The title of this article was the exclamation of the Bishop Peter Athanasius Pichenot of Tarbes on the occasion of the decree of Blessed Pius IX declaring St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church. The following is a meditation based on Bishop Pichenot’s Pastoral Instruction in 1872. The bishop recalled the great consolation the faithful have in the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Blessed Sacrament. However, due to St. Joseph being ordained by God to be Mary’s chaste spouse, “for what God has united, man must not divide,” they hold together the Lord Jesus in common not only in their time on earth, but also in their close Spiritual presence to the Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Although we must always give primary honor to Mary, the Mother of God, and her union with the Incarnate Word made Flesh, the bishop brings to the focus of our attention the special place St. Joseph enjoys with the Blessed Sacrament as the Lord’s true foster father and guardian on earth. This year of St. Joseph brings us an opportunity to consider once again three aspects of St. Joseph’s union with the Blessed Sacrament based on three points made in the bishop’s Pastoral Instruction. First we are indebted to St. Joseph for the Wheat of the Elect, Jesus the Bread of Life; secondly our happiness in receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion in some degree surpasses that of St. Joseph himself; and thirdly, his example teaches us how we are to prepare to receive Holy Communion worthily and fruitfully.
We are indebted to St. Joseph for protecting the Wheat of the Elect, Jesus the Bread of Life whom we adore and receive in Holy Communion. The Person Whose Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity we receive in Holy Communion is the Body born of the Virgin Mary, of which the Church sings, “Hail true Body, born of the Virgin Mary.” This Sacred Body had been conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit and formed in the chaste womb of Mary who had already been betrothed to Joseph. Therefore, Joseph already had certain rights over the Infant Jesus. St. Joseph as the true foster-father protected the Son of God as His most watchful guardian. At the peril of his life, St. Joseph protected the Infant Jesus from the cruel tyrant who sought to kill Him. Herod’s jealousy of the newborn King brought him to command a cruel persecution “to mow down in the bud the august Wheat that was growing in the virgin soil of Mary’s womb.” Therefore St. Joseph obeyed the angel who told him, “Rise up, take with thee the child and His mother, and flee to Egypt” (Mt 2:13). “Watch over Him, protect Him from harm, for He is our only hope. One day He will feed the entire world with His Own Body and Blood. Had the storm of persecution beaten down this young ear of wheat, today we would not have the Sacred Bread which gives eternal life.” Just as Joseph in Egypt guarded the granaries during the years of plenty for the Egyptian subjects and the sons of Jacob in the years of famine, so also St. Joseph in Nazareth guarded and hid Him Who on the eve of His death “opened His tabernacles and said to both Jew and Gentile, ‘Take, eat, this is My Body, drink, all of you, of this; for this is My Blood’” (Mt 26:26-28). “My flesh is real food, My blood is real drink” (Jn 6:56). We are indebted to St. Joseph for having guarded the Infant Jesus and His Virgin Mother. He is fittingly titled Guardian of the Redeemer and therefore also, by extension, Protector of the Universal Church as we are members of Christ’s mystical body.
In these perilous times it is important to spend time as often as we can before Our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration. In this Year of St. Joseph, we can take comfort in coming before the Blessed Sacrament in union with the heart of St. Joseph in humble Adoration, thanksgiving and compassion for our Eucharistic Lord, Who is truly present in all the Tabernacles of the world, but is much ignored and forgotten by those whom He has called by a special love through the Sacrament of Baptism. In the spirit of Our Lady of Fatima we can trust that St. Joseph would also exhort us to Eucharistic Reparation to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament for the “outrages, sacrileges, and indifferences” He receives by ungrateful souls. St. Joseph’s silence, like Our Lady’s and Our Lord’s in the Blessed Sacrament does not mean that they are not present but rather where Jesus truly is, so are the souls of the those in beatitude. He who adored the holy Face of Jesus while on earth is surely present with Mary Immaculate and the Blessed Sacrament because the Holy Family is always united in eternal love.
