The purity of St. Joseph.
St. Stephen, the first martyr, was canonised by the Holy Ghost. "And they stoned Stephen," says the sacred text, "invoking and saying: Lord Jesus receive my spirit. And falling on his knees, be cried with a loud voice, saying: Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord" (Acts, vii. 58). The same Divine Spirit of truth and wisdom pronounces on the sanctity of St. Joseph, by styling him a "just man" (Matt. i. 19). The word "just" comprehends all virtues in the most eminent degree. St. John Chrysostom says: "Just, here means perfect in every virtue." * "No description," writes a client of our Saint, "can be more honourable, no eulogy more comprehensive; because this word just, according to commentators on Holy Writ, means that St. Joseph possessed all virtues in the degree of perfection" (Vallejo, p. 276).
St. Francis of Sales writes: "If the lily, by being exposed for a few days only to the heat of the sun, acquires its dazzling whiteness, who can conceive the extraordinary degree of purity to which St. Joseph was exalted, by being exposed, as he was, day and night, for so many years to the rays of the Sun of Justice, and of that mystical moon which derives all her splendour from Him?" We are at a loss to know what virtue to begin with, but the above suggests the purity of St. Joseph. In the 0ld and New Testament we have countless texts and examples to show how dear purity is to God. Saints excelled in different virtues; but purity is common to all. No soul shall ever enter heaven until she is purer than the sunbeam, and whiter than the virgin snow. Precious in the eight of God is the lily of holy purity. "No price is worthy of a continent soul" (Ecclus. xxv. 20). The chaste Susanna is held up to the admiration of the world; she preferred to die rather than sin in the sight of the Lord. The chaste souls are likened to the Angels. "At the resurrection," says our Blessed Lord, "they shall neither marry nor be married; but shall be as the Angels of God in heaven" (Matt. xxii. 30). The Angels are pure by nature; but tho chaste are pure by grace. Hence, St. Bernard asserts, that a chaste man differs from an Angel only in felicity, but not in virtue.
0ur Divine Lord loves the chaste souls, and feeds among the lilies, the emblems of purity. "I am the flower of the field and the lily of the valley. As the lily among the thorns, so my love among the daughters. . . . My beloved to me, and I to him, who feedeth among the lilies." (Cant, ii.)
The mystery of the Incarnation, and all its surroundings", prove to demonstration how dear to Jesus is the holy virtue of purity. St. John the Baptist, the Precursor of our Blessed Lord, was a chaste virgin. St. Peter was head of the Church; yet the favourite disciple, the "disciple whom Jesus loved," was St. John the Evangelist. This virgin disciple was privileged, at the Last Supper, to recline his head on the bosom of his Divine Saviour. "Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter, therefore, beckoned to him, and said to him: Who is it of whom he speaketh? He, therefore, leaning on the breast of Jesus, saith to him: Lord, who is it?" (John, xiii. 23.) When dying upon the cross, to whom did our Blessed Lord entrust what was dearest to Him on earth—His Blessed Mother? He gave charge of His Virgin Mother to the virgin disciple, St. John the Evangelist. "Now," says the Gospel, "there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to his disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour the disciple took her to his own" (John, xix. 25).
St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and other Fathers, assign virgin purity as the cause of this special love of Jesus for St. John. This can hardly be doubted; for the Church, in the Divine 0ffice on the Feast of St. John, says that "Jesus loved him more tenderly than the other Apostles; for his special prerogative of chastity made him worthy of this preference, because when called to the Apostolate he was a virgin, and a virgin he remained all his life."
The confessors are high in heaven; they wore chains on earth for the love of Jesus. The martyrs, with the palm branch in their hands, are higher still ; they washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb; they sealed their faith with their blood; they sacrificed their lives for the love of Jesus. Higher and higher still, is another band or choir of Saints. Who are they? They are the spotless virgins! In heaven above, the Saints sing various hymns and canticles in praise of the Almighty. There is one special canticle which confessors or martyrs dare not pronounce, and which virgin lips alone are privileged to sing. Let us cite the inspired words of the Evangelist: "I saw the Lamb upon Mount Sion, and one hundred and forty-four thousand with him, singing, as it were, a new song, and which none else can sing but only these hundred and forty-four thousand which he had redeemed from the earth. These are such as were never defiled with women; they are virgins who follow the Lamb wheresoever he goes" (Apoc. xiv. 1-3). Such and so great are the special privileges awarded by God in heaven above to the pure and chaste. "Blessed," says the Redeemer, "are the clean of heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. v. 8).
