Year of St. Joseph: St. Ezekiel Moreno, bishop, preaches on the figure of St. Joseph (5/9)
The sermon that we present today, on the 19th, remembering the Josephine year, was delivered by Saint Ezekiel Moreno in the Cathedral of Pasto (Nariño, Colombia) on March 19, 1903. The holy bishop decides to celebrate on this day of St. Joseph a pontifical to encourage the worship of the Holy Patriarch, "so popular in the Christian people". This is the homily.
The ceremonial of bishops indicates in one of its chapters the festivities in which the bishops usually celebrate pontifical. It was not in the indicated ones that of St. Joseph, but lately the Holy Church ordered that in the new editions that are made of the pontifical that the feast of St. Joseph be added.
Since I read that provision I determined to celebrate pontifical on this day of St. Joseph to make that small gift to the Holy Patriarch and encourage his worship, already so popular among the Christian people.
[...] The Church is the greatest teacher and since she wants us to take care of St. Joseph today, we are going to do it; I'm going to talk to you for a short while about the reasons for venerating St. Joseph.
Who canonized St. Joseph?
Saint Joseph first of all, has to be venerated, for the common reason that the other saints have, that is, his holiness.
That holiness of the heroes of the Christian religion we know from history, by the fame of the peoples who, astonished, admired the deeds and virtues of the saints, and in a certain and infallible way it comes to be known by the solemn declaration of the Church when it canonizes them, places them on the altars, and it allows the Christian people and even moves them to bow down to these people of holiness, to venerate and praise them, and to implore their protection.
The holiness of St. Joseph is known not by profane history, not by a declaration of the Church, but by a direct declaration of the Holy Spirit in the Holy Scriptures.
The Church has had no need to solemnly declare that certain saints are in heaven; it has had no need to canonize them. Jesus Christ, for example, said to the Good Thief, "Today you will be with me in paradise."Jesus Christ is the eternal truth; What better assurance, then, can we have that the good thief is in heaven, that he is holy, that he deserves our veneration? The Church has not had the need to declare all this, because our Lord Jesus Christ declared it.
Well, and for our purpose, St. Joseph was canonized directly by the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 1:19 he is called righteous, and this praise given to a man by God himself is conclusive and leaves no room for doubt. And if by righteousness is understood in the language of the holy books, the possession of all the virtues, to call the Husband of Mary righteous is to declare him eminent among all of them, which is what we rigorously understand by holiness.
It is, therefore, the same God who has canonized Saint Joseph and the authors of his canonization are the Gospels. From them we know of St. Joseph all that has not been hidden in the sky from our pious curiosity. We have there recorded who his ancestors were up until King David. His betrothal with Mary and his perpetual virginity: his intervention in the most sweet mysteries of Bethlehem, of exile, of the temple and of the poor house of Nazareth.
Among the lights left by these highlights of his history, which is that of Christ and Mary, we glimpse sublime mysteries more typical of collected and substantial meditation than anything else. Sublime and ignored traits of self-denial; very sweet familiarities with the Divine Child and his most Holy Mother; deep and constant prayer; humiliations without number; exquisite zeal and diligence in the fulfillment of the delicate mission that heaven entrusted to him. From where I deduce [the special character of his mission].
II Special character of his mission
He gives his worship a special veneration to be looked upon with greater devotion and enthusiasm.
Where value is given to the word family, the character of its head is presented to us as worthy of the greatest respect in the order of nature and civil considerations. Well, meditate now on all the value of the reflection that I am going to propose to you.
Joseph is head of the family, but of the first in the world, of the model family, of the divine family, of which Mary is the most chaste Mother and of which the Son of God is a humble Son of the family. And this Son of God obeys Joseph and calls him father; he suffers being called the carpenter's son, and credits in a way this denomination by working in the carpenter’s shop. Nothing is found in the history of the saints comparable to this greatness: Joseph head of the family composed of Mary and Jesus. The Christian people understand by way of a joyful instinct the very high dignity of St. Joseph and distinguish him therefore among the saints.
A profound writer speaking of Saint Joseph notes that his mission on earth and, much more than anything, the exact fulfillment of it, earned the Patriarch a share of titles that among the other saints walk as scattered and distributed.
He can be regarded first of all as the first apostle; who did more than him for the propagation of the faith, when for many years he continually watched over the safety of her guardian?
He is the first martyr. One can list the hardships, the sorrows, the persecution he had to endure from Jesus' enemies, who were his own.
