Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity (Feast Day) of St. Joseph. We all know the story that St. Joseph was a simple carpenter from Nazareth who became the Spouse of the Virgin Mary and the foster father of Jesus. The Scriptures do not have any quotations of St. Joseph, but portray him as a man who loves and protects his family. He is a man of action who is always obedient to the guidance of the Holy Spirit such as when he obeyed the directive of the angel to take the pregnant Mary into his home (Matthew 1:24), when he obeyed the census of Caesar Augustus by going to Bethlehem (Luke 2:4), when he Presented Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:22), when he took Mary and the Infant Jesus to Egypt to protect his life from Herod (Matthew 2:14), when he returned to Israel with his family (Matthew 2: 21), and when he brought the 12 year old Jesus to Jerusalem for Passover (Luke 2:42). St. Joseph was present at the first Christmas in the stable and was there when the shepherds came to pay homage to the Savior (Luke 2:16).
In 1870 Blessed Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph to be the Patron of the Universal Church. In addition, St. Joseph is the Patron Saint of fathers, workers, social justice, carpenters, and dying. St. Therese appreciated St. Joseph’s contemplation and service of Jesus and Mary in simplicity, solitude, and poverty and his protection over the Church and her Carmel. She venerated him as the Protector of Virgins and commemorated his life in a poem that she wrote in 1894. It is not one of Therese’s best poems, but it is written with much love. Here are the first and last stanzas of her poem:
To Our Father Saint Joseph
Joseph, your admirable life
Took place in poverty,
But you contemplated the beauty
Of Jesus and Mary.
Joseph, O tender Father,
May your children on earth
Always savor the peace of Heaven!
After this life’s exile,
We have the sweet hope
That we shall go to see you, Saint Joseph,
With our dear Mother.
(The Poetry of Saint Therese of Lisieux, p. 80-81)
At the outset of her momentous trip to Rome in 1887, Therese prayed to St. Joseph at Our Lady of Victories Church in Paris. Therese related that, “I also prayed to St. Joseph, asking him to watch over me; ever since my childhood I had a devotion for him that easily merged with my love for the Blessed Virgin. I recited each day the prayer in his honor: “O St. Joseph, Father and Protector of virgins…” And so it was without any fear I undertook the long journey; being so well protected what was there to fear?” (Story of A Soul, p. 124)
We love you St. Joseph – Happy Solemnity.