But the example of the Blessed Virgin preaches far more eloquently than the examples we have adduced, how dear and precious in the sight of God is the holy virtue of purity. The purity of the Blessed Virgin is as high above any Saint, or that of all the Saints put together, as the heavens are above the earth* Not only did Mary, countless times, carry in her arms, and as many times more fondly press to her bosom, the Infant Saviour. Not only did Mary bear in her chaste womb for nine months the Incarnate Son of God, but the very blood, out of which the Sacred Body of Jesus was formed by the Holy Ghost, the Precious Blood, by which all mankind was redeemed on Mount Calvary, had its source in the Heart of Mary Immaculate. Such being the relation between Mary and Jesus, the relation of a mother to a son, no wonder that her privileges should be unique that she should be conceived without sin, and that the smallest stain of actual sin should never sully her soul. No wonder that she should be the purest, the most perfect, the most immaculate, the most holy soul, that the Almighty has ever created, or ever will create: of course we do not include the soul of our Blessed Saviour. When Mary Immaculate stood before her Maker, radiant in beauty, purity, and perfection, God, pleased, so to speak, with the work of His hands, deigned to salute her, saying: "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. . . . 0ne is my dove, my perfect one is but one. She is the only one." (Can. vi.)
The Blessed Virgin, as we have said above, was the purest, the most perfect, the most immaculate soul the Almighty ever created. Next to Mary in purity, dignity, and sanctity, is St. Joseph. In the first place, St. Joseph was chosen by heaven to be the spouse of the Blessed Virgin. Now God was so jealous of Mary's purity, that He would give no one to her as a real husband, as Joseph was, but the purest and holiest of men. Prom among all the sons of Israel, God chose St. Joseph to be the guardian and protector of the virtue of the Immaculate Mother of the Redeemer of the world; and hence, for this end, the Almighty showered upon him the choicest, the richest, and the most precious graces of heaven. To be chosen, and to be worthy to be the husband of Mary Immaculate, is in itself sufficient to prove the supereminent virtue and purity of our Saint. The title, "husband of Mary," fades away into insignificance compared to the title, " reputed father" of Jesus. The gleam of purity shining upon St. Joseph, from his relation with Mary, is lost in the meridian splendour of the virtue necessary for him from his relation with Jesus, the Eternal Son of Justice, Purity, and Sanctity itself. None but the clean and pure of heart can Bee God. St. Joseph not only saw his God, but lived, walked, and worked in His visible Divine presence. If purity obtained for St. John the Evangelist the privilege of reclining his head on the bosom of his Saviour, what must be the purity of St. Joseph, who countless times bore in his arms the Saviour of the world, and pressed to his bosom the Divine Babe? If one ray of God's pure love is sufficient, as it is, to purify and sanctify the soul of man, what must be the purity of St. Joseph, upon whose soul shone for years, in their full effulgence, the rays of the Eternal Sun of Justice? Let the honeyed pen of St. Francis of Sales express it. "St. Joseph," says the Saint, "surpassed the Angels and Saints in purity. For if, being exposed for a few days only to the heat of the material sun, the lily acquires its dazzling whiteness, who can conceive the extraordinary degree of purity to which St. Joseph was exalted, exposed as he was, day and night, for so many years to the rays of the Sun of Justice, and of that mystical Moon which derives her splendours from Him?"
Venerable Maria of Jesus of Agreda writes: "In the virtue of purity, he was more elevated than the highest Seraphim. . . . By this perfection and by his angelic integrity, he was prepared to be the spouse of the purest of creatures and to live in her society."
0 Jesus, make us pure and chaste. 0 Jesus, help us when tempted against holy purity. 0 Mary Immaculate! obtain for us purity of body and soul.
"Guardian of virgins, and holy father Joseph, to whose faithful care Jesus Christ, innocence itself, and Mary, Virgin of virgins, were committed, I pray and beseech thee, by these dear privileges, Jesus and Mary, that being preserved from all uncleanness, I may, with a spotless mind, pure heart, and chaste body, ever most chastely serve Jesus and Mary all the days of my life."
The perpetual Virginity of St. Joseph.