He deserves to be considered as pontiff and priest of the New Law. The first offering that was made of the precious blood of Christ was by his hands in circumcision and the presentation of the temple.
His exemplary continence, does it not place him in the privileged choir of virgins that has his Virginal Wife at its head?
Because all of this, it is difficult to think of the merits of any saint, without it immediately having application to Joseph, who of all has come to gather in himself the main excellences, as his Wife Mary summarizes in herself those of all the heroines of religion.
III Antiquity of his cult
The cult of St. Joseph is ancient. His venerable name was attached from the earliest days of the Church to all the mysteries of the lives of Jesus and Mary. Already then images of him were painted and his virtues were sung in verse and prose as it appears in several testimonies that were collected in the monumental work of the Bolandist scholars.
The cult of St. Joseph was not given the importance that it is given now, and the reason is very simple. The heresies of those times manifested a constant tendency to assume in Jesus Christ a purely human origin, and to deny the pure virginity of his Mother. It therefore seemed prudent not to give more to the wickedness of the wicked by offering them the opportunity that, taking the people in a material and ordinary sense the dictation of Father of Jesus and husband of Mary, they would believe that Joseph had been Father of Jesus like the other fathers, and husband of Mary like the other husbands. For this reason it did not deny then the worship of St. Joseph, but it did refrain from pondering as it has done afterwards his greatness and his glorious character as adoptive Father of Jesus and virginal husband of Mary.
As soon as the errors dissipated in the Church, the worship of St. Joseph began to spread throughout the world, and it grew rapidly. St. Bernard and St. Bernardine of Siena enhance his glories with their eloquence; Gerson, the wise chancellor of the University of Paris, puts at the service of this work of propagation all the ascendant of his virtues and his talent. Saint Teresa of Jesus comes later and takes their examples and her enthusiastic writings propagating his devotion. Religious orders take him as their protector, others are established under his invocation, and many confraternities take him as their titular. The Church for its part instituted three Feast in his honor: that of his death, that of his patronage and that of his betrothal. Joseph's glory grew, growing in God's Church [...].
IV His patronage at present
The increase in the devotion to St. Joseph was seen especially in the century that ended a year and few months ago, and especially at the request of the fathers of the First Vatican Council, he was declared byPius IX Protector of the Universal Church. Since then the devotion to St. Joseph has increased and spread in a way that is not easy to explain. This devotion has been manifested with solemn religious acts, with numerous pilgrimages, with temples and altars raised to his glory, with magazines written to sing his glories.
God, for his part, in recent times seems to have made an effort, if I may explain it so, to praise Saint Joseph, for he works countless wonders on behalf of those who invoke his patronage.
All this is not explained, without special sight of Providence. Joseph was the one who watched over the safety of the Founder of the Church, Jesus, freeing him from his persecutors and is appointed Protector of the Church today that a new Herod wants to finish off Jesus and crush him as an ungodly man said. Yes, new Herods, who lack neither the fierceness nor the hatred, nor the underhanded hypocrisy that characterized the former, who plot the ruin of the work of Jesus Christ. Is it not therefore providential that the Church has been placed under the protection of the same one who protected Jesus when Herod persecuted him? This has been said by leading Catholic writers.
What Peter decrees and proclaims on earth, God decrees and proclaims in heaven. It is therefore certain that on December 8 all of heaven acclaimed St. Joseph Protector of the Universal Church, and it is no less true that Joseph, the docile executor of all the plans of God, took charge from that day the interests of the Church, in the same way that the voice of the angel took charge of the interests of the Divine Child and his mother and... he got up and got to work."
It would seem that Christ personified in his Church feels today as in the early days the need to shelter it under the loving mantle of the Husbands of Nazareth Joseph and Mary. New reason to foster devotion to the holy Patriarch and increase and increase his glory here on earth [...]
St. Joseph deserves our praise for being a saint; he deserves them for being an extraordinary saint, for his special mission among the saints, for his greatness, for his excellences. Three expressions of the Holy Spirit reveal all these greatness’s: first, Husband of Mary; second, Father of Jesus; third, Jesus, the eternal Word, obeying Joseph.
Moreover, he is the great protector whom God wants to praise a great deal in these times, and therefore it is also good for us that we have devotion to him. Let us therefore try to earn his mighty protection in life, his protection in the hour of death, and the joy that in that moment we can say from our heart: Jesus, Joseph and Mary, assist me in this agony and then go to enjoy in his company the glory that I desire for you.
Ezekiel Moreno, Bishop of Pasto, March 19, 1903.