St. Joseph, Spouse of Our Lady, Confessor and Patron of the Universal Church
St. Joseph was by birth of the royal family of David, but was living in humble obscurity as a carpenter when God raised him to the highest sanctity, and fitted him to be the spouse of His Virgin Mother, and foster-father and guardian of the Incarnate Word. Joseph, says the Holy Scripture, was a just man; he was innocent and pure, as became the husband of Mary; he was gentle and tender, as one worthy to be named the father of Jesus; he was prudent and a lover of silence, as became the master of the holy house; above all, he was faithful and obedient to divine calls. His conversation was with angels rather than with men. When he learned that Mary bore within her womb the Lord of heaven, he feared to take her as his wife; but an angel bade him fear not, and all doubts vanished. When Herod sought the life of the divine Infant, an angel told Joseph in a dream to fly with the Child and His Mother into Egypt.
Joseph at once arose and obeyed. This sudden and unexpected flight must have exposed Joseph to many inconveniences and sufferings in so long a journey with a little babe and a tender virgin, the greater part of the way being through deserts and among strangers; yet he alleges no excuses, nor inquires at what time they were to return. St. Chrysostom observes that God treats thus all His servants, sending them frequent trials to clear their hearts from the rust of self-love, but intermixing seasons of consolation. “Joseph,” says he, “is anxious on seeing the Virgin with child; an angel removes that fear. He rejoices at the Child’s birth, but a great fear succeeds: the furious king seeks to destroy the Child, and the whole city is in an uproar to take away His life. This is followed by another joy, the adoration of the Magi; a new sorrow then arises: he is ordered to fly into a foreign unknown country, without help or acquaintance.” It is the opinion of the Fathers that upon their entering Egypt, at the presence of the child Jesus, all the oracles of that superstitious country were struck dumb, and the statues of their gods trembled and in many places fell to the ground. The Fathers also attribute to this holy visit the spiritual benediction poured on that country, which made it for many ages most fruitful in Saints. After the death of King Herod, of which St. Joseph was informed in another vision, God ordered him to return with the Child and His Mother into the land of Israel, which our Saint readily obeyed. But when he arrived in Judea, hearing that Archelaus had succeeded Herod in that part of the country, and apprehensive that he might be infected with his father’s vices, he feared on that account to settle there, as he would otherwise probably have done for the education of the Child; and therefore, being directed by God in another vision, he retired into the dominions of Herod Antipas, in Galilee, to his former habitation in Nazareth. St. Joseph, being a strict observer of the Mosaic Law, in conformity to its direction annually repaired to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Our Saviour, now in the twelfth year of His age, accompanied His parents thither. Having performed the usual ceremonies of the feast, they were returning with many of their neighbors and acquaintances towards Galilee; and never doubting but that Jesus was with some of the company, they travelled on for a whole day’s journey before they discovered that He was not with them.
But when night came on and they could hear no tidings of Him among their kindred and acquaintance, they, in the deepest affliction, returned with the utmost speed to Jerusalem. After an anxious search of three days they found Him in the Temple, discoursing with the learned doctors of the law, and asking them such questions as raised the admiration of all that heard Him, and made them astonished at the ripeness of His understanding; nor were His parents less surprised on this occasion. When His Mother told Him with what grief and earnestness they had sought Him, and asked, “Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us? behold Thy Father and I sought Thee in great affliction of mind,” she received for answer, “How is it that you sought Me? did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” But though thus staying in the Temple unknown to His parents, in all other things He was obedient to them, returning with them to Nazareth, and there living in all dutiful subjection to them. As no further mention is made of St. Joseph, he must have died before the marriage of Cana and the beginning of our divine Saviour’s ministry. We cannot doubt that he had the happiness of Jesus and Mary attending at his death, praying by him, assisting and comforting him in his last moments; whence he is particularly invoked for the great grace of a happy death and the spiritual presence of Jesus in that hour.
St. Hermenegild, Martyr
It is through a Martyr’s palm-branch that we must today see the Paschal Mystery. Hermenegild, a young Visigoth Prince, is put to death by his heretical father, because he courageously refused to receive his Easter Communion from an Arian Bishop. The Martyr knew that the Eucharist is the sacred symbol of Catholic unity; and that we are not allowed to approach the Holy Table in company with them that are not in the true Church. A sacrilegious consecration gives heretics the real possession of the Divine Mystery, if the priestly character be in him who dares to offer Sacrifice to the God whom he blasphemes; but the Catholic, who knows that he may not so much as pray with heretics, shudders at the sight of the profanation, and would rather die than share, by his presence, in insulting our Redeemer in that very Sacrifice and Sacrament, which were instituted that we might all be made one in God. The blood of the Martyr produced its fruit: Spain threw off the chains of heresy that had enslaved her, and a Council, held at Toledo, completed the work of conversion begun by Hermenegild’s sacrifice.
