The gospel praises him very highly, calling him a just man, chosen by God from among men to be the foster-father of Christ who was subject to him as He was to His blessed Mother. The history of his childhood and youth has not been preserved, and of it, as of the rest of his life, we know only that which is related by the Evangelists. As we do not read that he was present at the marriage in Cana, it is supposed that before the commencement of Christ's ministry he died a happy death in the arms of Jesus and Mary.
The Introit of the Mass reads: The just shall flourish like the palm-tree: he shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus: planted in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God. It is good to give praise to the Lord: and to sing to Thy name, O Most High! (Ps. xci.) Glory be to the Father &c.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Vouchsafe, O Lord, that we may be helped by the merits of Thy most holy Mother's spouse: that what of ourselves we can not obtain may be given to us through his intercession. Who &c.
LESSON. (Ecclus. xlv. I 6.) He was beloved of God and men, whose memory is in benediction. He made him like the saints in glory, and magnified him in the fear of his enemies, and with his words he appeased monsters. He glorified him in the sight of kings, and gave him commandments in the sight of his people, and showed him his glory, he sanctified him in his faith and meekness, and chose him out of all flesh. For he heard him and his voice, and broughthim into a cloud. And he gave him commandments before his face, and a law of life and instruction.
APPLICATION. What is here said of Moses, may justly be applied to St. Joseph, for which reason the Church chooses this lesson for his festival day. That St. Joseph was beloved of God, is shown by his being chosen the foster-father of the Son of God, Jesus Christ; his memory is in benediction, and how could it be otherwise than blessed.
He was the foster-father of Him who from the commencement of the world, as its Creator, blessed all creatures, and who, by His death, as Redeemer, procured blessings and graces for us who, on account of our sins, deserved the curse of God. God has placed St. Joseph with the saints, and glorified him before all kings, for he was not only of royal blood, but he was foster-father to the King of kings. His humility, his purity and his faithful love of Mary enabled him while on earth to hear the tender voice of Jesus; God has also brought him into a cloud, that is, taken him up to heaven, where he now sees Him face to face, and is a most powerful intercessor for man.
GOSPEL. (Matt. I. 18-21.) WHEN Mary, the mother of Jesus, was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Whereupon Joseph, her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately. But while he thought on these things, behold the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a Son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Why was the Blessed Virgin espoused to St. Joseph"?
St. Jerome gives the following answer to this question: that by Joseph's descent from the house of David it might be established that Jesus and Mary belonged to the same line, for in the Old Law a woman was not permitted to marry out of her own tribe, when there were no male heirs; that Mary might not be stoned to death, as she would have been, if found unmarried with child ; that Christ might not be regarded as an illegitimate child and be, therefore, despised and repudiated; and that, as St. Ignatius the Martyr says, the birth of Christ thus, might remain concealed from the devil who, therefore, believed that Christ was not born of a virgin, but of a wife; finally, that Mary might have consolation and assistance, as at the time of the flight with Jesus into Egypt.
Why did St. Joseph wish to leave Mary privately?
Because he was not instructed concerning the divine mysteries, and could not from her pure, blameless life understand Mary's condition, and was too charitable to think or assert evil of her, or put her to shame.
Why did not Mary reveal these mysteries to him'?
Because of the humility which she loved so much that she would rather be suspected of evil than reveal the great grace which God had shown her; besides she also trusted that God Himself would care for her and make her innocence manifest.
ON THE VENERATION OF ST. JOSEPH.
ST. Alphonsus Liguori writes that the example of Christ who so highly venerated St. Joseph while on earth, and who during his whole life was obedient to him, should suffice to inspire all hearts with devotion to this great saint; and he, whom the King of kings placed so high, indeed deserves especial veneration from man. To encourage this veneration, St. Theresa wrote: "I do not remember that I ever prayed to St. Joseph for anything which he did not procure for me ; the great graces God has given me through him, and the many dangers of body and soul from which he has preserved me, are indeed truly wonderful. It seems as if God has given to other saints the grace to assist in some special manner those who seek their intercession; but of this glorious saint my experience is that he assists in every need. The Lord appears to show by this, that as He was subject to him on earth, so in heaven he does every thing which St. Joseph requests of Him. Others, whom I have advised to have recourse to him, have experienced the same thing. I would gladly so advise every one." "I have a great devotion to this saint," continues St. Alphonsus, "because I have so often experienced that he can obtain so much from God. For many years I have been accustomed to ask a special grace on his festival, and my prayer is always answered. As we must all die, we should all have a special devotion to St. Joseph, for all Catholics consider him as the patron of the dying, who assists in the hour of death those who have venerated him, and this for three reasons: because Jesus loves Him, not only as a friend, but as His father, on which account he is a more powerful intercessor than any other saint; because St. Joseph has a
special power against evil spirits who attack us in the hour of death; for since he freed our Saviour from the snares of Herod; God has given him the power to guard the dying from the attacks of the devil; lastly the assistance which Jesus and Mary rendered him in the hour of death, gives him the right to procure a sweet and holy death for his servants. If they, therefore, invoke him in the hour of death, he will not only aid them himself, but procure aid for them from Jesus and Mary."
Should not these words of so great a saint encourage us daily to honor St. Joseph? not this hope of being assisted in the hour of death by Jesus, Mary and Joseph, move us to devotion to the foster-father of Christ?
PRAYER TO ST. JOSEPH. O St. Joseph, Mary's pure bridegroom, who because of thy purity and love of justice wast chosen for the foster-father of Jesus Christ, do not leave me, I beseech thee, in my necessities and cares; ask for me the grace to live a just and pure life like thine, and grant, that I may obtain the happiness of dying, like thee, in the arms of Jesus and Mary. Amen.