Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sanctity Through the Rosary by Edouard Hugon, O.P.

Part II: Models of Holiness: Mary and Joseph

Chapter IV: The Rosary and St. Joseph.

On the very first page of the Gospel the Holy Spirit has inscribed three names. This page of Holy Writ is frequently chanted by the ministers of the Church at her altars. Cum esset desponsata mater Jesu, Maria, Joseph: When Mary the mother of Jesus was espoused to Joseph. While the Church exists, these three names will be inseparably united and unceasingly repeated. God has written these three names in the book of life, so that we might inscribe them in our hearts and affections.

In the Rosary the remembrance of Joseph is indissolubly united to that of Jesus and Mary. The Rosary reveals Mary and her Son, but it also reveals her spouse, St. Joseph. In fact it may be called the life story of Joseph, because in the first place it helps us to realize the part played by the Holy Patriarch in the Incarnation and Redemption, and secondly his position with regard to the Church.

The world was created by a Virgin Trinity, the world was redeemed by a Virgin Trinity. The Virgin Trinity which created us, we invoke at the commencement of all our actions: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The Virgin Trinity which redeemed the world is Jesus, Mary and Joseph, whom from our childhood we have learned to know and to love. Jesus is Redeemer, Mary is Mother of the Redeemer, Joseph is united to both by the closest bonds. All three are virgins; together they form one family. The sufferings and joys of one are the sufferings and joys of all. We may say of them what we say of the heavenly Trinity, though in a different sense, Et hi ires unum sunt: And these three are one.

Joseph had real authority over Jesus and Mary. In earthly marriages the wife belongs to the husband; there is between them a total donation, one to the other. The union between Mary and Joseph was spiritual and for that reason it was all the more real and sacred; it was a perfect union, a complete donation. Mary belonged completely to Joseph.

Consequently, Jesus became the property of Joseph. St. Francis de Sales has a very ingenious comparison which we borrow to illustrate our point. If a bird drops a fruit into a garden, the tree springing up from the seed undoubtedly belongs to the owner of the garden. Mary was the garden of St. Joseph, wherein the Holy Spirit placed the divine fruit, a fruit which became a great tree which healed and sheltered the whole human race. O blessed art thou. Holy Patriarch, God s master. Beauty and grace belonged entirely to thee.

In creating Jesus and Mary, the Almighty had, so to speak, to move heaven and earth, according to the word of the prophet: Commovebo caelum et terram ([H]Aggai 2:7). Eternity itself was roused by the accomplishment of this great marvel, which has been called the Negotium saeculorum: the task of the ages. And when God gave being to these two elect ones, He gave them into the keeping of St. Joseph who henceforth could say of Jesus and Mary: You are mine. Both could answer in reply: Yes; we are yours.

On account of his wonderful dignity as husband of Mary and foster-father of her child, it was necessary for him to be endowed with very special graces and virtues. St. John Chrysostom, echoing the ancient traditional teaching, assures us that Joseph was cleansed before his birth from all stain of original sin. And his daily contact with the Word Incarnate must certainly have led to an unspeakable increase of grace in his soul.

We shall recall here one of the axioms of St. Thomas, to which reference has been made already: the nearer any thing approaches its source, the more fully it partakes of the properties of that source. Thus the light that is nearest to the sun is the most dazzling; the heat that is nearest to the fire is the most intense, and the water that is nearest to the fountain is the purest. But, after Mary, who came into closer contact with the Humanity of the Word than did Joseph? When he held Jesus in his arms and embraced Him, did he not drink from the very source of holiness? The Humanity of Christ, the ocean of grace, filled his soul with grace even to overflowing. Again, his close intimacy with Mary of itself served to sanctify her spouse. In the Mystery of the Incarnation, the grace bestowed by God on Jesus, Mary and Joseph is something absolutely beyond our comprehension.

We borrow another comparison from St. Francis de Sales. Suppose a mirror is so placed that it directly receives the rays of the sun, while opposite to this mirror is placed another. The second mirror receives the rays of the sun only reflected, still they are perfectly reflected. Mary is the mirror which directly receives the rays of the sun of justice. Joseph is the mirror which receives these rays from Mary. Thus, the splendors of Christ and of Mary are reflected in the soul of Joseph. Such is his incomparable holiness.

This role of Joseph in the Incarnation, as spouse of Mary and foster-father of Jesus, is revealed to us admirably by the Joyful Mysteries. In the Annunciation and Visitation we can picture him as the spouse of the Immaculate Virgin; in the three last Mysteries he is outstanding as the foster-father of the Divine Child. By meditating on these mysteries we learn something of the interior sanctity of the glorious Patriarch. In fact, his life story may be contemplated in the seven joys and seven sorrows revealed therein. But the remembrance of the Holy Patriarch is not absent in the Sorrowful Mysteries. After the Crucifixion of the Savior, the soul of the Word descended into Limbo, where the souls of Jesus and Joseph were once more re-united; for it is the teaching of St. Thomas that our Redeemer then bestowed the Beatific Vision on the souls of the just detained in Limbo. What ineffable bliss was theirs in that moment, when they beheld their God face to face. Let us ask of St. Joseph that we too may one day experience the same happiness.

