During this special year dedicated to St Joseph it would be interesting to see how certain saints viewed this splendor of patriarchs. A case in point is certainly St Faustina.
When one delves deeper into her Diary one notices that, in fact, little is known about St Joseph. However the little we know about the Custodian of the Redeemer in her Diary the more it helps us appreciate not only his role in the Holy Family but also, and most importantly, his sterling and most precious and hidden work in both the Church and the world at large.
Among the numerous visions St Faustina had of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, we encounter an interesting fact that there were rare circumstances wherein the holy Polish nun could see St Joseph. Furthermore, on one occasion, this most zealous defender of Christ did speak to the secretary of the Divine Mercy!
The first moment when St Faustina did behold St Joseph was on February 2nd, 1936. On this day we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. In entry 608 of her Diary, St Faustina writes:
When Mass began, a strange silence and joy filled my heart. Just then, I saw Our Lady with the Infant Jesus, and the Holy Man St Joseph standing behind them. The most holy Mother said to me: “Take my dearest Treasure…” and she handed me the Infant Jesus. When I took the Infant Jesus in my arms, the Mother of God and St Joseph disappeared. I was left alone with the Infant Jesus.
Typical of this apparition is what St Faustina describes as a strange silence. This uncommon silence reminds us of Joseph as the silent man. In that sense, we can easily detect the figure of Joseph as being that of a sound teacher of the interior life. Really beautiful is what St Pope John Paul II had to say about what he called, aura of silence, in his apostolic exhortation on the person and mission of Saint Joseph in the life of Christ and of the Church, Redemptoris Custos, of August 15 1989:
“The same aura of silence that envelops everything else about Joseph also shrouds his work as a carpenter in the house of Nazareth. It is, however, a silence that reveals in a special way the inner portrait of the man. The Gospels speak exclusively of what Joseph ‘did.’ Still, they allow us to discover in his ‘actions’ – shrouded in silence as they are – an aura of deep contemplation. Joseph was in daily contact with the mystery ‘hidden from ages past,’ and which ‘dwelt’ under his roof. This explains, for example, why St Teresa of Jesus, the great reformer of the Carmelites, promoted the renewal of veneration to St Joseph in Western Christianity” (no.25).
In this perspective the question begs to be asked: In today’s Church and world what we need most, people who loose their interior splendor in idle talking and empty promises or people who, like Joseph of Nazareth, let their actions speak loud about their total submission to God in his Church and to the entire human family?
The second moment when St Faustina had a direct contact with the Chaste Protector of the Virgin, was on Christmas day of 1936. St Faustina records her experience in entry 846 of her Diary: During Midnight Mass, God’s presence pierced me through and through. A moment before the Elevation (of the Host) I saw the Mother of God, the Infant Jesus, and the good man St Joseph.
In this entry St Faustina calls St Joseph the good man. In his apostolic letter on the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, Patris Corde, Pope Francis, in footnote 10 of his letter, presents a very intriguing observation concerning a prayer taken from a nineteenth-century French prayer book. This prayer revolves around St Joseph’s goodness.
“Every day, for over forty years, following Lauds I have recited a prayer to Saint Joseph taken from a nineteenth-century French prayer book of the Congregation of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary. It expresses devotion and trust, and even poses a certain challenge to Saint Joseph: ‘Glorious Patriarch Saint Joseph, whose power makes the impossible possible, come to my aid in these times of anguish and difficulty. Take under your protection the serious and troubling situations that I commend to you, that they may have a happy outcome. My beloved father, all my trust is in you. Let it not be said that I invoked you in vain, and since you can do everything with Jesus and Mary, show me that your goodness is as great as your power. Amen.’” (Footnote 10).
Can we let St Joseph’s goodness help us grow in our devotion and trust in his powerful intercession? Do we really believe that his intercession can help us sailing through these current rough waters of anguish and difficulty towards a happy outcome?
The third instance where St Faustina came into direct contact with St Joseph was on July 30, 1937. In Diary entry 1203 she writes:
Saint Joseph urged me to have a constant devotion to him. He himself told me to recite three prayers (the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be) and the Memorare to St. Joseph once every day. He looked at me with great kindness and gave me to know how much he is supporting this work (of mercy). He has promised me his special help and protection. I recite the requested prayers every day and feel his special protection.
Can we start our days with the Memorare to St Joseph and, in so doing, asking zealously his protection in our following of Jesus? Here is the Memorare in case we might decide to let Joseph be a strong ally in our strife for holiness:
Remember, O most chaste spouse of the Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who asked for your help and sought your intercession was left unaided. Full of confidence in your power, I hasten to you and beg your protection. Listen, O foster father of the Redeemer,
to my humble prayer, and in your goodness hear and answer me. Amen.
The last experience St Faustina mentions in her Diary when she met St Joseph, took place on December 25, 1937. She recorded this mystical experience in entry 1442 of her Diary in the following manner:
When I arrived at Midnight Mass, from the very beginning I steeped myself in deep recollection, during which time I saw the stable of Bethlehem filled with great radiance. The Blessed Virgin, all lost in the deepest of love, was wrapping Jesus in swaddling clothes, but Saint Joseph was still asleep. Only after the Mother of God put Jesus in the manger, did the light of God awaken Joseph, who was also praying. But after a while, I was left alone with the Infant Jesus who stretched out His little hands to me, and I understood that I was to take Him in my arms. Jesus pressed His head against my heart and gave me to know, by His profound gaze, how good He found it to be next to my heart. At that moment Jesus disappeared and the bell was ringing for Holy Communion.
What strikes here is that St Joseph was first asleep when Mary was wrapping Jesus in swaddling clothes and then, when she put him in the manger, God’s light awakened him and immediately he started to pray. Pope Francis beautifully commented on the importance of Joseph’s sleeping and praying during his discourse to families in Manila on January 16, 2015, when he said:
“I have great love for St Joseph, because he is a man of silence and strength. On my table I have an image of St Joseph sleeping. Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the Church! Yes! We know that he can do that. So when I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note and I put it underneath St Joseph, so that he can dream about it! In other words I tell him: pray for this problem!
Next, rising with Jesus and Mary. Those precious moments of repose, of resting with the Lord in prayer, are moments we might wish to prolong. But like Saint Joseph, once we have heard God’s voice, we must rise from our slumber; we must get up and act (cf. Rom 13:11). In our families, we have to get up and act! Faith does not remove us from the world, but draws us more deeply into it.
Just as the gift of the Holy Family was entrusted to St Joseph, so the gift of the family and its place in God’s plan is entrusted to us. Like St Joseph. The gift of the Holy Family was entrusted to St Joseph so that he could care for it. Each of you, each of us – for I too am part of a family – is charged with caring for God’s plan. The angel of the Lord revealed to Joseph the dangers which threatened Jesus and Mary, forcing them to flee to Egypt and then to settle in Nazareth. So too, in our time, God calls upon us to recognize the dangers threatening our own families and to protect them from harm.”
St Joseph, who accompany Jesus and Mary, as St Faustina saw you, accompany us on our challenging journey towards our Heavenly Jerusalem. Amen.
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap