The benefits of consecration to St. Joseph and his ‘necessary’ patronage

Universal Church celebrates 150th anniversary of his patronage this year

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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

COMING UP: Full transcript of Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi blessing amid coronavirus pandemic

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Below is the full text of Pope Francis’ Urbi et Ordi blessing delivered on March 27, during which he prayed for an end to the coronavirus pandemic.

“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.

It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude. While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (v. 40).

Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement.

The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.

In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: “Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people – often forgotten people – who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we founder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.

The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled.

Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7).

Featured image: Vatican Media