In the Glorious Mysteries we again meet the venerable Patriarch. He was, without doubt, among the number of privileged souls who accompanied the soul of Christ on the morning of the Resurrection. The triumph of Jesus was also the triumph of Joseph. On Ascension Thursday the foster-father rose gloriously with his Son. Now that our Savior sits on His throne as King and as Judge, He confides the care of His Church to him, to whose care He also was confided during His life here on earth. In congratulating Our Savior on His glorious entrance into heaven, let us congratulate Joseph who was associated with Him. When we meditate in the last Mysteries on the glories of Mary, we can also recall Joseph’s part therein. In offering our praise and homage to the Queen of the Church, let us not forget her spouse, who is its patron and protector. The Glorious Mysteries, therefore, reveal to us the influence exercised by Joseph over the universal Church.

The Church was instituted primarily for the purpose of perpetuating the Incarnation down the centuries. The Church is the necessary extension and prolongation of the Incarnation. The Christian family is the continuation of the family at Nazareth. Therefore Joseph’s position with regard to the Church and the Christian family must be analogous to the part played by him in the Mystery of the Incarnation. He was guardian and protector of the Holy Family at Nazareth, he is now guardian and protector of Christendom. The Church has solemnly acknowledged this office of the Holy Patriarch. We may mention here that a Dominican religious, Fr. Lataste, offered his life for the intention that St. Joseph might be declared Patron of the Church; the sacrifice and death of the generous victim were accepted, and shortly afterwards the decree of Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church. St. Joseph, then, is Patron of the Universal Church which means that as our intercessor he can obtain every grace and favor for us in whatever state of life we may be placed.
We all know the celebrated words of St. Teresa: The Most High grants favors to His Saints to succor us in particular cases only; but I know from experience that St. Joseph has the power of helping everyone, without exception, in afflictions and trials of every kind. We have shown how all our spiritual goods come to us through Jesus and Mary: from Jesus, the source and fountain of grace; from Mary, the channel through which they flow. But Joseph has certain rights over these two. The bonds which formerly united the Holy Family on earth are not destroyed but rather consecrated in Heaven. You are mine; and both can still answer: yes, we are yours. Therefore he is able, in a sense, to command them. But Jesus and Mary do not wait to hear his request; they anticipate his wishes and all the favors he desires for his privileged children are immediately granted.

By reason of his influence with the King and Queen of Heaven, Joseph may be called the chancellor of the divine finances, the distributor of God’s treasures, both spiritual and temporal. A religious Community in America invoked the intercession of St. Joseph to obtain a sum of money necessary for the building of an establishment for the relief of the poor. One of the Sisters composed a hymn in honor of the saint which the old people sang each evening at night prayers. At the end of the novena they received a generous sum of money from a benefactor; and inspired with greater confidence they continued their prayers until finally the saint graciously obtained for them double the required amount.

A Christian family threatened with an unjust lawsuit made a novena to St. Joseph, at the end of which the plaintiff himself came forward offering to stop the proceedings and defray all the costs.
But it is above all as our intercessor in spiritual matters that Joseph shows himself to be our powerful advocate. How many grateful mothers attribute the conversion of a husband or a son to the venerable Patriarch?

Final perseverance and the grace of a happy death is assuredly the grace of graces. The most dreadful of thoughts is the reflection: shall I be saved, shall I be damned? We cannot say; but Joseph, who breathed his last breath in the arms of Jesus and Mary, will obtain this grace of graces for his devoted clients.

The following story used to be related by St. Vincent Ferrer. A pious merchant was accustomed to entertain once a year three poor people in honor of the Holy Family at Nazareth. When his last hour drew nigh, Jesus, Mary and Joseph appeared at his death bed and saluted him with these words of love: During your life you received us yearly into your dwelling, today we will receive you into our heavenly home. Would that we should receive such an invitation in the hour of agony. Let us not fail to ask from St. Joseph the gift of final perseverance.

St. Joseph, then, is protector, friend and model of people of every condition and every state of life, in all their difficulties. He, who sheltered the Infant Jesus under his mantle, is the patron of childhood. He, who worked as a carpenter, is the patron saint of the working classes. The head of the Holy Family at Nazareth is the patron of all Christian families throughout the world. He is the exemplar of virgins; he was espoused to a virgin mother, and was foster-father to a virgin God. He, who led Jesus to men and defended Him against the attacks of His enemies, is the patron of priests who also have this mission entrusted to them. Joseph tasted the cup of bitterness during his life and is patron of the afflicted, the sorrowing and the suffering. He is patron of exiles having once being forced to fly from his own native land.

Since this, in brief, is the mission which Jesus Christ confided to His foster-father on Ascension Day, we see how meditation on the Rosary can truly be a meditation on St. Joseph.

Leo XIII rightly understood that the guardian of the Holy Family must necessarily enter into the Mysteries of the Rosary and for that reason decreed that during the month of October, Joseph, the spouse of Mary, should be invoked immediately after the Immaculate Virgin and a prayer in honor of St. Joseph be added to the end of the Rosary.

Let us not separate those whom God has united. In future, when reciting the Rosary, let us unite in our minds and hearts the three names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

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