Monday, March 19, 2012

The Place of St. Joseph in Marian Devotion

March 19th, Solemnity of St. Joseph the Spouse of Mary

A careful reader will notice that St. Louis-Marie de Montfort makes no mention whatsoever of St. Joseph in either the “True Devotion to Mary” or the “Secret of Mary”. Indeed, it is quite common that books of Marian devotion have very little to say about the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin and Foster-father of our Savior.

In this little post, I intend to give a few indications of the place of St. Joseph in Marian devotion, and specifically in the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary. Further, I will offer one explanation as to why he so often seems to be left-out.

Why didn’t St. Louis-Marie write more about St. Joseph?

De Montfort did compose a prayer to St. Joseph to be used in his fifth method of praying the Rosary (from the “Secret of the Rosary”). The prayer is said with the sorrowful mysteries and is modeled on the Hail Mary:

“Hail Joseph the just, Wisdom is with you; blessed are you among all men and blessed is Jesus, the fruit of Mary, your faithful spouse. Holy Joseph, worthy foster-father of Jesus Christ, pray for us sinners and obtain divine Wisdom for us from God, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Beyond this little prayer, there is no significant mention of St. Joseph in any of St. Louis-Marie’s Marian works.

Perhaps one reason why St. Louis-Marie wrote so little about St. Joseph was that the Church herself had not yet awakened to devotion to this holy Patron. Though the first church building dedicated to his honor was consecrated in 1129, and not excluding his presence in visions given to numerous saints (including St. Bridget of Sweden), St. Joseph was not inserted into the Litany of the Saints until 1726.

We do not say that there was no devotion to St. Joseph; after all, St. Thomas Aquinas and numerous other Dominican saints were quite zealous in promoting his devotion. Further, we recall that St. Teresa of Jesus dedicated the reformed Order of Carmelites to St. Joseph as their special Patron. Still, it is noteworthy that it was not until the nineteenth century that devotion to St. Joseph had spread throughout the Church and among the laity.

This is probably why St. Louis-Marie does not make any mention of St. Joseph in his two principle works on the Total Consecration, devotion to the Saint was yet little known or practiced.

What a blessing it is for us to live in these days when devotion to St. Joseph is universal and zealous throughout the whole Church!

We consider the Marian aspect of devotion to St. Joseph through the following five titles taken from the Litany to St. Joseph: The Spouse of the Mother of God, the chaste Guardian of the Virgin Mary, the Foster-father of the Son of God, the watchful Defender of Christ, and the Head of the Holy Family.

The Spouse of the Mother of God

St. Joseph is the true spouse of Mary. Writing in defense of this marriage, St. Thomas Aquinas states that marriage is true by virtue of the inseparable union of souls in the bond of mutual affection (and this the Blessed Mary and St. Joseph did have perfectly). [cf. ST III, q.29, a2]

Now, if Mary and Joseph were bound by an inseparable union of souls brought about through true mutual affection and most chaste love, how can we fail to see that whosoever is wholly consecrated to Mary (such that the soul of Mary lives within him), but have the most tender devotion to St. Joseph as well?

The chaste Guardian of the Virgin Mary

God willed that Mary and Joseph should be wed so that the Blessed Virgin might be protected from any ill-repute or physical harm. The Just Joseph is the true guardian of Mary and of the Church.

In our own day, there are so many attacks leveled against those who strive to consecrate themselves wholly to Mary according to the method of St. Louis-Marie! Indeed, even among the so-called “devout” Catholics, it is not uncommon to hear people dismiss de Montfort and the Total Consecration as “extreme” or “excessive” or even “sectarian”.

Today, more than ever, those children of Mary who have given themselves wholly over in slavery to her, need the guardianship and protection of St. Joseph.

The Foster-father of the Son of God and watchful Defender of Christ

Marriage is ordered to the begetting and upbringing of children, which was fulfilled in the Holy Family by a miracle. For, while the Child is not the natural son of Joseph, yet the Just Man was wholly dedicated to the care and raising of Mary’s divine Son.

St. Louis-Marie’s Total Consecration is ordered to the formation of Jesus in the soul through the power of the Holy Spirit who, in whichever soul he should find the Blessed Virgin, never fails to produce Christ therein.

Now, if Mary’s Son is to be formed in the soul wholly consecrated to her, can we doubt that St. Joseph must indeed be the Foster-father of that soul?

