THE FAIREST FLOWER OF PARADISE - CONSIDERATIONS ON THE LITANY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN, ENRICHED WITH EXAMPLES DRAWN FROM THE LIVES OF THE SAINTS BY Very Rev. ALEXIS M. LEPICIER, O. S. M.
"Happy is the husband of a good wife . . . A good wife is a good portion, and she shall be given in the portion of them that fear God, to a man for his good works" (Ecclus., xxxvi, 1,3.)
THE providence of God which governs all things with power and wisdom, was pleased to grant to Mary, as an inseparable companion during a great portion of her mortal life and of the mortal life of Jesus, St. Joseph, the man truly "just," (Matt. i, 19) who, like the Blessed Virgin, was descended from the royal stock of David. Mary and Joseph were then united by the bonds of a true marriage, and the holy Patriarch, by this intimate union, entered into community of goods with the Blessed Virgin. Thenceforth he fulfilled in the Holy Family the office of father and head, while Jesus and Mary were in some sort subject to him.
Oh, with what fidelity did St. Joseph guard these holy treasures which had been entrusted to him! Indeed, in the worthy fulfilment of his office, he had to face a thousand dangers and brave unnumbered persecutions; but the love he bore toward Jesus and Mary made him suffer all with joy.
During those years of closest union with Jesus, his Foster-Son, and Mary, his chaste Spouse, what treasures of grace did he not receive? Truly, the life of St. Joseph, in such a school was like "the path of the just which, as a shining light, goeth forward and increaseth even to perfect day." (Prov. iv, 18.)
In her relations with her chaste Spouse, Mary set herself to practice the virtues becoming a faithful wife. She loved St. Joseph as the inseparable companion of her life; she revered him as the guardian of her virginity; she vowed to him a perfect faithfulness.
This unbounded fidelity never failed. Even when the most anguishing doubt tormented his soul, St. Joseph preserved toward Mary all his affection, reverence and respect, committing himself unreservedly to the Divine Goodness, and firmly trusting that God would shortly put in evidence the honor of his Spouse, by dissipating in one way or another the doubts which troubled him.
What a spectacle worthy of the gaze of the Heavenly Court was this Holy Family! The King of kings and Master of the universe, who made Himself a little child, lavished profusely upon the souls of Mary and Joseph the treasures of divine grace; and these two holy consorts admired with deepest veneration, the humility and goodness of God who had deigned to become their Son! And since only a man adorned with the most perfect purity could be the worthy guardian of such matchless holiness as dwelt in Jesus and Mary, St. Joseph was privileged, as we may firmly believe, never to have committed one single venial sin. How can we find words to express the eminent degree of charity and holiness to which God had been pleased to raise the foster-father of His Son?
The unexampled office with which St. Joseph was invested, and the eminent degree of sanctity which he acquired in the company of Jesus and Mary, fully justify the glorious title which Pius IX solemnly decreed to him, of Protector of the Universal Church.
From his celestial throne on high, St. Joseph watches over all the faithful ransomed by the blood of Jesus Christ. His patronage extends to all the needs of this life, and no one has ever called on him in vain, for it is impossible that God, who was subject to him upon earth, should refuse anything to his intercession. Here, then, is the reason why souls truly enamored of divine charity feel themselves so strongly drawn to place all their interest in his hands, and never to disjoin him from the Saviour and His Mother in their devotion. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are the inseparable objects of the love, esteem and devotion of the predestined.
Let us thank God for having given us, in St. Joseph, so powerful a protector. In all our sufferings and sorrows, let us have recourse to this glorious Patriarch, and beg of him in particular to obtain for us the grace of a happy and holy death.
Blessed the Christian, who has the good fortune to die in the company of Jesus, Mary and Joseph! The assistance of this earthly trinity, in the last moments of life, is for him an assured pledge of possessing hereafter the uncreated Trinity which is man's last end.
Example - St. Joseph, Virginal Spouse of Our Lady
St. Joseph, predestined to be the Spouse of the holiest of all creatures and the guardian of the Son of God made Man, was filled by God from his youth with special graces and spiritual gifts, so that he became a model for all the devout servants of our heavenly Queen. Especially is he worthy of being proposed as a perfect example of a faithful spouse and a kind father. To him God entrusted the important and honorable office of guarding the virginity of His Son's Mother and of protecting the Incarnate Word in His early years.
On account of this great dignity, St. Joseph came nearer than any other saint to Jesus and Mary. He must therefore have been more united to them in affection and love, so that we may say that even as he reproduced the virtues of Mary, so he was a spotless mirror, in which was reflected the incomparable sanctity of the Son of God.
The particular merit by which St. Joseph is honored in the Gospel is his justice. "Joseph autem cum esset justus" : by which words is implied the fulness of all virtues and in a special manner his fidelity as the Spouse of our blessed Lady.
The lily sprung from the rod, with which St. Joseph is wont to be represented, portrays for us not only his perpetual virginity but also the first of the bitter sorrows which afflicted his soul. While yet ignorant of the great mystery which was brought to pass in Our Lady, by the power of the Holy Ghost, he reluctantly decided to put her away privately, for fear on the one hand of breaking the law, which forbade anyone to keep an unfaithful spouse, and on the other of exposing to infamy his chosen one, whom he beheld to be filled with the highest virtues, and of whom he could not conceive the least suspicion.
This indeed was the hardest trial to which the holy Patriarch was subjected, but in this trial he did not allow himself to be discouraged, being sure that God would help him. And this came to pass when the Angel appeared to him, revealing the glorious mystery of the Incarnation of the Word as accomplished in the womb of Mary. St. Joseph had the happiness of breathing forth his soul assisted both by his foster-son, Jesus, and his holy Spouse, Mary.
O most Blessed Virgin Mary, among the great privileges with which thou wert favored by God, not least must be counted His having appointed as thy spouse and guardian of thy virginity the glorious Patriarch St. Joseph. Obtain for me, I pray thee, that in imitation of this great Saint, I may preserve myself chaste in soul and body, and daily grow in the grace of our Lord. Amen.