That St. Joseph lived and died a pure virgin, like his Immaculate spouse, though not of faith, is absolutely certain. Reason, and the ancient and constant Tradition of the Church, prove it beyond doubt.
In the preceding section, we have seen how God loves purity, how dear to the Almighty is chastity, and with what jealous care God watched over the purity of Mary in honour of the Incarnation. From this we may conclude that God Almighty would never choose, from among the sons of men, a guardian and spouse for the Immaculate Mother of God, and a foster-father for His beloved and eternal Son Jesus Christ, any but a pure and perpetual virgin; this guardian and spouse of Mary, this foster-father of Jesus, is St. Joseph: therefore, St. Joseph lived and died a pure virgin.
We shall select only a few out of the many authorities before us, in almost every age of the Church, in favour of the perpetual Virginity of St. Joseph.
St. Jerome, writing against the heresiarch, Helvidius, who impiously denied the perpetual virginity of our Blessed Lady, says: "Thou sayest that Mary did not remain a virgin. I not only maintain it, but aver that Joseph, too, was a virgin, through Mary; so that a Virgin Son might be born of this virgin marriage. It does not appear that Joseph had ever before contracted marriage. Of the Mother of God, he was rather a guardian than a husband: hence we must believe that he lived with Mary as a virgin, and so deserved to be called the Father of the Lord."
St. Augustine and St. Thomas maintain the same doctrine; and hence the learned Cardinal Baronius, summing up the proofs, writes: "All the Catholic writers of the Latin Church, who have flourished since the days of St. Jerome, have followed his opinion as to the perpetual virginity of St. Joseph; so much so that St. Peter Damian, the ablest writer of his day, says, with great satisfaction, that the faith of the Church is, that St. Joseph was a virgin like his most pure spouse (meaning by faith, as the accurate Suarez explains, the pious belief of the Church). And surely, so far as we are allowed to have recourse to probable conjectures, who will believe that God would not select a virgin spouse for His Mother, when, after He became man, and was dying on the cross, He confided her to one who was a virgin ?"* ,
The learned John Gerson, preaching before the Council of Constance, said: "As it became Mary to shine forth with the greatest purity, so was it becoming for her to have a most pious spouse, who would remain before and after in perpetual virginity."
The Bollandists say, that "since the days of St. Jerome the whole Latin Church has unanimously adopted the opinion of the perpetual virginity of St. Joseph."
We shall cite only one more authority.
Canisius writes: "Bede and Alcuin clearly confess the perpetual virginity of St. Joseph. . . . Hugh Victorinus, called in his time a second St. Augustine, and other theologians, especially St. Thomas and Gerson, not to mention moderns, maintain, with solid authorities, that Joseph and Mary, by mutual consent, consecrated themselves to God by a vow of perpetual virginity. . . . St. Peter Damian, an enlightened divine, warmly holds that the faith of the Church is, that not only the Mother of God, but Joseph, His reputed father, was a virgin."*
Hence, for the greater glory of our Saint, we are glad to repeat the heading of this section, that it is absolutely certain that our great Patriarch, St. Joseph, lived and died, like his immaculate spouse, a pure and spotless virgin. 0 most chaste St. Joseph, pray for us.
The Faith of St. Joseph.
"Faith," says St. Paul, " is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not" (Heb. xi. 1). Faith is the foundation of our salvation: it is the groundwork of our supernatural life. Faith is the first great theological and divine virtue, for it has God and the truths of God as its immediate object. Faith is absolutely essential for the salvation of every adult that has come to the use of reason. "Now, this is eternal life; that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent" (John, xvii. 3). "Go ye into the whole world," said our Blessed Redeemer, "and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptised, shall be saved: but he that believeth not, shall be condemned" (Mark, xvi. 16). ""Without faith," says St. Paul, "it is impossible to please God. For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and is a rewarder to them that seek him" (Heb. xi. 6). "Man," writes the Apostle, " is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; we also believe in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified'! (Gal. ii. 16). And " Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost," preached of Jesus: "Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts, iv. 12). "Faith," says the Council of Trent, "is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and to come into the fellowship of His sons." (Sess. VI. c. viii.)
The grounds or authority of our faith is no other than the authority of God Himself. God cannot deceive or be deceived. God has deigned to reveal or make known to man His Divine truths or mysteries of religion; upon God's unerring word, upon God's infallible authority, we believe the doctrines of faith, which our minds cannot understand.
