Tuesday, April 01, 2008

St Joseph, Protector of the Carmelite Order - pray for us!

St Teresa devotion to St Joseph in her own words - taken from 'Autobiography' chapter 6

I took for my advocate and lord the glorious Saint Joseph and commended myself earnestly to him; and I found that this my father and lord delivered me both from this trouble and also from other and greater troubles concerning my honour and the loss of my soul, and that he gave me greater blessings than I could ask of him. I do not remember even now that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant. I am astonished at the great favours which God has bestowed on me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which He has freed me, both in body and in soul. To other saints the Lord seems to have given grace to succour us in some of our necessities but of this glorious saint my experience is that he succours us in them all and that the Lord wishes to teach us that as He was Himself subject to him on earth (for, being His guardian and being called His father, he could command Him) just so in Heaven He still does all that he asks. This has also been the experience of other persons whom I have advised to commend themselves to him; and even to-day there are many who have great devotion to him through having newly experienced this truth.I used to try to keep his feast with the greatest possible solemnity; but, though my intentions were good, I would observe it with more vanity than spirituality, for I always wanted things to be done very meticulously and well. I had this unfortunate characteristic that, if the Lord gave me grace to do anything good, the way I did it was full of imperfections and extremely faulty. I was very assiduous and skilful in wrongdoing and in my meticulousness and vanity. May the Lord forgive me. I wish I could persuade everyone to be devoted to this glorious saint, for I have great experience of the blessings which he can obtain from God. I have never known anyone to be truly devoted to him and render him particular services who did not notably advance in virtue, for he gives very real help to souls who commend themselves to him. For some years now, I think, I have made some request of him every year on his festival and I have always had it granted. If my petition is in any way ill directed, he directs it aright for my greater good.
If I were a person writing with authority, I would gladly describe, at greater length and in the minutest detail, the favours which this glorious saint has granted to me and to others. But in order not to do more than I have been commanded I shall have to write about many things briefly, much more so than I should wish, and at unnecessarily great length about others: in short, I must act like one who has little discretion in all that is good. I only beg, for the love of God, that anyone who does not believe me will put what I say to the test, and he will see by experience what great advantages come from his commending himself to this glorious patriarch and having devotion to him. Those who practise prayer should have a special affection for him always. I do not know how anyone can think of the Queen of the Angels, during the time that she suffered so much with the Child Jesus, without giving thanks to Saint Joseph for the way he helped them. If anyone cannot find a master to teach him how to pray, let him take this glorious saint as his master and he will not go astray. May the Lord grant that I have not erred in venturing to speak of him; for though I make public acknowledgment of my devotion to him, in serving and imitating him I have always failed. He was true to his own nature when he cured my paralysis and gave me the power to rise and walk; and I am following my own nature in using this favour so ill.Who would have said that I should fall so soon, after receiving so many favours from God, and after His Majesty had begun to grant me virtues which themselves aroused me to serve Him; after I had seen myself at death's door and in such great peril of damnation; after He had raised me up, in soul and in body, so that all who saw me were amazed to see me alive? What it is, my Lord, to have to live a life so full of perils! For here I am writing this, and it seems to me that with Thy favour and through Thy mercy I might say with Saint Paul, though not so perfectly as he: For it is not I now who live, but Thou, my Creator, livest in me. For some years, so far as I can see, Thou hast held me by Thy hand, and I find I have desires and resolutions -- tested to a certain extent, during these years, in many ways, by experience -- to do nothing contrary to Thy will, however trifling it may be, though I must often have caused Thy Majesty numerous offences without knowing it. It seems to me, too, that nothing can present itself to me which I would not with great resolution undertake for love of Thee, and some of these things Thou hast helped me successfully to accomplish. I desire neither the world nor anything that is worldly, and nothing seems to give me pleasure unless it comes from Thee: everything else seems to me a heavy cross. I may well be mistaken and it may be that I have not the desire that I have described; but Thou seest, my Lord, that, so far as I can understand, I am not lying. I am afraid, and with good reason, that Thou mayest once more forsake me; for I know well how little my strength and insufficiency of virtue can achieve if Thou be not ever granting me Thy grace and helping me not to forsake Thee. May it please Thy Majesty that I be not forsaken by Thee even now, while I am thinking all this about myself. I do not know why we wish to live, when everything is so uncertain. I used to think, my Lord, that it was impossible to forsake Thee wholly; yet how many times have I forsaken Thee! I cannot but fear; for, when Thou didst withdraw from me but a little, I fell utterly to the ground. Blessed be Thou for ever! For, though I have forsaken Thee, Thou hast not so completely forsaken me as not to raise me up again by continually giving me Thy hand. Often, Lord, I would not take it, and often when Thou didst call me a second time I would not listen, as I shall now relate.

