“‘What a magnificent Saint St Joseph is!’ affirms the pious Bishop of Geneva. Not only is he a patriarch, but also the coryphaeus of all the patriarchs; he does not simply form part of the confessors of the faith, but has something extra, since his sanctity embraces the dignity of the bishops, the generosity of the martyrs and that of all other Saints.
HOLY SIMPLICITY, HOLY VIRGINITY
It is with good reason that St Joseph is compared to the palm, the king of trees, and which symbolises virginity, humility, and that of courageous tenacity; three virtues in which St Joseph is particularly distinguished. Many sustain that amongst all the Saints, St Joseph excelled in these three virtues.
In His divine providence, God established from all eternity that a Virgin would conceive a Son, Who would be both God and man; and yet She would have a husband. But for what reason, ask the holy doctors, did He ordain two things which are so incompatible: to remain a virgin and yet at the same time to be married? Most of the Fathers explain that it was to avoid Our Lady being calumniated by the Jews, who would, in fact, have calumniated Her and started to investigate Her story. Then divine Providence, in order to safeguard the purity and virginity of Mary, entrusted Her to the care of a chaste man, so that, in the shadow of the holy espousals, She would conceive and give birth to the sweet fruit of life, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The union between Mary and the glorious St Joseph was, so to say, divine. Thanks to it, the good of the eternal goods, that is Our Lord, belonged to St Joseph, just as, according to grace and not according to nature, He belonged to Mary. In fact Christ received His flesh from the womb of the most Holy Virgin by the workings of the Holy Spirit, whilst grace rendered St Joseph a participant in all the goods of his beloved Spouse. That explains his constant progress in all the virtues… How great were his dignity and his virtues, which likewise remained hidden under the veil of total poverty and simplicity.
LIVING IN A MORE HIDDEN WAY THROUGH HUMILITY
And yet let us think how great must have been the dignity of St Joseph: he had to take care of Our Lord, indeed he was His putative Father, apart from being the spouse of His Most Holy Mother. We cannot doubt that the Angels came in astonishment – one choir after the other – to contemplate, enraptured, the humility of St Joseph whilst he guarded that adorable Child in the poor workshop, where he laboured, in order to nourish the Son and the Mother Who had been entrusted to him.
St Joseph took great care to keep his virtues concealed under the shadow of holy humility, but above all he hid the precious pearl of his virginity. He accepted to get married, because no one would know this, and under the sacred veil of matrimony he would be able to live in a more hidden way.
This teaches us that for those who are virgins or who want to live a chaste life, this is not enough if one is not humble and does not guard his virtues within the precious casket of humility. Otherwise one risks ending up as did the foolish virgins, who, lacking humility and merciful charity, were turned away from the wedding of the Bridegroom and constrained to go to the wedding of this world.
On every occasion St Joseph was entirely submissive to the divine will. Who could doubt this? Pay attention: the Angel turns him and turns him again. He tells him to go to Egypt and Joseph goes; he orders him to return and he returns.
God wanted him to remain always poor; one of the heaviest trials to bear. But Joseph knew how to accept poverty with love and not for a certain amount of time, since he was poor for the whole of his life.
But what was his poverty? It was obscure and exposed to the uncertainty of the next day; his poverty was truly considerable. Voluntary poverty of which religious make profession, is bearable because it does not prohibit the use of what is necessary; only that which is superfluous is forbidden. But the poverty of St Joseph, of Jesus and of Mary was not like this. Though it was voluntary and loved, it was also obscure and painful.
We will be truly fortunate if we could enjoy the intercession of St Joseph. Certainly neither the Virgin Mary nor the glorious Son would refuse him anything. It will be enough to have faith in him and he will obtain for us the grace to grow efficaciously in all the virtues, but especially in those which characterised he himself: purity of body and spirit, a most amiable humility, constancy and persevering courage.”
– St Francis de Sales (published in “De Vita Contemplativa”, March 2013; capital headings added)