There are very few instances recorded in history of a whole Nation rising up in a mass to abjure heresy; but Spain did it, for she seems to be a country on which heaven lavishes exceptional blessings.
Shortly after this she was put through the ordeal of the Saracen invasion; she triumphed here again by the bravery of her children; and ever since then, her Faith has been so staunch and so pure, as to merit for her the proud title of The Catholic Kingdom. St. Gregory the Great, a contemporary of St. Hermenegild, has transmitted to us the following account of the martyrdom.
From the book of the Dialogues of Pope St Gregory the Great
King Hermenegild, son of Leovigild king of the Visigoths, was converted, from the Arian heresy, to the Catholic faith, by the preaching of the venerable Leander, Bishop of Seville, one of my oldest and dearest friends. His father, who continued in the Arian heresy, did his utmost, both by promises, and threats, to induce him to apostatize. But Hermenegild returned him ever the same answer, that he never could abandon the true faith, after having once known it. The father, in a fit of displeasure, deprived him not only of his right to the throne, but of everything he possessed. And when even this failed to break the energy of his soul, he had him put into close confinement with chains on his neck and hands. Hereupon the youthful king Hermenegild began to despise the earthly, and ardently to long for the heavenly, kingdom. Thus fettered, and wearing a hairshirt, he besought the Omnipotent God to support him. As to the glory of this fleeting world, he nobly looked on it with disdain, the more so as his captivity taught him the nothingness of that which could thus be taken from him. It was the Feast of Easter. At an early hour of the night, when all was still, his wicked father sent an Arian Bishop to him, with this message, that if he would receive Communion from his hands, (the Communion of a sacrilegious consecration!) he should be restored to favor. True to his Creator, the man of God gave a merited reproof to the Arian Bishop, and, with holy indignation, rejected his sinful offer; for though his body lay prostrate in chains, his soul stood on ground beyond the reach of tyranny. The Bishop therefore, returned whence he had come. The Arian father raged, and straightway sent his lictors, bidding them repair to the prison of the unflinching Confessor of the Lord, and murder him on the on the spot. They obeyed; they entered the prison; they cleft his skull with a sword; they took away the life of the body, and slew what he, the slain one, had sworn to count as vile. Miracles soon followed, whereby heaven testified to the true glory of Hermenegild; for during the night, there was heard sweet music nigh to the body of the King and Martyr, King indeed, because he was a Martyr.
It is said that lights were seen at the same time burning in the prison. The Faithful were led, by these signs, to revere the body, as being that of a martyr. As to the wicked father, he repented for having imbrued his hands in his son’s blood; but his repentance was not unto salvation, in as much as, whilst acknowledging the Catholic Faith to be the true one, he had not the courage to embrace it, for he feared the displeasure of his subjects.
When in his last sickness, and at the point of death, he commended his son Reccared, a heretic, to the care of Leander the Bishop, whom he had hitherto persecuted, but from whom he now asked, that he would do for this son what he had, by his exhortations, done for Hermenegild. Having made this request, he died, and was succeeded, on the throne, by Reccared, who taking, not his wicked father, but his martyred brother, as his model, he abandoned the impious Arian heresy, and led the whole Visigoth nation to the true Faith. He would not allow any man to serve in his armies, who dared to continue the enemy of the God of hosts by heresy. Neither is it to be wondered at, that being the brother of a Martyr, he should have become a propagator of the true Faith, for it was by Hermenegild’s merits that he has succeeded in reconciling so many thousands to the great God of heaven.
The Very Rev. Dom Gueranger – The Liturgical Year
Wednesday April 13
THE SOLEMNITY OF ST. JOSEPH
SPOUSE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, CONFESSOR AND PATRON OF THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH
With a commemoration of St. Hermenegild
THIRD WEDNESDAY AFTER EASTER
(Wednesday after Good Shepherd Sunday)
Double Feast of the First Class
With an Octave
INTROIT – Psalm 32: 20, 21
Adjutor, et protector noster est Dominus: ideo laetabitur cor nostrum, et in nomine sancto ejus speravimus, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Qui regis Israel, intende: qui deducis, velut ovem, Joseph. V. Gloria Patri .