Today's image is by F. de Herrera the Elder


O glorious St. Joseph, under your patronage may my interior life grow and develop.

1. Today the Church presents St. Joseph, the great Patriarchs, to whose care God willed to entrust the most chosen portion of His flock, Mary and Jesus. Because Joseph was selected by God to be the guardian of the family of the Nazareth, the nucleus of the great Christian family, the Church recognizes in him the Guardian and patron of all Christendom. Herein lies the significance of today's Feast, which invites us to fix our attention on the mission entrusted to this great Saint in relation to Jesus and to the Church. Aware of the great mystery of the Incarnation, Joseph's whole life gravitated about that of the Incarnate Word: for Him he endured worry, suffering, fatigue, labour. To Him he consecrated all his solicitude, his energy, his resources, his time. He reserved nothing for himself, but completely oblivious of any personal needs, desires, or views, he devoted himself entirely to the interests and the needs of Jesus. Nothing existed for Joseph except Jesus and Mary, and he felt that his life on earth had no other raison d'etre than his care of them. In this way he participated fully, as a humble, hidden collaborator, in this work of the Redemption; if he did not accompany Jesus in His apostolic life and to His death on the Cross - as Mary did - nevertheless, he worked for the same end as the Saviour. Having been the faithful guardian of the Holy Family, it is impossible that from the heights of heaven St. Joseph should not continue to protect the great Christian family, the Universal Church, which , confident of his protection, and relying on his assistance, prays thus: "Sustained, O Lord, by the protection of the spouse of Your holy Mother, we beseech Your clemency....that by his merits and intercession You will guide us to eternal glory" (Roman Missal).

2. St. Joseph's vocation to become the guardian of the Holy Family was also an invitation to divine intimacy. We must not forget that he stood at the dividing line between Old and New Testament. The first part of his life belonged to the Old Testament, the second, to the New. Before the coming of Jesus, he, like all the patriarchs of the Old Law, would certainly have followed the trend of his time, and his relations with God would have been especially influenced by the sentiment of reverent fear. But as soon as the Angel revealed to him the mystery of Incarnation, and he learned that Mary his Spouse was to be the Mother of the Redeemer , everything in his life changed. God, whom he had always honoured as the Most High, the Inaccessible, the Thrice Holy, had now come near to him, so near that He had taken flesh in the womb of his Spouse, and had chosen him, Joseph, as His foster father. As soon as Jesus was born, He was placed in Joseph's arms and entrusted to his care; later He would grow in his sight, be fed at his table, and sleep under his roof. What a life of intimacy! And it was not only an intimacy of external relations, but also one of profoundly interior, spiritual relations, for Joseph knew by faith that Jesus was his God. Thus, together with Mary, this great Saint was the first one to enter into that life of love and intimacy with God, to which Jesus opened the door. Let us, then, watch Joseph fulfill his mission, not only with complete exterior dedication, but also with a heart filled with Jesus, a heart in which a glorious life of divine intimacy flourishes. While he is devoting himself to the work required by his position as foster father, he lives, in the secrecy of his heart, in continual relations of love with his God, the Incarnate Word.
In the Church, each one of us has his mission to fulfill for the good of souls and the glory of God. This mission requires work - often fatiguing work - and much sacrifice and intense activity. Like St. Joseph, we must give ourselves generously and totally, without sparing, without reserve, but, at the same time, we must also give ourselves to the works of God with a heart filled with God, with a heart which lives with Him in an intimacy nourished by the assiduous exercise of prayer. St. Joseph teaches us the blessed secret of a life of combined activity and contemplation, so that, following his example, we may give ourselves to the active life without neglecting our life of intimate union with God.


........O glorious Saint, it is a thing which truly astonishes me, the great favours which God has bestowed on me and the perils from which He has freed me, both in body and in soul, through your intercession. To other saints the Lord seems to have given grace to succour us in some of our necessities, but you succour us in them all...... If anyone cannot find a master to teach him how to pray, let him take you as his master and he will not go astray" (T.J. Life, 6).
May the life of the whole Church, as well as the interior life of every Christian, grow and prosper under your patronage, O Saint Joseph. I place my spiritual life under your protection. You, who lived so close to Jesus, bring me to intimacy with Him with a heart full of love.

credit: "Divine Intimacy" by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen OCD