After the great and holy names of God, the Blessed Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and Jesus the Incarnate Son of God; and all the titles and names applicable to God alone, and which no creature dare assume—the next dearest and sweetest name on the Christian's lips is the name of Mary. The name Mary signifies "Sovereign Lady;" and how just are Mary's claims to this superb and unique title; for she is the Sovereign Queen of heaven and earth; crowned, not by the hands of an earthly monarch, but by the King of heaven, her own Divine Son, with the brightest diadem of glory.
The Blessed Virgin is the Mother of Jesus, Mother of the Redeemer, Mother of God; and hence, in the mind of the Almighty from all eternity, she entered largely into the scheme of man's Redemption. After his fall, Adam was cast out of paradise upon a cold, lonely, bleak world; and the first gladdening ray of hope that shone upon his sad, despairing soul, was reflected from the star of Mary. The serpent seduced Eve, and through Eve fell Adam, drawing with him in his fall the whole human family. God promised a second Eve. "I will put enmities," said God to the serpent, "between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head" (Gen. iii. 15). Centuries rolled by; God sent Patriarchs and Prophets who foretold the lineage, name, and glories of Mary; and even the very year of Redemption. Among others, the Prophet Isaias thus writes: "Hear ye, therefore, 0 house of David, . . . the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (vii. 13).
We need no apology to the devout clients of Mary for transcribing from the 0ld Testament a few of the many exquisite passages applied by the Fathers, and by the Church in her Liturgy to the Blessed Virgin Mary. "And the Lord said to me: This gate shall be shut: it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it: because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it, and it shall be shut. For the Prince. The Prince Himself shall sit in it" (Ezek. xliv. 2).
Again: "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made anything from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived; neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung up. The mountains, with their huge bulk, had not as yet been established; before the hills I was brought forth. He had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world. When He prepared the heavens, I was present, when with a certain law and compass He enclosed the depths. When He established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters. When He compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits: when he balanced the foundations of the earth, I was with Him forming all things" (Prov. viii. 22).
God, from all eternity, had destined the Blessed Virgin to be the Mother of Je us; from the pure blood of Mary's Immaculate Heart was formed, by the power and operation of the Holy Ghost, the Body of Jesus; so that Mary's heart was the remote fountain or source of the Precious Blood of Redemption. No wonder, then, that the Almighty showered upon the Blessed Virgin His choicest blessings in their plenitude. God was pleased, so to speak, with the work of His Hands; and seeing Mary's soul so pure, so chaste, so immaculate, so perfect, He thus saluted her: "Thou art all fair, 0 my love, and there is no spot in thee" (Can. iv. 7); "Thou art beautiful, 0 my love, sweet and comely as Jerusalem .... One is my dove, my perfect one is but one. She is the only one." (Can. vi. 8.)
The New Testament verifies the prophecies of the Old Testament regarding the Blessed Virgin, and trumpet-tongued proclaims her dignity and sanctity. The Archangel Gabriel is the ambassador, sent from heaven by the most adorable Trinity, to treat with Mary concerning the Incarnation.
With what respect and reverence the Archangel treats the future Mother of God. The Gospel says: "The Angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And the Angel being come in, said to her: Hail, full of grace: the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women ... Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God, Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus" (Luke, i. 26, &c.). Thus God's Ambassador, in the inspired text, proclaims Mary's sanctity, styles her "full of grace;" announces that she had "found grace with God;" that "the Lord is with her;" and that she is "blessed among women." "With what respect, therefore, and fervour ought we ever to recite that sweet prayer, the "Hail Mary "—a prayer first pronounced on earth by the lips of the Archangel Gabriel. O Mary! may we love and recite daily and piously the holy Rosary, that sweet Canticle in honour of Jesus and Mary.
St. John the Baptist, while yet unborn, recognised the presence of Jesus, and of Mary His Mother, and was sanctified in his mother's womb. The Gospel thus narrates it: "And Mary, rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. And she entered into the house of Zachary and saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb: and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she cried out with a loud voice and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me. For behold, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. . . . And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid: for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." (Luke, i. 39, &o.)
