Tuesday, September 27, 2011
"The Excellence Of St. Joseph Over All Other Saints" exerpted from Chapter XL of Christ Our Savior by Rev. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.
The Excellence Of St. Joseph Over All Other Saints
Finally, something must be said of St. Joseph's predestination and of his eminent sanctity. The doctrine according to which St. Joseph among the saints in heaven is the highest after the Blessed Virgin Mary, is the quasi-commonly accepted teaching in the Church, especially from the sixteenth century. It was approved by Leo XIII in proclaiming St. Joseph patron of the universal Church, who wrote: "Certainly the dignity of Mary as the Mother of God in heaven is so great that nothing greater can be attributed to her. But, because there intervened between St. Joseph and the most Blessed Virgin Mary a marital bond, there is no doubt that to the most distinguished dignity whereby the Mother of God very far surpasses all creatures, it came about that nobody is greater than St. Joseph. Marriage is a partnership and a necessity that is the greatest of all, which by its nature has added to it the mutual communication of goods. Wherefore, if God gave Joseph as spouse to the Virgin, He assuredly gave him not only as companion in life, as witness of her virginity, guardian of her virtue, but also as sharer by this conjugal bond in her high dignity."
The Church invokes St. Joseph immediately after the Blessed Virgin Mary and before the apostles in the oration of the Mass. She also addresses him with the following titles: "St. Joseph, light of patriarchs, spouse of the Mother of God, chaste guardian of the Virgin, foster father of the Son of God, diligent protector of Christ, head of the holy family..., glory of home life, guardian of virgins, pillar of families, solace of the wretched, hope of the sick, patron of the dying, terror of demons, protector of the holy Church, pray for us."
No one is greater among the saints after the Mother of the Savior.
But what is the principle of this doctrine about the excellence of St. Joseph, admitted for the last five centuries? It is that proportionate sanctity is required for an exceptional divine mission, as in the case of Christ, His holy Mother, the apostles, founders of orders, and others who are immediately chosen by God.
But Joseph was predestined for an exceptional mission, one that is unique in the world and throughout all time, namely, that he should be the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the foster father of the Son of God, and that he should have in the guardianship of the Word incarnate the heart of a father, full of benevolence and love. There is nothing more exalted after the dignity of divine motherhood. Therefore St. Joseph received sanctity in proportion to this mission, and this sanctity increased until the end of his life. In fact, St. Joseph was probably predestined to his exceptional mission before he was predestined to glory, for there is no distinction between his predestination and the decree of the Incarnation, which is directed to the Incarnation not in a general way but as to something individualized, namely, as concerning the incarnation of the Word by the Virgin Mary "espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David," This decree includes both Christ's predestination to be the natural Son of God, predestination of Mary to be the Mother of God, predestination of Joseph to the protection of the Son incarnate and His Mother. Hence it can be said that just as Christ was predestined to be the natural Son of God before He was predestined to glory, and the Blessed Virgin to divine motherhood before glory, so it seems that St. Joseph was first predestined to his exceptional mission, on account of which he was afterward predestined to a very high degree of glory and grace. The reason for this conclusion is that Christ's predestination as man to be the natural Son of God, precedes the predestination of any of the elect, because Christ is the first of all the predestined. But Christ's predestination to be the natural Son of God is nothing but the decree of the Incarnation thus fulfilled here and now. But this decree implies Mary's predestination to divine motherhood and Joseph's predestination to the protection of the Son of God incarnate and of His Mother.
Monsignor G. Sinibaldi says: "The mystery of St. Joseph is in close relation with the order of the hypostatic union as so constituted.... The cooperation of St. Joseph is not equal to Mary's cooperation. Whereas Mary's cooperation is intrinsic, physical, immediate, St. Joseph's is extrinsic, moral, through Mary's mediation; but it is a true cooperation."
It has recently been asked exactly in what sense St. Joseph is called father of Jesus, for example, when the Evangelist says: "The child Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and His parents knew it not.... And His mother said to Him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing."
Reply. St. Joseph is not called father in the strict sense. Three things are required to be father in the strict sense, namely, that he produce of his own substance, one like himself in species, and principally, as St. Thomas shows in many places, that the father gives to his son three things, namely, being, nourishment, and education. If he gives being, he is already father in the strict sense, even though his son be illegitimate; but to be father in the full sense he must give not only being, but nourishment, good education, and instruction. Father in the strict sense is attributed analogically to the eternal Father because of the eternal generation of His only-begotten Son, and to the earthly father because of his temporal generation.
But many times the term "father, " is not attributed in the strict sense as in the cases of adoptive father, spiritual father, foster father intellectual father. Among these paternities not taken in the strict sense the most exalted is the paternity of St. Joseph toward Jesus. It is a paternity absolutely of its own kind, which transcends common adoptive paternity and foster paternity. St. Thomas says: "The child is not called the good of marriage only inasmuch as it is the result of marriage, but inasmuch as it is received and educated in marriage. And so the good of the Blessed Virgin Mary's marriage was that child, not taken in the first sense; neither a child born in adultery nor an adopted son who is educated in matrimony is the good of marriage, because matrimony is not ordered to the education of those, as this marriage between Mary and Joseph was ordered especially to this, that the child be both received and educated in marriage." Thus St. Joseph's paternity was absolutely of its own kind and therefore Joseph received from God, as Bossuet says, a paternal heart, so that with the greatest of affection, he might take care of the Word incarnate, the Son of God, who was truly and properly the Son of his consort, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
2532cf. Dict. de theol. cath., art. "Joseph."
2533Encyclical Quamquam pluries, August 15, 1889
2535Litany of St. Joseph
2537cf. IIIa, q. 24, a. 1-4.
2538La Grandezza di S. Giuseppe, pp. 36f.
2539Luke 2:43, 48
2540cf. Tabula aurea, under the words "Father, " no. 3, and "Sonship, " nos. 6, 11
2541cf. Com. in IV Sent., d. 30, q. 2, a. 2, ad 4.
2542This has been more fully explained by us in the Angelicum of October 1, 1945, under the title, "De paternitate Sancti Joseph, " and in the book, The Mother of the Savior, pp. 342-61: "The predestination of St. Joseph and his eminent sanctity."
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