Saint Joseph: Guardian of the Mystery of the Incarnation

Our religious Institute was founded on March 19, 1988, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, in San Rafael Argentina, forming the female branch of the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word. We attribute to St. Joseph’s intercession the donation of a farm to be our first convent—one of the necessary conditions for beginning the community. We have always considered him to be our particular patron, Protector of Virgins. This article is offered in his honor and in thanksgiving for the many graces we continue to receive through his intercession.

Gospel Portrait of St. Joseph
Throughout the first chapters of the Gospels of Luke and of Matthew, we come to know St. Joseph through his actions and through his silence.

He is the just man chosen by God to care for the only two sinless humans in all of history: the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Divine Son, Jesus. The mere fact of his constant proximity to Jesus and Mary draws us to contemplate his virtues and to ask him to teach us how we can also keep our gaze always “on Jesus and Mary, on Mary and Jesus.”

In his 1989 Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos (“Guardian of the Redeemer”) (English/Spanish), Ven. John Paul II begins by mediating on the essential elements of the life of St. Joseph: Marriage to Mary (Matt. 1:16); The Service of Fatherhood (Lk. 2:48);The Census (Lk. 2:4);The Birth at Bethlehem (Lk. 2:16); The Circumcision (Lk. 2:21) and Conferral of the Name (Matt. 1:25);The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Lk. 2:33);The Flight into Egypt (Matt. 2:13-15); Jesus’ Stay in the Temple (Lk. 2:43); The Support and Education of Jesus of Nazareth (Matt. 13:55). Reflection on these moments of the life of Joseph can also elevate our praying of the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, seeing through the lens of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

St. Joseph in the Liturgy of the Church and the Writings of the Popes
The feast of St. Joseph on March 19, which appears around the year 800 in a French Calendar, did not become widespread until the fourteenth or fifteenth century. There was a feast in honor of St. Joseph in the Roman Breviary published in 1482, but the first Mass celebrated in his honor at Rome was in 1505… In the East, however, the feast was celebrated as early as the fifth century according to the Coptic Calendar, but on a different date. In 1621 Pope Gregory XV made the feast of St. Joseph a holy day of obligation, but that is no longer universally observed. (Lodi, Enzo, Saints of the Roman Calendar (1992), Alba House)

Patron of the Universal Church
On December 8, 1870, by virtue of the decision of Blessed Pope Pius IX, the Sacred Congregation of Rites promulgated the decree Quemadmodum Deus, declaring St. Joseph the Patron of the Universal Church. In the following year, the Holy Father expanded on the meaning of this proclamation in his document Inclytum Patriarcham (1871). His successor, Pope Leo XIII, further developed the Church’s understanding of the protection that St. Joseph could afford to the Church during times of great attack in Quamquam Pluries (1889) (English/Spanish). Redemptoris Custos (English/Spanish) was written on the occasion of the centenary of Pope Leo XIII’s document.

Saints Devoted to Saint Joseph
Many saints and spiritual writers have been especially devoted to St. Joseph, those who first promoted the devotion include: St. Margaret of Cortona (1247-1297), St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373), St. Vincent Ferrer (1350-1419), and St. Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444)—whose sermon is used for the Office of Readings for March 19 (available on the Vatican website). Finally, the Carmelite friars recognized his feast and included it in the calendar of their Order in 1498. (Lodi, p.75) One of the greatest Carmelite saints, St. Teresa of Avila had great influence in further promoting the devotion to St. Joseph.

“I wish I could persuade everyone to be devoted to this glorious saint [St. Joseph], for I have great experience of the blessings which he can obtain from God.”
St. Teresa of Avila, (Autobiography, Chapter 6)

During a period of great illness in her young adult life, she turned her focus to the “heavenly doctors.” Through the intercession of St. Joseph, she was “delivered…both from this trouble
and also from other and greater troubles concerning my honor and the loss of my soul, and that he gave me greater blessings than I could ask of him. ” Her devotion to glorious St. Joseph was promulgated throughout the many Carmels she established as part of the reform.

Devotion to St. Joseph in our Religious Family

Our own small Religious Family learned of the devotion to the Thirty Day Prayer in honor of the thirty years Joseph spent with Jesus and Mary through the example of Carmelite nuns who were the sisters of some of the first seminarians of the Incarnate Word. Since our earliest years, seminarians and sisters have often turned to St. Joseph in times of greatest need and the children living in our Works of Mercy are known to recite from memory the Thirty Day Prayer in a perpetual novena.

Honors Given to St. Joseph Today
St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount-Royal, Montreal, Canada
The largest oratory to St. Joseph in the world was built through the devotion of Saint André Bessette (1845-1937), a religious brother of the Congregation of Holy Cross.Brother André was the porter of the community. He encouraged those who came to the door to pray to St. Joseph to obtain favors. Devotion to St. Joseph quickly spread as their prayers were answered. He worked tirelessly to build a shrine in honor of St. Joseph on the hill across from the Holy Cross school. The Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal is the largest church in the world dedicated to the Foster-Father of Our Lord. Brother André was canonized on October 17, 2010.

Other Writings Honoring St. Joseph

  • March 19, 2006: Angelus Address, Pope Benedict XVI (English/Spanish)
  • “The Perfect Marriage,” The World’s First Love, Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen
  • Chapter VII “The Predestination of Saint Joseph and His Eminent Sanctity,” The Mother of the Saviour and Our Interior Life, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrance, OP
  • Joseph the Silent, Fr. Michel Gasnier, OP
  • “El Enfermo Junto a San José,” El Dolor Salvifico, Fr. Miguel Fuentes, IVE (available from IVE Press)

Other Resources
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