Faith is most pleasing to God; because, by faith, proud man bends his intellect and will, so to speak, to believe what he can neither see or understand. Faith gives great glory to the Almighty; because, by faith, man submits and gives up captive to God his proud intellect and stubborn will. Faith pays supreme homage to God; because, by faith, we acknowledge God's unerring truth; on God's authority, we adore and believe what we cannot comprehend.
Wonderful and admirable, no doubt, was the simple faith of St. Joseph. The Incarnation is one of the most sublime and most profound Mysteries of our holy faith. To a man that believes in the Incarnation, no Mystery can present a difficulty. St. Joseph's faith was wonderful, both with regard to Jesus and Mary. 0n the authority of God, Abraham believed that a barren woman would become a mother; at. the word of an angel, St. Joseph believed that a virgin would become a mother, and yet be as virginal after as before the birth of her child! In blind obedience to faith, did St. Joseph salute the Virgin Mother.
We have said that the Mystery of the Incarnation is one of the most sublime and profound of our holy faith. All the unique privileges, all the choicest graces of heaven, showered so copiously upon the Blessed Virgin, were in honour of the Incarnation. The time of man's .Redemption had come! Mary stands before God in all the beauty and odour of perfect sanctity: she is "sweet," "comely," "beautiful," " all fair." From the purest blood of her Immaculate Heart, the Holy Ghost formed a perfect body; a perfect human soul was created by God, and united to that body; at the very instant of that union, before that mind could think, or the heart beat, the Eternal Word, the Second Divine Person of the most Adorable Trinity, descended from heaven, and was hypostatically united to the soul and body; thus, being one Divine Person in two distinct natures, Human and Divine. Stupendous and adorable is the Mystery of the Incarnation! To redeem fallen man, and through love for sinful, ungrateful man, the Eternal Son of God, descends from the bosom of His Father and assumes human flesh. The Eternal is born in time, the Infinite is circumscribed I After the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph was the first on earth that believed and adored the Mystery of the Incarnation. "Behold," says the Gospel, "the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus. For he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. i. 20). Without inquiry or hesitation, St. Joseph accepted the word of the angel, and paid supreme homage to the Incarnate Son of God.
The Evangelist, soaring like the eagle, ascends to the bosom of the Eternal Father, and in awfully solemn and sacred words, narrates the profound Mystery of the Incarnation.
"In the beginning," writes the inspired writer, "was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we saw his glory, the glory, as it were, of the only-begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth " (John, i. 1-14). Meditating on the infinite love, mercy, goodness, and compassion of the Son of God, manifested in the Incarnation, as well as on the infinite humiliations of the Lord of glory, we can only exclaim with St. Paul: "0 the depth of the riches of the wisdom, and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways" (Rom. xi. 33).
Great and many were the tests and trials of St. Joseph's faith. If a creature could be worthy to be the dwelling-place of the great Creator, Mary's chaste womb was not an unfitting abode for the Incarnate Son of God. This none knew so well as St. Joseph. For the Nativity of the Redeemer of the world, St. Joseph might not unreasonably expect great preparation at Bethlehem, where, according to the prophecy, He was to be born. Arrived there, so far from a grand reception, he found not a lodging, a house, or a home to shelter the Mother of God, fatigued from the long journey of about eighty miles. The bleak open cave was the royal palace, the cold crib the cradle of state, the swaddling clothes the gorgeous attire, and the ass and ox the attendants on the Saviour of the world. Far from being shocked at the humiliations and poverty of the crib and manger, St. Joseph's soul expanded, so to speak, in admiration of the sublime Mystery, and in simple, docile faith, joined Mary in adoring, praising, glorifying, and loving the Divine Infant Redeemer.
Sublime, docile, and supernatural was St. Joseph's faith in the Incarnate Son of God. With reverence and love, St. Joseph looks into the Divine face of the new-born Babe. The Infant Jesus appears weak, yet by faith St. Joseph recognised Him as the 0mnipotent God by "whom all things were made." Jesus lies in the manger; yet tho heavens and the earth cannot contain Him, planets and systems revolve in His immensity. He is friendless, and without homage; yet the eye of the most Adorable Trinity, and the attention of the nine choirs of the Blessed Spirits in Paradise, are fixed upon the Saviour. "Adore Him, all you his angels" (Ps. xcvi. 7). "And, again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith: And let all the angels of God adore him" (Heb. i. 6).