In this sublime Gospel we find that St. Elizabeth, "filled with the Holy Ghost," proclaimed the Blessed Virgin to be the mother of her Lord, and pronounced her "blessed;" and the unborn babe "leaped for joy '' in his mother's womb. And the Blessed Virgin, inspired by the Holy Ghost, prophesied "behold all generations shall call me blessed."
Thus, the 0ld Testament, as applied by the Fathers, styles the Blessed Virgin, " the glory of Jerusalem, the joy of Israel;" "the enclosed garden;" "the sealed up fountain," "all fair,'' "without spot," "beautiful,sweet, and comely;" the " only one," the "perfect one;" the New Testament pronounces her "full of grace," and having "found grace with God;" and in no fewer than four places styles her "blessed," and proclaims that "all generations shall call her blessed."
From the authority, therefore, of the inspired Volume, we conclude, as we have before stated, after the sacred and holy names of the Blessed Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; after the sweet name of Jesus, and all the holy titles given to our Blessed Lord, as God, and God Incarnate; that the next dearest, sweetest, and holiest name in heaven above, as well as on earth below, is MARY, THE BLESSED VIRGIN, THE MOTHER OF GOD. "When we speak of Mary, we speak of Jesus; speaking of her grandeur. we speak of God's own grandeur. After God nothing in heaven or on earth is greater than Mary, writes the devout Cardinal de Berulle. 0 Mary Immaculate, Mother of God! pray for us, watch over us, obtain for us from Jesus thy Divine Son, the grace to serve and to love Jesus all the days of our life.
After the most sacred, and most adorable name of Jesus; after the sweet and holy name of Mary, the Mother of Jesus; the next dearest and most loving name, on the lips of the pious Christian, is that of St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, and the chaste spouse of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
If the Prophet Jeremias Was sanctified, as he was in his mother's womb, because he was destined to announce to the world the mysteries and revelations of the Almighty; if St. John the Baptist, whose eminent sanctity we have from the Divine lips of Jesus Himself, when He announced that none greater was born of woman, was sanctified, as St. John was, before he was born, because his mission was to baptise the Saviour, to point out the Redeemer in person, to say, "Behold, the Lamb of God;" surely, it is just and reasonable to believe, that signal favours, special privileges, and unique graces must have been showered, in the plenitude of their abundance by the Almighty upon St. Joseph, whose mission was of a far higher order than that of the Prophet Jeremias, or of St. John the Baptist; and whose privilege it was to approach nearer to Jesus than any other person, except the Blessed Virgin.
The heavenly appointed mission of St. Joseph was twofold. First, he was chosen by the Almighty from among the sons of men to be the spouse and guardian of the purest of virgins, the Immaculate Mother of God. "0 sublime elevation," exclaims a pious author, "0 admirable dignity of Joseph! whom the Mother of God, the Queen of heaven, deemed worthy to call her spouse." "The Evangelists," writes St. Leonard of Port-Maurice, "say but very little of the life and virtues of St. Joseph; but when they call him the spouse of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, they give him the most glorious title possible; for he was nearest to Mary, the purest creature ever made by God Almighty." Secondly, St. Joseph was chosen by God to be the guardian and protector of Jesus, as well as of Mary; by the labour of his hands to minister to their wants and comforts, and to be the Head of the Holy Family.
St. Joseph—first after Mary—heard from an Angel sent from heaven by the Almighty the secret of the mystery of the Incarnation. St. Joseph—by God's special order—was the Protector of Mary, and of Jesus before He was born; St. Joseph—first after Mary — adored and reverentially kissed the Infant Saviour in the crib at Bethlehem; St. Joseph watched over and protected the Divine Infancy of the Redeemer, and, at the bidding of an Angel, fled with Jesus and Mary into Egypt, to escape the hands of the cruel Herod. By the labour of the hands of St. Joseph, our Blessed Saviour received for years His daily bread; and, finally, St. Joseph died in the arms of Jesus and Mary.