Adjutor, et protector noster est Dominus…
The Lord is our helper and protector: in Him our heart shall rejoice, and in His holy Name we have trusted, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. (Ps. 79. 1). Give ear, O Thou that rulest Israel: Thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep. V. Glory be to the Father.
The Lord is our helper and protector…
O God, who in Thine unspeakable Providence wast pleased to choose blessed Joseph for the Spouse of Thy Most Holy Mother: grant, we beseech Thee, that we may be worthy to have him for our intercessor in heaven whom we honor as our protector upon earth. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost.
Commemoration of St. Hermenegild, M
O God, Who didst teach blessed Hermenegild, Thy Martyr, to choose a heavenly kingdom rather than an earthly one, grant us, we beseech Thee, to despise fleeting things, after his example, and to pursue those that are eternal. Through our Lord.
EPISTLE – Genesis 49: 22-26
Lesson from the Book of Genesis.
Joseph was a growing son, a growing son, and comely to behold: the daughters run to and fro upon the wall. But they that held darts provoked him, and quarreled with him and envied him. His bow rested upon the strong, and the bands of his arms and his hands were loosed, by the hands of the mighty one of Jacob: thence he came forth a pastor, the stone of Israel. The God of thy father shall be thy helper, and the Almighty shall bless thee with the blessings of heaven above, with the blessings of the deep that lieth beneath, with the blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of thy father are strengthened with the blessings of his father: until the desire of the everlasting hills shall come; may they be upon the head of Joseph, and upon the crown of the Nazarite among his brethren.
Alleluia, alleluia. V. In whatever tribulation they shall cry to me, I will hear them, and be their protector always. Alleluia. V. Obtain for us, Joseph, grace to lead an innocent life: and may our life ever be shielded by thy patronage. Alleluia.
GOSPEL – Luke 3: 21-23
Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Luke.
At that time: It came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also being baptized and praying, heaven was opened: and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape as a dove upon Him: and a voice came from heaven: Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased. And Jesus Himself was beginning about the age of thirty years: being (as it was supposed) the Son of Joseph, who was of Heli, who was of Mathat.
Psalm 147: 12, 13
Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem, because He hath strengthened the bolts of thy gates: He hath blessed thy children within thee. Alleluia, alleluia.
Supported by the patronage of thy Spouse of Thy Most Holy Mother, we beseech Thy clemency, O Lord, that Thou wouldst make our hearts to despise all earthy things and to love Thee, the true God, with perfect charity: who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost.
Commemoration of St. Hermenegild, M
Receive, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our offerings and prayers: cleanse us by virtue of these heavenly mysteries and graciously hear us. Through our Lord.
Preface of St. Joseph
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: and that we should magnify with due praises, bless and proclaim Thee on the Solemnity of blessed Joseph; who, being a just man, was given by Thee as a Spouse to the Virgin Mother of God, and, as a faithful and prudent servant was set over Thy Family, that, with fatherly care, he might guard Thine only-begotten Son, conceived by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, even Jesus Christ, our Lord. Through whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, and the Powers stand in awe. The heavens and the heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them we entreat Thee that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say with lowly praise:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dóminus, Deus Sábaoth. Pleni sunt coeli et terra glória tua. Hosánna in excélsis. Benedíctus, qui venit in nómine Dómini. Hosánna in excélsis.
Matthew 1: 16
But Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ, alleluia, alleluia.
We who are refreshed at the fountain of divine blessing, beseech Thee, O Lord our God: that as Thou makest us to rejoice in the protection of blessed Joseph so, by his merits and intercession, Thou wouldst make us to be sharers of heavenly glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth.
Commemoration of St. Hermenegild, M
Our strength renewed from having shared in Thy sacred gift, we beseech Thee, O Lord our God, that by the intercession of blessed Hermenegild, Thy Martyr, we may ever feel the mighty power of the sacrament we worship. Through our Lord.
Prayer to Joseph, Protector of the Church
Brave Joseph, collaborator in God’s project for humanity, your tenderness enfolds the newborn Church.
Just as Mary and Jesus recognize in you the protection of the Father, so too does the community of faith place itself under your protection.
Strengthen us with the Spirit that filled the Nazarene home and guide our footsteps on the road to the Kingdom.
Accompany us in carrying out our mission. Help us to be lights in the world so that the family of God may spring forth from humanity transfigured in Christ.
Grant us the strength to imitate God’s preference for the poor and weak. Guide us in our pastoral activities that our actions may be modeled on the Good News. Amen.