Meditating on the love and humiliations of the Divine Babe, St. Bernard cries out: "Hear, ye heavens, and lend your ears, 0 earth! Stand in raptures of astonishment and praise, 0 you whole creation! but you chiefly, 0 man—Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, was born in Bethlehem of Juda. 0 short word of the Eternal Word abridged for us, but filled with heavenly sweetness! The affection of this melting sweetness struggles within, earnestly labouring widely to diffuse its teeming abundance, but finds not words. For such is the grace and energy of this speech, that it tastes less sweet if one iota in it be changed."
Day after day, St. Joseph's faith was put to new tests and trials. Scarcely is the Saviour born, when the cruel Herod plots to take away His life !—the creature to take away the life of the Creator! Does Jesus, by a breath, wither up and annihilate the venomous reptile? or does the Saviour send one of His Angels to slay the tyrant by a look? No ; far from it. There is no manifestation of the power, majesty, and Divinity of the new-born King. God makes use of the services of man, of St. Joseph himself, to protect and save the life of the Saviour of the world.
After many years of exile, the Holy Family are admonished to return to their native home, and are assured that the life of the Child is safe. And why? Is there now to be a manifestation of the power of God over man? No; but simply because His enemies are dead. The Gospel says: "But when Herod was dead, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, in Egypt, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel. For they are dead that sought the life of the child" (Matt. ii. 19).
To many the hidden life of Jesus at Nazareth was the greatest test of the faith of St. Joseph.
Jesus is God, the long-expected Saviour, the Author of a New Gospel. Jesus is come to teach, convert, and save the whole human family. Yet what does St. Joseph hear and see? He hears of false, wicked teachers and philosophers perverting, and corrupting the minds and hearts of men by false teaching and erroneous doctrine; he hears of kings and emperors preparing for war and battle now as of yore; he sees the Jew, as well as the heathen, proud, wicked, and sinful; he sees mankind sitting in darkness and the shades of death; and yet among men were "the way," "the truth," "the life," " the true light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world." Amid this night of darkness, sin, and error, St. Joseph sees, at Nazareth, Jesus hidden and unknown, nay' despised as the carpenter's son. This trial of faith lasted to his death; for St. Joseph was not privileged to see the stupendous miracles which manifested to the world the Divinity, power, and glory of the Son of God. Yet, so far from wavering, the divine, supernatural faith of St. Joseph in the Divinity of the Saviour of the world, increased every day, from the moment he knew of the Incarnation, to the hour of his death.
"0 just and holy Joseph," exclaims Cardinal D'Ailly, "how didst thou so quickly and so firmly believe these sublime mysteries P"
The life of Jesus, hidden and unknown during the life of St. Joseph, is like the hidden life of Jesus in the Tabernacle. St. Joseph saw no miracles to animate his faith in the Divinity of Jesus; he believed the word of the Angel. We may not be privileged to witness miracles for the strengthening of our faith in the Real Presence of Jesus on our altars; but we have God's own unerring, infallible Word, which is as true as God Himself. May our faith he like the faith of St. Joseph! May we ever treat Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with the same faith, reverence, care, and love with which St. Joseph treated the Infant and Child Jesus! St. Joseph pray for us!
The Charity of St. Joseph.
Charity is the love of God. Charity is the union, the peace, the friendship of the soul with its Maker. Charity is the queen of virtues; and when, in heaven above, all other virtues cease to exist, charity reigns supreme, and that for all eternity. " Hear, 0 Israel," says the sacred text, "the Lord our God is one Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole 6oul, and with thy whole strength. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart. And thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them sitting in thy house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising. And thou shalt bind them as a sign on thy hand, and they shall be and move between thy eyes. And thou shalt write them in the entry, and on the doors of thy house" (Deut. vi. 4-9). Thus, by the great Commandment of divine love, our hearts with all their affections, our souls with all their faculties, and our bodies with all their senses and actions, belong, by precept, to God alone. 0ur Blessed Lord said: "This is the greatest and first commandment" (Matt. xxii. 38).
