Coronation of St. Joseph
While many Catholics should be familiar with the annual Solemnity of St. Joseph, Foster Father of Jesus Christ, celebrated annually on March 19th, fewer are likely familiar with the Eastertide Solemnity of St. Joseph.
According to Father Francis X. Lasance, it was instituted during the hostile occupation of Rome by the troops of the Italian King, Victor Emmanuel II. The Pope proclaimed St. Joseph the Patron of the oppressed Household of the Faith, entrusting to St. Joseph the defense of Holy Mother Church.
In the beginning, this Feast Day was observed on the Third Sunday after Easter, but when Pope St. Pius X reformed the liturgical calendar to restore the Sunday Offices to prominence over those of the Saints, the second Feast of St. Joseph was moved to the Wednesday preceding the Third Sunday after Easter. He also raised the Feast to a Double of the First Class and assigned an Octave to it.
While this feastday is not in the 1962 Missal, it is still kept by priests who celebrate Holy Mass according to the pre-1955 reforms.
The Easter mysteries are superseded today by a special subject, which is offered for our consideration. The holy Church invites us to spend this Sunday in honouring the Spouse of Mary, the Foster-Father of the Son of God. And yet, as we offered him the yearly tribute of our devotion on the 19th of March, it is not, properly speaking, his Feast that we are to celebrate today. It is a solemn expression of gratitude offered to Joseph, the Protector of the Faithful, the refuge and support of all that invoke him with confidence. The innumerable favours he has bestowed upon the world entitle him to this additional homage. With a view to her children’s interests, the Church would, on this day, excite their confidence in this powerful and ever ready helper.
Devotion to St. Joseph was reserved for these latter times. Though based on the Gospel, it was not to be developed in the early ages of the Church. It is not that the Faithful were, in any way, checked from showing honour to him who had been called to take so important a part in the mystery of the Incarnation; but Divine Providence had its hidden reasons for retarding the Liturgical homage to be paid, each year, to the Spouse of Mary. As on other occasions, so here also; the East preceded the West in the special cultus of St. Joseph: but, in the 15th Century, the whole Latin Church adopted it, and, since that time, it has gradually gained the affections of the Faithful. We have treated upon the glories of St. Joseph, on the 19th of March; the present Feast has its own special object, which we will at once proceed to explain.
The goodness of God and our Redeemer’s fidelity to his promises have ever kept pace with the necessities of the world; so that, in every age, appropriate and special aid has been given to the world for its maintaining the supernatural life. An uninterrupted succession of seasonable grace has been the result of this merciful dispensation, and each generation has had given to it a special motive for confidence in its Redeemer. Dating from the 13th century, when, as the Church herself assures us, the world began to grow cold, (Frigescente Mundo, Collect for the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis.) each epoch has had thrown open to it a new source of graces.
First of all came the Feast of the Most Blessed Sacrament, with its successive developments of Processions, Expositions, Benedictions and the Forty Hours. After this, followed the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, (of which St. Bernardine of Sienna was the chief propagator,) and that of Via Crucis or Stations of the Cross, with its wonderful fruit of compunction. The practice of frequent Communion was revived in the 16th century, owing principally to the influence of St. Ignatius and the Society founded by him. In the 17th, was promulgated the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was firmly established in the following century. In the 19th, devotion to the Holy Mother of God has made such progress, as to form one of the leading supernatural characteristics of the period. The Rosary and Scapular, which had been handed down to us in previous ages, have regained their place in the affections of the people; pilgrimages to the Sanctuaries of the Mother of God, which had been interrupted by the influence of Jansenism and rationalism, have been removed; the Archconfraternity of the Sacred Heart of Mary has spread throughout the whole world; numerous miracles have been wrought in reward for the fervent faith of individuals; in a word, our present century has witnessed the triumph of the Immaculate Conception, — a triumph which had been looked forward to for many previous ages.
Now, devotion to Mary could never go on increasing as it has done, without bringing with it a fervent devotion to St. Joseph. We cannot separate Mary and Joseph, were it only for their having such a close connection with the mystery of the Incarnation: Mary, as being the Mother of the Son of God; and Joseph, as being guardian of the Virgin’s spotless honour, and Foster-Father of the Divine Babe. A special veneration for St. Joseph was the result of increased devotion to Mary. Nor is this reverence for Mary’s Spouse to be considered only as a just homage paid to his admirable prerogatives: it is, moreover, a fresh and exhaustless source of help to the world, for Joseph has been made our Protector by the Son of God himself. Hearken to the inspired words of the Church’s Liturgy: “Thou, O Joseph! art the delight of the Blessed, the sure hope of our life, and the pillar of the world!” (Hymn for the Lauds of the Feast of the Patronage of St. Joseph) Extraordinary as is this power, need we be surprised at its being given to a man like Joseph, whose connections with the Son of God on earth were so far above those of all other men? Jesus deigned to be subject to Joseph here below; now that he is in heaven, he would glorify the creature, to whom he consigned the guardianship of his own childhood and his Mother’s honour. He has given him a power, which is above our calculations.
Hence it is, that the Church invites us, on this day, to have recourse, with unreserved confidence, to this all-powerful Protector. The world we live in is filled with miseries which would make stronger hearts than ours quake with fear: but, let us invoke St. Joseph with faith, and we shall be protected. In all our necessities, whether of soul or body — in all the trials and anxieties we may have to go through — let us have recourse to St. Joseph, and we shall not be disappointed. The king of Egypt said to his people, when they were suffering from famine: go to Joseph! (Genesis 41:55) the King of Heaven says the same to us: the faithful guardian of Mary has greater influence with God, than Jacob’s son had with Pharaoh.