The Head of the Holy Family

If Mary, and even Jesus himself, were obedient to St. Joseph (as head of the Holy Family), how much more must the soul formed in Jesus and Mary be obedient to the same Just Man!

What more needs be said? Let us place ourselves under the care, protection, guardianship, and rule of Blessed Joseph!

In imitation of Christ and of his holy Mother, Ite ad Ioseph! Go to Joseph! In his loving embrace, you shall find Mary. And, in her womb, the Christ.

The Litany of St. Joseph

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Illustrious son of David, etc.
Light of the patriarchs,
Spouse of the Mother of God,
Chaste guardian of the Virgin,
Foster-father of the Son of God,
Watchful defender of Christ,
Head of the Holy Family,
Joseph most just,
Joseph most chaste,
Joseph most prudent,
Joseph most valiant,
Joseph most obedient,
Joseph most faithful,
Mirror of patience,
Lover of poverty,
Model of workmen ,
Glory of domestic life,
Guardian of virgins,
Pillar of families,
Solace of the afflicted,
Hope of the sick,
Patron of the dying,
Terror of demons,
Protector of Holy Church,

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.

V. He made him the lord of His household,
R. And prince over all His possessions.

Let Us Pray.
O God, Who in Thine ineffable providence didst choose Blessed Joseph to be the spouse of Thy most Holy Mother, grant that as we venerate him as our protector on earth, we may deserve to have him as our intercessor in Heaven, Thou Who livest and reignest forever and ever.
R. Amen.


David said...

Wonderful, Father, simply wonderful! Thank you!

MarkA said...

Thank you, Father, for your thoughtful piece on my beloved Guardian and favorite saint. The only reason that I'm not doing my total consecration to Mary with you this Lent is because I just did it (according to the method of St. Louis-Marie) for the Feast of the Assumption in 2011.

A blessed Solemnity of St. Joseph to you, Father. May the Terror of Demons protect you.

KYpapist said...

We have been praying this Litany for weeks now (and will continue to do so) at Old St. Mary's Church in Cincinnati for the new Society of Our Lady of the Assumption Oratory of St. Philip Neri which is being established tonight at a Mass with Archbishop Dennis Schnurr. Please pray for this new Society, so far one priest and 2 seminarians, that they may prove a fruitful source of holy priestly vocations. Next week on our Patronal Feast of the Annuciation, Bishop Binzer will be here to do the Total Consecration. God is so good!!!

Bobby Bambino said...

Thanks for this, Father. If you have a moment, I have a somewhat tangential question. You mention that Joseph was the true spouse of Mary, but we as Catholic believe (I think, please correct me if this is in error) that the Holy Spirit is also in a very real sense the spouse of Mary. How are we to respond to say our Protestant brethren who claim that this teaching amounts to polygamy or that Mary can only have one spouse and that one cannot affirm that she was both the spouse of Joseph and the Holy Spirit? I am sure the problem is reconciled in a very careful distinction, but I am not sure what that is. Thank you Father.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Bobby B.,
I think that the answer lies in the fact that sacramental human marriage is a sign of the mystical marriage between God and the soul.

Thus, the true marriage of Mary and Joseph is a sacramental sign (and, of course, a reality of grace).
While the union between Mary and the Holy Spirit is the pure reality. (which is something greater in Mary than in any other creature, excepting only the humanity of our Savior)

Hope that helps somewhat! +

Wulfrano Ruiz Sainz said...

St. Joseph is a reflection of God The Father.

Anonymous said...

My Father Lasance prayerbook has "Solace of the wretched" rather than "Solace of the afflicted" in the Litany. For myself, I prefer the former, as it fits me better.

St. Joseph is the tops! No one ever prays to him without getting an answer. There is something very different about him. You can even sense it when you pray to him.

St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, pray for us!


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father Erlenbush, for this moving post. Saint Joseph is the model for a real man: faithful, devoted, hard-working, and humble. Little wonder, then, that he is the Protector of the Universal Church. The fact that the Blessed Mother married him should tell us all we need to know about this great man. Thanks be to God for raising up this prince of a saint!

mill7079 said...

Father Ryan,
We are so blessed to have your wisdom and teachings available to us. I loved this post and hope to learn so much more! You are such a blessing to those around you! Thanks so much!


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