– Miguel Augusto (*)
March is especially dedicated to honoring the spouse of Mary and foster father of Jesus. The man Jesus Christ – true God and true Man – himself called “father” is a saint venerated by the saints. To venerate means to honor. It is called the “cult of dulia” (from the Greek “douleuo”). The Church honors Mary with a special “hyperdulia” cult, of a higher order than the cult given to the other saints; and Saint Joseph is given the cult of “protodulia,” that is, he is honored as the first among the Saints, after Mary Most Holy. There is an axiom that says: “Gloria sanctorum imitatio eorum” (the glory of the saints is in the imitation of their virtues). Saint Joseph gave his whole life to protect Jesus and Mary. In the Scriptures, we do not hear a single word from him, but his silence is a school of virtues for every Christian.
In Macau – as in the rest of the world – there are many churches, institutions, places and families consecrated to St Joseph. In the territory, there are six Diocesan Colleges (CDSJ) dedicated to him, two of them in the vicinity of the church of the Cathedral and “Paço Episcopal.” In the center of the city, next to the church of St Augustine we have the Seminary of St Joseph, and in the north area, the University of St Joseph (Ilha Verde), and the parish of St Joseph the Worker (Yau Hon).
O Clarim asked the parish priest of St Joseph the Worker church, Father Manuel António Machado, to find out about the celebrations or festivities in particular that will take place on the day of the church patron. Father Machado told us that March 19 was a normal day, and added that, being dedicated to St Joseph the Worker, the parish will celebrate his feast on May 1. There will be a Mass celebrated by Bishop D. Stephen Lee, and followed by a celebration dinner.
Each year, on March 19 the Church uses white or gold vestments to observe the feast of St Joseph, instead of the usual purple vestment for Lent. The only other day when they use the same color is March 25, Feast of the Annunciation of our Lady and the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis inaugurated his pontificate on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, who is also the Patron of the Universal Church. On March 19, 2013, St Peter’s Square in Rome welcomed the Pope at the beginning of his pontificate at the service of the Church and the world. On this occasion, the Pope said: “I thank the Lord for being able to celebrate this Holy Mass of the beginning of the Petrine ministry on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary and patron of the Universal Church: it is a very rich coincidence of meaning.”
Learning from the Silence of St Joseph
St Joseph’s silence in the Scriptures, and his full obedience to God, have much to teach us. St Joseph (just like the Blessed Mother) shows us through his silence that it is in humility, in silence and obedience, that God comes to meet us and performs miracles in our lives. God reveals Himself to the little ones (Matthew 11:25), to the humble, and to them is given the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3).
In the Gospels, we see how God communicated with St Joseph through His angel in dreams. From the time Joseph thought of leaving Mary when he found that she was with child, Joseph was comforted in a dream by the angel of the Lord: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-25). St Joseph, from that hour on, always followed promptly what the Lord communicated to him by the angel in dreams.
The adopted father of Jesus had his greatness recognized by all the saints, by the popes and by Jesus Himself, who, in an apparition to St Margaret of Cortona, declared: “Daughter, if you wish to make me something pleasant, I beg you not to let a day pass without giving some tribute of praise and blessing to my adoptive father, Saint Joseph, who is very dear to me.”
Recognition of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church
Many Fathers and Doctors, among whom we find St John Chrysostom, St Epiphanius, St John Damascene, St Ambrose, St Jerome and St Augustine, exalted the virtues of St Joseph, especially: justice, virginity and the spiritual fatherhood in relation to Jesus.
Saint Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori stated that God granted St Joseph all the gifts he bestowed on all the other saints together.
Saint Francis de Sales, wrote: “Saint Joseph surpassed, in purity, the angels of the highest hierarchy.”
St Jerome, first translator of the Bible into Latin, recorded: “Joseph was called ‘Just’ because he possessed, in a perfect way, all the virtues.”
St Bernard, one of the greatest eminences in the history of the Church, declared: “From his vocation, consider the multiplicity, the excellence, the sublimity of the supernatural gifts with which God enriched him.”
Saint Teresa of Ávila, one of the most devted to the saint, wrote: “I took for my advocate and lord the glorious Saint Joseph and commended myself earnestly to 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 the body and in the soul.”
Pope Benedict XVI, as a theologian, gives us a vision of Saint Joseph in the light of the scriptures: “The figure of this great Saint, even though remaining somewhat hidden, is of fundamental importance in the History of Salvation. Above all, as part of the tribe of Judah, he united Jesus to the Davidic lineage so that, fulfilling the promises regarding the Messiah, the Son of the Virgin Mary may truly be called the ‘son of David’.”
Saint Joseph, Patron of Workers
On May 1 the Church points us to Saint Joseph as the worker model. St Paul told the Thessalonians that “if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
St Josemaría Escrivá founded Opus Dei with the goal of “sanctifying work and being sanctified by it.”
As Confucius said, “Work is the sentinel of virtue,” and the saints added that “idleness is the workshop of the devil.”
There is a Chinese proverb which states that “it is not the weed that kills the plant, but the laziness of the farmer.”
Saint Joseph patron of the Good Death
The death of Saint Joseph is mysterious, but the most sublime one can imagine. Can there be a better passage to eternal life than between the arms of Jesus and Mary? There are no records of the death of St Joseph, but it is commonly accepted that he died before the beginning of Jesus’ public life.
In the early centuries of the Church, as Isidore of Isolanis narrates, a solemn account of the death of the adoptive father of the Son of God was read every day on the 19th of March in the Eastern Churches. The Church, which venerates with affection this saint of such great devotion to Christians, recognises him as the patron of the good death.
According to Catholic tradition, the feast of St Joseph was already celebrated in the fourth century, in the temple that St Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, ordered to be built in the place of the Bethlehem Crib, in the chapel dedicated to St Joseph that still exists today in that place, inside the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
A precious gem, attributed to the first century, was found in the East, with the inscription: “Saint Joseph, assist me in work and obtain grace for me.” Also in the Catacombs of Rome, in some old churches and private houses, images were discovered attributed to the first centuries that privately honored Saint Joseph; the private veneration preceded the public one.
St Joseph was also present at the miracle of the sun at Fatima. He is the head of the Holy Family and intercessor for all Christian families. He is the Universal Patron of the Church and protector of the Mystical Body of Christ.
Saint Joseph, pray for us!