Dear Father Angelo,
First of all, I thank you for your quick response to my problems referred to in my first letter. I assure you that I will be active as soon as possible with my parish priest. In September, a new very young priest will arrive in my parish about whom great things are said, while our now elderly and battered parish priest will continue as long as Heaven wishes to support him. As soon as he is there, I will introduce myself to him.
In this new letter I would like to ask you a question that has been close to my heart since I was a child and concerns the figure of St. Joseph, putative father of Jesus. I have always been attracted and curious about this figure and I have always wondered why he is apparently a second-rate figure. I read somewhere that St. Joseph is endowed with immense holiness and has a very powerful power of intercession with God and in this he is second only to the Virgin Mary, his bride, and is even more powerful than the Most Holy Peter and Paul. Did St. Joseph perform miracles? Why was he not also taken up into Heaven body and soul like Mary? How can you pray to St. Joseph? In what way is prayer addressed to him more effective? I would also like to know what this great saint represents for you Father Angelo.
An hearthfelt thank for this immense and precious work of yours. You convinced me that theology is the supreme science.
Answer from the priest
I gladly answer your questions about St. Joseph.
The answer to your first questions I get from a beautiful book on Saint Joseph written by French Dominican Michel Gasnier, entitled ‘Joseph The Silent’.
Personally, I have not read a more precise and complete book on St. Joseph than this one.
1. On the holiness of Saint Joseph
It was commonplace among the theologians of the sixteenth century to compare the greatness of Joseph with that of the other saints in order to specify for him the proper place in the assembly of those whom God crowned in Heaven. Often in their discussions, the text of St. Gregory of Nazianzen returns, which it had predicted, “The Lord has gathered in St. Joseph as in the sun that light and splendor that all the other Saints have together”.
When God predestines a soul for a mission, he certainly adorns it with all the gifts necessary for it to be able to carry it out. And after that of Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word, what function surpassed or equaled that of Joseph, the adoptive father of Christ and the Spouse of his Mother?
Comparing him therefore to Mary, it was rightly said that, after her, no creature was so close to the Incarnate Word and that consequently, no one ever possessed sanctifying grace in the same degree.
Leo XIII in his encyclical “Quamquam pluries” echoes this opinion. “Certainly,” he writes, “the dignity of Mother of God is so high, that nothing can be created above her. However, since Joseph was united with the marital bond to the Blessed Virgin, there is no doubt that he came closer than any other to that supreme dignity by which the Mother of God surpasses all creatures in such a high degree.”
For having carried in his arms the One who is the very heart and soul of the Church, he was considered greater than St. Peter, on whom Jesus had declared that he wanted to build it.
For having lived thirty years in the intimacy of Christ and in the continuous meditation of the spectacle of his life, his greatness was esteemed superior to that of St. Paul who had received the revelation of the sublime mysteries.
He was esteemed even greater than St. John the Evangelist who had the privilege of resting his head only once on the Savior’s chest, while he had often heard the beating of his small heart.
He was greater than the Apostles who propagated only the adorable name of Jesus, the name that Joseph instead imposed on him for mission.
The attempt to place Joseph above St. John the Baptist seemed more difficult by the words of Christ, “In truth, I tell you that among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared.” The difficulty that was smoothed out by rightly saying that Jesus, in pronouncing those words, wanted to establish a comparison with the prophets of the Old Testament who had announced the future Christ, while John the Baptist announced him in the present. We can add that the words of Jesus were intended to compare the greatness of John the Baptist, the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, with the new greatness conferred on an elect with the appeal to the kingdom of heaven, of that kingdom of which the Church on earth, represented the first phase; for this he adds: “Qui minor est in Regno coelorum major est illo”. Which can be translated as, “Whatever the greatness of John the Baptist, who closes the Old Testament, it disappears before the least of Christians”.
The doctrine of the pre-eminence of St. Joseph over the other saints is presented today with serious guarantees. It tends to become the accepted common teaching of the Church. The declaration of Leo XIII that we have quoted is particularly revealing on this point. “…On the other hand, what can be assumed for certain is that Joseph, confirmed in grace from the moment of his marriage to the Holy Virgin, benefiting from the continuous proximity of the one who had been immaculate in his conception, and having never resisted the graces of vocation, saw continually increase the supernatural treasure in his soul. He was thus able to rise to such a high degree of perfection that sin was as alien to him as possible for a human creature” [Michel Gasnier, ‘Joseph The Silent’ translation of the translator].
2. Is Saint Joseph in heaven with his soul and body?
M. Gasnier still writes, “Certain authors including Suarez, S. Bernardino of Siena, S. Francesco di Sales and Bossuet, and also many Fathers of the Church, still consider it certain that Joseph joined those Saints mentioned in the Gospel (Mt 27,52-53) who came out of their tombs after the death of Jesus and appeared in the city of Jerusalem.” St. Thomas tells us that their resurrection was definitive and absolute. St. Francis de Sales goes so far as to write, “If it is true, and we must believe it, that by virtue of the Holy Sacret Sacrament that we receive, our bodies will resurrect at the day of judgment, how can we doubt that our Lord didn’t make the glorious St. Joseph ascend to heaven in body and soul, who had had the honor and the grace to carry him often in those blessed arms in which he so gladly was there? St. Joseph is therefore in heaven in body and soul, without a doubt”.
