Readings on Saint Joseph
Saint Joseph, Provident Protector
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Below are stories and writings about Saint Joseph from the Gospel, the Life of Saint Teresa, our constitutions and statutes, and an homily by the Pope. These readings may aid in our meditation.
From the Gospel of Saint Matthew
Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24a
Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
From the Gospel of Saint Luke
Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them.
From the Sixth Chapter of the Life of Saint Teresa of Jesus
I took for my advocate and lord the glorious St. Joseph and earnestly recommended myself to him. I saw clearly that as in this need so in other greater ones concerning honor and loss of soul this father and lord of mine came to my rescue in better ways than I knew how to ask for. I don’t recall up to this day ever having petitioned him for anything that he failed to grant. It is an amazing thing the great many favors God has granted me through the mediation of this blessed saint, the dangers I was freed from both of body and soul. For with other saints it seems the Lord has given them grace to be of help in one need, whereas with this glorious saint I have experience that he helps in all our needs and that the Lord wants to us understand that just as He was subject to St. Joseph on earth –for since bearing the title of father, being the Lord’s tutor, Joseph could give the Child command –so in heaven God does whatever he commands.
This had been observed by other persons, also through experience, whom I have told to recommend themselves to him. And so there are many who in experiencing this truth renew their devotion to him.
7. I endeavored to celebrate his feast with all the solemnity possible. But, in my desire to do so very carefully and well, I was filled more with vanity than with spirituality, though my intention was good. This was a fault I had, that if the Lord gave me the grace to do something good, what I did was filled with imperfections and many failures. In wrongdoing, curiosity, and vanity, I was especially skilled and diligent. May the Lord pardon me.
8. Because of my impressive experience of the goods this glorious saint obtains from God, I had the desire to persuade all to be devoted to him. I have not known anyone truly devoted to him and rendering him special services who has not advanced more in virtue. For in a powerful way he benefits souls who recommend themselves to him. It seems to me that for some years now I have asked him for something on his feast day, and my petition is always granted. If the request is somewhat out of line, he rectifies it for my greater good. If I were a person who had authority for writing I would willingly and in a very detailed way enlarge upon what I am saying about the favors his glorious saint did for me and for others. But so as to do no more than what they gave me the command to do, I will be briefer in many matters than I desire, more extensive in others than necessary –in sum, like one who has little discretion in anything that is good. I only ask for the love of God anyone who do not believe me to try, and he will see through experience the great good that comes from recommending oneself to this glorious patriarch and being devoted to him. Especially persons of prayer should always be attached to him. For I don’t know how one can think about the Queen of Angels and about when she went through so much with the Infant Jesus without giving thanks to St. Joseph for the good assistance he then provided them both with. Anyone who cannot find a master to teach him prayer should take this glorious saint for his master, and he will not go astray. Please God I may not have erred in being so bold as to speak about him, for although publicly I am devoted to him, I have always been lacking in serving and imitating him. For he being who he is brought it about that I could rise and walk and not be crippled; and I being who I am used this favor badly.
From the Revised OCDS Constitutions of 2014
31 – a) In the Teresian Carmel love of Mary, Mother and Queen, is united with love of her spouse Saint Joseph. The Father also gave him, “a just man,” guardianship of his Son Jesus Christ in the mystery of the Incarnation.
Following the example of St. Teresa, members can find in St. Joseph a role model for a life of humble adoration and prayerful communion with Jesus, as well as a master of prayer and silence. Patron of the interior life, he is an example of faith and of being “constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans.” Being a chaste and faithful spouse, he is the model of a father solicitous in care of the family, and of a responsible laborer who considers his work as an “expression of love.”
In communion with the Church and the Order, who venerate him as their “provident Protector,” members of the Secular Order find in Saint Joseph an incomparable protector to whom they can entrust the hopes, the struggles and the work of every day.
From the Revised Statutes of the California-Arizona Province of St. Joseph of 2013
Sec. IV: Devotion to St. Joseph
1. The same aura of silence that envelops everything about St. Joseph, [himself a lay person and model for Carmelite Seculars] also shrouds his work as a carpenter in the house of Nazareth. It is a silence that reveals in a special way the inner portrait of the man. The Gospels speak exclusively of what he “did.” Still, they allow us to discover in his “actions” — shrouded in silence as they are — an aura of deep contemplation. He was in daily contact with the mystery “hidden from ages past,” and which “dwelt” under his roof. This explains, for example, why St. Teresa of Jesus, the great reformer of the Carmelites, promoted the renewal of veneration to St. Joseph in the Western Church [cf. Pope John-Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptoris Custos, (On the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph In the Life of Christ and of the Church), Aug. 15, 1989, #25].
2. As sons and daughters of St. Teresa, we honor St. Joseph as the patron of the Universal Church and the special patron and protector of our Order, as well as the patron of our Province. He is the model of attentive service to Christ, to Mary, and to the Church, and is also the “master of prayer” proposed to us by St. Teresa (Life, 6, 6-8).
From the Inaugural Mass of Pope Francis on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, March 19, 2013
In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model.”
How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.
How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!
The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!
Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.
Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!
Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!
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