By Grace Small
In the light of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church at Pentecost, we take this opportunity to consider St. Joseph’s role as an intercessor with the Holy Spirit for the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, piety, fortitude and fear of the Lord. After the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit in whom the ineffable union brought the Word of God in the Incarnation to clothe Himself in our humanity, we can most confidently “go to Joseph” to invoke the help of the Holy Spirit because of his fidelity to grace in his vocation. According to Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, St. Joseph had a great union with God, the gift of prayer and the wonderful manner in which he took direction of the Holy Spirit. St. Joseph’s example of fidelity to the Holy Spirit inspires us as Christians given the universal call to holiness to be persons of silence, prayer and action so that we, too, can live our vocations and mission in the Church to the fullness.
St. Joseph is known as the saint of silence because there is no recorded word of his in Sacred Scripture. However, this does not mean he never spoke. Rather we can infer that he treasured silence in order to nurture a life of union with God. Mother Teresa is known for saying “the fruit of silence is prayer.” Silence is necessary to achieve prayer and the continual exercise of prayer is needed to achieve intimacy with God. Prayer is also needed in following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Many saints, including St. Alphonsus de Liguori, have written that without prayer we cannot attain Salvation. One of the most important personal prayers he recommended was the prayer of Adoration. St. Alphonsus said “Know also that you will probably gain more by praying 15 minutes before the Blessed Sacrament than by all the other Spiritual exercises of the day. True, Our Lord hears our prayers anywhere, for He has made the promise, ‘Ask, and you shall receive,’ but He has revealed to His servants, that those who visit Him in the Blessed Sacrament will obtain a more abundant measure of grace.” When we are adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament we are beholding the same Lord in Sacramental form Whom the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph beheld as their Child in Nazareth. In regards to communal prayer, St. Alphonsus reminds us that “The Mass is the best and most beautiful thing in the Church. That is why the devil has always sought to deprive the world of the Mass through the action of heretics, making them precursors of Antichrist.” As we approach a time when the Sunday obligation will soon be restored after this period of Pandemic, let us return to the Father’s House and offer thanksgiving to God for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which St. Joseph so longed for in anticipation and in thanksgiving for Christ’s redemption, but also where his intercession is invoked over the whole Church during the canon of the Mass. Perhaps we have forgotten how to pray and have lost touch with our faith. Our Savior and the saints are ready to help us but moreover we can always hope on the aid of the Holy Spirit. Scripture says, “For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words” (Rom 8:24-26). We can pray to St. Joseph for the gift of interior and exterior silence. By maintaining silence, by Adoration, by meditating on the Word of God and the mysteries of the Holy Rosary we can strive to make our lives a living prayer and allow ourselves to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Here is a prayer for the gift of Prayer by St. Alphonsus Liguori:
O Incarnate Word, You have given Your Blood and Your Life to confer on our prayers that power by which, according to Your promise, they obtain for us all that we ask. And we, O God, are so careless of our Salvation, that we will not even ask You for the graces that we must have, if we should be saved! In prayer You have given us the key of all Your Divine treasures and we, rather than pray, choose to remain in our misery. Alas! O Lord, enlighten us, and make us know the value of prayers, offered in Your name and by Your merits, in the eyes of Your Eternal Father. Amen.
St. Joseph was a man of holy prayer who cooperated with the Holy Spirit. We can infer from Sacred Scripture that his prayer was continuous, especially at the difficult moments of life. Even in his slumber, St. Joseph’s prayer to God was answered several times by the Angel of the Lord. His prayer was a receptive prayer even as Samuel replied “Here I am Lord” (1 Sam 3:4). In like manner St. Joseph was always ready to do the Lord’s will. After he was betrothed to Mary, and she was found with Child before they came to live together, St. Joseph turned to the Lord for the gift of understanding in order to do what the Mosaic law required with the most mercy. St. Joseph had the gift of Fear of the Lord and was willing to obey God’s law rather than offend Him. “Because Joseph, her husband, was a righteous man and was unwilling to disgrace her publicly, he resolved to divorce her quietly” (Mt 1:19). But his humble agony of having to separate from the beloved of his heart, gained a response from the Messenger of the Lord at the moment of this consideration, “But when he had thought this over, behold, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child Who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit’ (Mt 1:20). It was the Holy Spirit Who conceived Jesus in Mary’s womb as the holy Ark for the Son of God of Whom St. Joseph was called by God to be the Guardian of the Redeemer.
Again, in search of a place for the Holy birth to take place in the town of Bethlehem after they were enrolled in the census, St. Joseph prayed and the Father provided a stable for the King of Heaven to be born on this Earth. St. Joseph’s solicitude to provide for the mother and Child and his dependence on Divine Providence guided him like an interior light, even as the star guided the wise men. With the gift of wisdom he perceived the wisdom of God which is unlike the wisdom of the world — the Son of God by His poverty and Holy Infancy was to be the Lord of all who love Him and keep His Commandments, accessible to all people whatever their race or class. St. Joseph guarded the Holy Family even as they were visited by shepherds and the wise men. Through the gift of knowledge ministered through the angel he was warned of Herod’s evil plot to seek the Child and he took Mary and the Child and fled to Egypt. “Now when they had departed, behold, an Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the Child, to destroy Him.’ And he rose and took the Child and His mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called My Son’” (Mt 2:13-15). Once the will of God became clear to St. Joseph, he obeyed promptly, trusting in God’s Providential care wherever he went.
Through the gift of fortitude, Joseph traveled courageously from the night of persecution into the day until when the Holy Family took refuge in a foreign land among foreign people. As they patiently prayed with hope to return to their own land through the gift of counsel, the Holy Family created relationships with the people among whom they lived in humility and meekness, obtaining among, all the Beatitudes, the blessing of the meek. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Once again in response to the gift of piety, expressed through his patient love for the will of the Lord, the Angel of the Lord spoke to him in a dream. “After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. ‘Get up!’ he said. ‘Take the Child and His mother and go to the land of Israel, for those seeking the Child’s life are now dead.’ So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and went to the land of Israel” (Mt 2:19-21). The Holy Spirit warned them through the angel and provided light for a safe journey to the place determined by God where they would take refuge in Egypt and then at the appointed time directed St. Joseph to take the Holy Family back to Nazareth.
As we can see St. Joseph’s silence and prayer led to a life of fruitful intimacy with God. The Holy Spirit will aid us with graces in our unique circumstances to discern how to use every occasion to bear courageous witness to Christ and His Gospel of life and truth amidst a culture of death, deceit and cowardice.
Let us never hesitate then to “Go to Joseph” and Our Immaculate Mother to implore the Holy Spirit to descend upon each member of the Mystical Body and the whole world!
Small and her husband Bill have made their solemn profession as Third Order Franciscans of the Immaculate, through the Franciscans of the Immaculate in New Bedford.