Upon the soul of man God has stamped His own image and likeness; and, as matter gravitates towards the centre, so our soul, by divine love, tends to and is united with God, its centre and Maker. By charity the soul soars, so to speak, above all created things, and unites itself with the Lord of glory; by charity the soul forsakes all earthly things, and flings herself into the infinite ocean of God's divine love.
Charity, or the love of God, not only soars above the highest heavens, and ascends to the bosom of the Eternal Father, but it circles the earth, and enfolds in its mantle the whole human family. By charity we love God for His own sake, and all mankind as ourselves for the love of God. Jesus said to him: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like to this. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 0n these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets" (Matt. xxii. 37).
This charity, by which we love our neighbours as ourselves for the love of God, is a spark of that divine flame by which we love God above all things for His own sake.
"Dearly beloved," says St. John the Evangelist, " let us love one another, for charity is of God. And every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not his neighbour, knoweth not God; for God is charity. . . . God is charity; and he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him" (1 John, iv. 7). 0ur blessed Lord said to His disciples: "A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another" (John, xiii. 34).
As Jesus died for the whole human race, and shed His Precious Blood to redeem the whole world, BO this fraternal charity embraces all mankind, friends and foes alike. In the sublime Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says: "I say to you, love your enemies, do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: that you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? do not even the publicans do this? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens this? Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. v. 44). "If any man say," adds the Evangelist, "I love God, and hateth his brethren, he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother whom he seeth, how can he love God whom he seeth riot? And this commandment we have from God, that he who loveth God, love also his brother" (John, iv. 20). Thus, the ray of divine charity, by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and that by which we love our neighbour as ourselves for the love of God, is one and the same, and issues from the Eternal Son of Justice.
In every soul in the state of grace this heavenly flame burns, and is extinguished only by mortal sin. This charity is intensified in holy souls in proportion to their virtues and sanctity.
We cannot measure, but only contemplate, and that at a distance, the intensity of the charity or love of our great St. Joseph. The nearer we approach the fire, the greater the heat; the nearer we come to the sun, the more intense the rays. What, then, must not be the heat of divine love that burned in the soul of St. Joseph, who lived for so many years in the very presence of Jesus Christ, the Eternal Sun of Charity ?" If," writes St. Francis of Sales, "by being exposed for a few days only to the heat of the material sun, the lily acquires its dazzling whiteness, who can conceive the extraordinary degree of charity to which St. Joseph was exalted, exposed, as he was, day and night, for so many years, to the rays of the Sun of Justice, and of that mystical moon which derives her splendour from Him
The Divine Providence of God proportions the means to the end. Hence, the more sublime the mission of a Saint, or the greater the dignity of a Saint, the more abundantly will God shower down upon that Saint the graces of His Divine love. Now, after the Blessed Virgin, no Saint or Angel entered so intimately into the eternal decrees for the salvation of mankind as St. Joseph. Hence, it was meet on the part of God to bestow upon him love and grace beyond that of any other Saint or Angel in heaven. In a word, the heavenly-appointed mission of St. Joseph as spouse of the chaste Mother of God, and, higher still, as fosterfather, guardian, and protector of the Redeemer of the world, is unique, has no equal; so his holiness, or love of God, surpasses that of any other saint, the Blessed Virgin Mary alone excepted. St. Alphonsus Liguori says: "We cannot doubt that whilst St. Joseph lived with Jesus, he received such a superabundance of graces, that he surpasses in merit all the other saints."
Nor need we wonder if, as the Gospel narrates, a short conversation with Jesus inflamed with divine love the hearts of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, what flame of divine love must have burned in the heart of St. Joseph, who spent mouths and years in the most intimate friendship and the closest communion with Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of the world.
If one ray 01 the burning love 0. the Sacred Heart of Jesus is sufficient to consume with the flames of divine charity the soul of man, how can we measure the intensity of the charity of St. Joseph, who, countless times, carried in his arms, and pressed to his bosom, that burning furnace of infinite and divine love, the throbbing and loving Heart of the Infant Jesus. A devout client writes: "The light of the Divine Child's eyes, the sound of His voice, the play of His fingers, cast St. Joseph into a constant ecstasy of love."
0 merciful Jesus, enkindle in our hearts the burning fire of Thy divine love. 0 Divine Redeemer! grant us the grace to love God, above all things, for His own sake; and to love our neighbours as ourselves for the love of God. Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, pray that we may love and serve God faithfully all the days of our lives.