We must awaken ourselves to the reality that when we approach the altar, we are approaching the altar of the elect of those chosen by God to know, love and serve Him. St. Joseph can help us approach the Son of God with his virtues. We have no need to envy St. Joseph, for although he adored the Infant Christ lying in the manger and gazed in wonder as the shepherds and Magi approached the newborn King with glad tidings, we have the grace of receiving Our Eucharistic Lord on the altar wrapped in the Eucharistic species and we too, like the three kings, can offer Him our charity, our prayer and our penance. We can infer from their life together in Nazareth that St. Joseph often held the Christ Child with tenderness and love, carried Him in his arms, sat Him on his knee, pressed Him to his heart and covered Him with chaste kisses and heartfelt tears. When we are in Church can we see ourselves as in Nazareth or as Mary and Joseph found Him in the temple among the priests and doctors? The bishop encourages us, “But more than that, you can do more than hold the Son of God in your arms; it is yours to possess Him, within you, within the very depths of your soul. Thus has He found a way of uniting Himself more intimately with you than with His foster father. St. Joseph never communicated. In this respect you are more fortunate than he.” We can be eternally grateful for having received Holy Communion only once in our lives, but how many times have we received Him out of routine and duty than and with love and devotion?
Perhaps this has to do with the lack of adequate preparation we make for Holy Mass. Like St. Joseph we must approach the Blessed Sacrament with faith. Just as St. Joseph believed the word of the angel and believed the mystery of the Incarnation and that the Babe of Bethlehem was the Son of God, so, too, we must believe simply on the Word of God, that when the priests speaks the words of Consecration over the bread and the wine, they truly become the Sacred Body and Precious Blood of Our Lord simply because He is God and He has ordained to come down by the words of Consecration of the priest transubstantiate the substance of bread and wine into His very Own Body and Blood. He is God and He commands of His Apostles, the first priests, “Do this in memory of Me.” This is not an ordinary “relationship” among equals but rather Jesus is a Divine Person, the Son of God, Who calls us to Adoration, discipleship and faith in following Him. This is the substance of our relationship for He says, “If You love Me, you will keep My Commandments” (Jn 14:15). Ours must be to believe God with the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: “I believe all the Son of God has spoken, than truth’s own word there is no truer token.” Jesus Himself testifies, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6). We must also receive the Blessed Sacrament with purity of heart. St. Joseph was chaste, pure and innocent and therefore Jesus was pleased to be held by Him. We must beg St. Joseph the favor of this great virtue and beg him to put the demon to flight because only the pure of heart can receive Holy Communion worthily and ultimately see God. Finally, we must receive the Lord with recollection and try to keep Him in our hearts by meditation, Spiritual reading, and silence even as we work instead of giving in to distractions. As Joseph worked alongside Jesus, he was ever ready to listen to His Word and receive His graces. We all need to work, but we many times allow ourselves to become willingly distracted by the work and the environment in which we are surrounded and lose the presence of God. Time spent in Adoration before the Lord and in union with the Spiritual presence of Our Lady and St. Joseph will rouse our faith, purity and recollection aside from giving us the powerful intercession of our loving Holy Family to which we belong. We must learn to live this risen life so we may join the life of the blessed for all eternity in Heaven. Bishop Pichenot closes his Pastoral Instruction with a beautiful insight, “St. Joseph was the good and faithful servant of the Gospel, who the master placed at the head of the house to give to each his measure of Wheat at the proper time.” May we, in this year of St. Joseph, begin a sincere commitment to Adore the Blessed Sacrament exposed in many Churches in our diocese and enclosed in our Tabernacles. We are called to become more conscious of Jesus in our midst and meditate more on the life of St. Joseph with the Lord. If we do so, we will find Him Who is our comfort, strength and “our hope in these perilous times” in the Blessed Sacrament. When you go to the Adoration chapel or before the Tabernacle, “Go to Joseph” and ask him to give you the grace to adore Jesus together with him and then pray for our diocesan family that we may all return with fervor and love to our Eucharistic life in the Father’s house.
Small and her husband Bill are parishioners of St. Mary Church in Providence, R.I., and have made their solemn profession as Third Order Franciscans of the Immaculate, through the Franciscans of the Immaculate in New Bedford. They have both earned a Certificate in Catechetical Studies through TINE, The Institute for the New Evangelization of the Archdiocese of Boston.