aid those who ask his intercession in a proper manner: first, for attaining the virtue of purity and overcoming the sensual inclinations of the flesh; second, for procuring powerful help to escape sin and return to the friendship of God; third, for increasing the love and devotion to most holy Mary, fourth, for securing the grace of a happy death and protection against the demons in that hour; fifth, for inspiring the demons with terror at the mere mention of his name by his clients; sixth, for gaining health of body and assistance in all kinds of difficulties, seventh, for securing issue of children in families. These and many other favors God confers upon those who properly and with good disposition seek the intercession of the spouse of our Queen, the great Saint Joseph.
*According to Catholic tradition and the revelations to Ven. Mary of Agreda.
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