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Recalling Jesus’ earthly father’s commitment to God’s will and his intercession on his feast day.
BY JOSEPH PRONECHEN
St. Joseph is so quiet, so humble — and often so forgotten. But, while instituting a new feast for him in 1955, Pius XII advised, “Thus, if you wish to be close to Christ, we again today repeat, ‘Go to Joseph!’”
The Pope echoed what God prefigured way back in Genesis (41:55, 57) with the patriarch when “Pharaoh directed all the Egyptians to go to Joseph and do whatever he told them. ... In fact, all the world came to Joseph to obtain rations of grain.”
Devotion to St. Joseph was rare in the early Church but increased by the Middle Ages. The Holy Fathers from Leo XIII to Pope Benedict XVI have repeatedly called our attention to Jesus’ earthly father.
What better time to answer the call to “Go to Joseph” than on his solemnity, March 19?
Father Larry Toschi of the Oblates of St. Joseph explains the Old-New Testament parallel: Patriarch Joseph was in charge of the grain of Pharaoh, but St. Joseph was in charge of the Bread of Life: Jesus. “And the Church is the body of Christ. So he watches over all of us here,” says Father Toschi, author of St. Joseph in the New Testament (Guardian of the Redeemer Books, 1991), just as he did with Jesus.
He gives good reasons why St. Joseph is a go-to saint for our needs. “It makes sense. He’s the most powerful after Mary; he had the highest responsibility after Mary — even more than the apostles.
He was chosen by God to be the husband of the Mother of God and raise Jesus as his son. He is most intimately connected to the Incarnation. So when we want a favor, we go to him.”
Well-known saints did. Teresa of Avila declared: “I took St. Joseph for my patron and advocate, and I recommend myself unceasingly to his protection. I do not remember ever to have asked anything of him that I did not obtain.” She realized any request denied was only for her greater good.
St. Bernardine of Siena reasoned: “The Lord, who on earth honored St. Joseph as a father, will certainly not refuse him anything he asks in heaven.”
In his landmark 1889 encyclical Quamquam Pluries (On Devotion to St. Joseph), Leo XIII taught that “as Joseph has been united to the Blessed Virgin by the ties of marriage, it may not be doubted that he approached nearer than any to the eminent dignity by which the Mother of God surpasses so nobly all created natures. … Hence it came about that the Word of God was humbly subject to Joseph.”
In St. Joseph & Daily Christian Living (Macmillan, 1961), Jesuit Father Francis Filas commented on Leo’s teaching: “Devotion to Joseph is ultimately devotion to Our Lady, because Joseph is all he is because of and through Mary. For that matter, devotion to Our Lady ultimately is devotion to Our Lord, because Mary is all she is because of and through Jesus. It is no original comment to add that ‘What God has joined together’ — Jesus, Mary and Joseph — ‘man should not tear asunder.’”
And like his wife, Joseph was first obedient to God’s will. We should Go to Joseph to help us do the same.
”Nothing was more important to him than to follow the will of God — which means he was always at the service of Jesus and Mary,” says Rick Sarkisian, Ph.D., author of Not Your Average Joe (LifeWork Press, 2004). For instance, he willingly — and at once — embarked on the flight to Egypt.
“We’re asked the same way to find God’s will, follow God’s will and fulfill God’s will,” Sarkisian points out.
Sarkisian reminds us that God often reveals his will in our daily lives: “That’s what Joseph did: not just in the giant events like the betrothal to Mary and Nativity of Jesus, but in everyday events.”
Father Toschi adds that Joseph went through many trials with faith. “So St. Joseph, who went through all these trials trusting in divine Providence, is one who can accompany us in our trials and suffering and trust in divine Providence,” he says. When we do, “God makes everything work together for the good.” We Go to Joseph to lead the way.
Father Toschi often tells fathers to Go to Joseph when they need help as a parent, with the same advice for people out of work or who are worried or upset.
In Chicago, Michael Wick has learned through devotion to St. Joseph to follow that route. Wick considers Joseph a great role model of doing God’s work in a simple way by just doing what you’re called to do.
“For me, he epitomizes someone who is attentive to God’s will and open to God’s way, because God’s ways are not always our ways,” Wick says.
Joseph can give us willingness to put aside our own agenda and fine tune it to what God reveals in the daily grind of the ordinary. That includes following the Church’s teachings, having openness to life, trying to provide for the family in these difficult economic times, and responding to the needs of spouse and children.
Wick also looks to Joseph as a protector because he protected the Holy Family at every turn.
“He’s a great example of trust in duty and as a husband and father,” Wick finds. “I turn to him seeking his inspiration and intercession.” Wick, who works for the Institute for Religious Life, an apostolate entrusted to St. Joseph by its founder, Servant of God Father John Hardon, goes to Joseph for that help as he raises his family of four children, 8 to 16, with wife Bianca.
When he makes decisions, he asks: Is that God’s will for me? Is this going to draw me closer or distract me from mission in life as husband and father? Is it going to draw the kids away from the purpose in life of getting closer to God? “I entrust Joseph to help discern and guide me in these decisions.”
He adds, “My wife and I had to make some limits on the children’s activities so God always comes first,” as they look to model the Holy Family praying, doing things together and being together.
Benedict XVI’s patron saint is Joseph. “For the sake of Christ he experienced persecution, exile and the poverty which this entails,” noted the Pope during an address preceding St. Joseph’s feast in 2009. “He had to settle far from his native town. His only reward was to be with Christ.”
In this and every event, Joseph was the first head of the domestic church, as John Paul II would later call the family. In fact, in his 1989 encyclical Redemptoris Custos (On the Person and Mission of St. Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church), he stated, “It is in the Holy Family, the original ‘Church in miniature,’ that every Christian family must be reflected.”
As fathers and mothers Go to Joseph, he will give them what they need to be that Church in miniature.
Asking for his intercession should go without saying.
Father Toschi points out that one really important prayer that’s neglected is the prayer to St. Joseph after the Rosary composed by Leo XIII. Added to Quamquam Pluries, it was also recommended by John Paul II in his encyclical on St. Joseph. There’s also the Litany of St. Joseph.
Wick also suggests the Prayer of Entrustment to St. Joseph (contact IRLstaff@religiouslife.com for free copies).
And Sarkisian recommends the nine- and 30-day novenas to Joseph. By praying we “constantly remind Joseph of how much we love him and how much we trust him,” he explains. “We’re asking him to take our greatest burdens, fears, worries and present them before the throne of God as the greatest saint in heaven next to Mary. He has immense power to cover us with his cloak and surround our lives with it in a profound way.”
All we have to do is Go to Joseph.
Register staff writer Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.