Enter a cathedral, a church, or a little country chapel by the mountain side, or shut in the bog—the high Altar is dedicated to God Almighty, or the Sacred Heart of Jesus; the Altar or statue at the Gospel side is sure to be under the invocation of Mary the Mother of God; the next in dignity and order is an altar or statue at the Epistle side in honour of St. Joseph, the spouse of Mary, and the reputed father and guardian of Jesus, our Blessed Saviour. Here we see the instinct of Catholic faith; we have the Holy Family—Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
God knows the wants of His Church ; He knows "the times and the seasons ;" in her days of trial and need He raises up in her defence new friends and new protectors; hence, special systematic devotion to St. Joseph, like that to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, has, under the inspiration of God, grown up, and home abundant fruit, in the Church of the nineteenth century.
To explain—especially to the poor and uneducated—in the most simple manner, the nature of this solid and holy devotion to St. Joseph, and by God's grace to make our great Saint better known, and hence better loved, for God's greater glory, in honour of His Incarnate Son, who deigned to be reputed the son of Joseph; and to obtain for ourselves the grace of a happy death, through the intercession of St. Joseph, who died in the arms of Jesus and Mary, and hence the patron of a happy death, will form the subject of the following pages.
All the beauty of the most exquisite statue ever chiseled, all the perfections of the painting on the canvass, are reflected on the genius of the artist; so all the sanctity of the saints emanates from God alone, and proclaim His wisdom, power, and glory. "Wonderful is God in his saints" (Ps.lxvii. 36). "Blessed be God in his angels and saints."
My soul! how dear and sweet the holy names of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Jesus is thy God, thy Blessed Saviour and dear Redeemer. Jesus will be thy Judge, and hereafter may Jesus be thy reward in paradise. Mary is the Mother of God, the Mother of Jesus, and thy Mother and advocate. St. Joseph is the reputed father of Jesus, the chaste spouse of Mary, and the patron of a happy death.
0 Jesus! my God, my love, and my all. 0 Jesus! my Saviour, my Redeemer, my Judge. "Too late have I known Thee, too late have I loved Thee." 0 Mary I my mother, my advocate, my friend; and, after Jesus, the love of my heart. 0 St. Joseph! so near and dear to Jesus and Mary. When tempted to offend God in any respect, I resolve to cry for help; to invoke the Holy Family—Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; to say: "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist me."
Litany of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the World, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, Have mercy on us.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, worthy objects' of our reverence and love, pray for us
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, by the voice of all ages called the Holy Family, pray for us
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, names for ever blessed of the Father, the Mother, and the Child, who compose the Holy Family, pray for us
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, image on earth of the august Trinity, pray for us
Holy Family, tried by the greatest contradictions, pray for us
Holy Family, afflicted in your journey to Bethlehem, pray for us
Holy Family, rejected by all, and obliged to take refuge in a stable, pray for us
Holy Family, saluted by the concerts of Angels, pray for us
Holy Family, visited by the poor Shepherds, pray for us
Holy Family, venerated by the Wise Men, pray for us
Holy Family, persecuted and exiled in a strange country, pray for us
Holy Family, hidden and unknown at Nazareth, pray for us
Holy Family, model of Christian families, pray for us
Holy Family, living in peace and charity, pray for us
Holy Family, whose head is a model of paternal vigilance, pray for us
Holy Family, whose spouse is a model of paternal care, pray for us
Holy Family, whose Child is a model of obedience and filial piety, pray for us
Holy Family, who led a poor, laborious and penitent life, pray for us
Holy Family, poor in the goods of the world, but rich in the goods of heaven, pray for us
Holy Family, despised by the world, but great before God, pray for us
Holy Family, our hope in life, our support in death, pray for us
Holy Family, patrons and protectors of our Confraternity, pray for us
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, Spare us, 0 Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, Hear us, 0 Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
Let us pray.
O God of goodness and mercy, grant that we may always honour and imitate Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; so that pleasing them on earth, we may enjoy their presence in heaven. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.