Saint Joseph was given the mission to protect, guide and provide for two people conceived without sin, Mary and Jesus, which means that he himself had to be a very virtuous man. And indeed he was. The Fathers of the Church and various saints throughout history have esteemed St. Joseph as “the greatest saint” – that is, of course, with the exception of Mary, who has always been placed in a different category from the rest. He occupies a unique category among the saints for his important role in salvation history, for being predestined to become the father of Jesus on earth.
For this reason, and after an expressed desire by bishops from all over the world, Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church in 1870.
As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of this decree, Archbishop Samuel Aquila supports pastors, parishes and the faithful to consider consecrating themselves or their community to St. Joseph sometime in between March 19, 2020 and March 19, 2021.
This consecration would not be in vain, as Saint John Paul II writes: “This patronage [of St. Joseph] must be invoked as ever necessary for the Church, not only as a defense against all dangers, but also, and indeed primarily, as an impetus for her renewed commitment to evangelization in the world and to re-evangelization in those lands and nations where religion and the Christian life were formerly flourishing and now are put to hard test.”
If you are wondering what a consecration specifically entails, consecration is an act by which something or someone is separated for a divine purpose. In our Catholic faith, certain items are consecrated for liturgical purpose, such as church buildings, altars, chalices, etc. People also consecrate their lives to God by making vows in the religious life.
A consecration “to a saint,” like Mary or St. Joseph, is actually a consecration to Jesus himself through that saint, through Mary or Joseph. It is a serious commitment to respond to God’s grace, under their guidance.
“The person who consecrates himself to St. Joseph wants to be as close to their spiritual father as possible, to the point of resembling him in virtue and holiness,” writes Father Donald Calloway in his book Consecration to St. Joseph. In turn, St. Joseph gives that person “his loving attention, protection, and guidance.”
The Venerable Mary of Agreda laid out seven privileges of devotion to St. Joseph: attaining the virtue of purity, procuring powerful intercession to escape sin, increasing love and devotion to Mary, securing the grace of a happy death, fighting off demons with the mention of his name, gaining health of body and assistance in difficulties, securing children in families.
St. Joseph holds a privileged place
Pope Leo XIII explained that no one has come so closely to the Virgin Mary’s holiness as St. Joseph. “By its very nature, [the conjugal union] is accompanied by a reciprocal communication of the goods of the spouses. If then God gave St. Joseph to Mary to be her spouse, he certainly did not give him merely as a companion in life, a witness of her virginity, a guardian of her honor, but he made him also participate by the conjugal bond in the eminent dignity which was hers.” (92)
For this reason, it is also said that his closeness to God surpasses that of all of the holy angels.
But the final answer is, of course, God. As Father Calloway writes, “Saint Joseph is the greatest saint in the Kingdom of Heaven because God predestined him for that position.” Ultimately, no angel, regardless of his ranking, had the privilege and responsibility to be called “father” by the Son of God on earth. That authority was reserved to Joseph – to love, command and educate the God-Man.
It is for this reason that he can be the patron of the Church and our spiritual father.
The word “patron” comes from the Latin “pater,” which means “father.” And, although St. Joseph wasn’t the biological father of Jesus, he was certainly “a real father to Jesus because he exercised a fatherhood toward Jesus that was authoritative, affectionate, and faithful.” And if the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, St. Joseph is also the father of the Church.
This has personal implications for all of us. We are members of the Mystical Body of Christ by our baptism, which means that, if St. Joseph is the father of the Church, then he is also our spiritual father. He, of course, is not meant to replace our biological father, but is there to “spiritually feed, shelter, clothe, educate, protect, and correct us.”
Let us then ask for the aid of such great intercessor, as St. Teresa of Avila suggested: “I would wish to persuade everyone to honor him with particular devotion. I have always seen those who honored him in a special manner make progress in virtue, for this heavenly protector favors in striking manner the spiritual advancement of souls who commend themselves to him.”
Credits: Consecration to St. Joseph, Father Donald Calloway, MIC