Those who adhere to this opinion argue that Jesus, choosing an escort of resurrected ones to affirm his resurrection with greater force and give greater glory to his triumph, had to take among them and put his adoptive father first and that on the other hand The Holy Family reconstituted in heaven, without the glorious assumption of Joseph in body and soul, would have been a discordant note in his exaltation of glory.
Such statements are undoubtedly respectable, but we do not have any means of control: nothing prevents us from considering them as probable as they do not force us to affirm them.
The contrary opinion has several supporters, they do not currently admit in heaven other glorious bodies than those of Our Lord and his Holy Mother” (Michel Gasnier, ‘Joseph The Silent’ t.t.).
3. On the exceptional power of intercession of St. Joseph
Regarding the intercession of Saint Joseph, I here repeat what I wrote in an answer published on 6 July 2013, “We know that the Saints are of various sizes because St. Paul remembers it when he says, ‘One is the splendor of the sun, another the splendor of the moon and the other the splendor of the stars. In fact, each star differs from another in its splendor” (1 Cor 15:41).
But who has more we do not know, with the exception of the Madonna and St. Joseph to whom the Church pays respects of hyperdulia (above all saints) and protodulia (first of all saints). So many cases that you presented to me in the further questions (which I have cut out) are affected, as you say, by a superstitious mentality.
Saint Teresa of Avila has a beautiful saying in her autobiography about the intercessory power of Saint Joseph, “When I saw the state in which the doctors of the earth had reduced me and how I was all disgruntled at such a young age, I decided to turn to the doctors of heaven and ask them for health, because although I endured that disease with so much joy, I also wanted to heal. (…) I, on the other hand, took the glorious St. Joseph as my advocate and patron, and I commended myself to him with fervor. This Father and Protector of mine helped me in the need in which I found myself and in many other more serious ones in which my honor and the health of my soul were at stake. I saw clearly that his help was always greater than I could have hoped for. I do not remember until now that I have ever prayed to him for a grace without having immediately obtained it. And it is a wonder to remember the great favors that the Lord has done me and the dangers of soul and body from which he freed me through the intercession of this blessed Saint. It seems to other Saints that God has granted to help us in this or that other need, while I have experienced that the glorious St. Joseph extends his patronage over all of them. With this the Lord wants us to understand that in the way that he was subject to him on earth, where he as a putative father could command him, so also in heaven he does everything he asks of him. This has also been recognized by other people who, following my advice, have recommended themselves to his patronage. Many others have recently become his devotees for experiencing this truth. I tried to celebrate his feast with the greatest possible solemnity. (…) Due to the great experience I have of the favors obtained by St. Joseph, I would like everyone to be persuaded to be devoted to him. I have not known a person who is truly devoted to him and renders him any particular service without making progress in virtue. He greatly helps those who recommend themselves to him. For several years now, on the day of his feast, I have asked him for some grace, and I have always seen myself granted. If my question isn’t that straightforward, he straightens it for my greater good. If my word could be authoritative, I would gladly dwell in detail the graces that this glorious saint has given to me and to others ” (Saint Teresa of Avila,’Life’, VI, 5-8).
4. The Holy Scriptures do not tell us of miracles performed by St. Joseph.
From the testimony of Saint Teresa the graces obtained through her intercession are very numerous. Indeed Saint Teresa said she had never heard that someone had not been heard by Saint Joseph. As a sign of this, the prayer Memorare that Saint Bernard wrote for Mary has been transcribed on a paralel for Saint Joseph.
I would like to propose it again in our version.
Remember, most illustrious St. Joseph, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored thy help or sought thy intersection was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence I fly unto you, my spiritual father and beg for your protection. O putative Father of the Redimer, despise not my petitions, but graciously and hear me and answer me. Amen.
I do not cease to recommend it to everyone and to recite it every day for their own problems, especially for economic and working ones.
5. Beyond this, what to ask of St. Joseph?
Blessed Giacinto Cormier, Master General of the Dominican Order, who died in 1916, recommended asking St. Joseph for devotion to Our Lady, because no one among creatures loved, honored and served her as much as he did.
Pope John, since he was a boy, recited every day the Virginum custos prayer, to ask St. Joseph for protection over purity.
Here it is:
“Guardians of virgins, and holy father Saint Joseph, to whose faithful custody was entrusted the same Innocence Christ Jesus and Mary, the Virgin of the Virgins; I pray and beseech thee for this dear pledges, Jesus and Mary, that, being preserved from all impurity, I may with spotless mind, pure hearth and chast body, ever serve Jesus and Mary most chastely all the day of my life. Amen”.
As there are prayers to St. Joseph, there is also the very beautiful one of Leo XIII, “To you, o Blessed Joseph …”.
There are also the Litanies and those that pass under the name of the Holy Mantle .
I also urge you to invoke him every evening before going to sleep, saying:
“Jesus, Joseph and Mary, I give you my heart and my soul;
Jesus, Joseph and Mary, assist me in my last agony;
Jesus, Joseph and Mary, may my soul expire in peace with you”.
I thank you for the questions you asked me and I am sure the answers will be very useful for our visitors. I urge you to persevere in your devotion to Saint Joseph. You will always make big gains.
For this I assure you of my prayers and I bless you.
Translated by Marina Nelson
Reviewed by Bob e Martha Nelson