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Friday, January 27, 2006

The Seven Joys and Seven Sorrows of Saint Joseph

It is praiseworthy to dedicate each Wednesday to St. Joseph, with the recitation of the Seven Sorrows and the Seven Joys of St. Joseph, a devotion widespread in the Churches of Franciscans.

St. Joseph is an exemplar of a Marian saint. He was the first Marian Saint and the best. His whole world view was the Divine Child and the Immaculate Mother.

1 Hail Mary for each sorrow shared with the Immaculate
1 Glory for each joy, in praise of God for the spiritual gifts given to St. Joseph.

The sign of the Cross
V. O God, come to my assistance
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.

V. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

1. The First Sorrow and Joy of St. Joseph, the Annunciation

a. When St. Gabriel revealed the exalted mission entrusted to the Immaculate, St. Joseph in his great humility, believed that he was unworthy of her company. St. Joseph cannot, for one second, contemplate anything but Divine Intervention in Mary’s being with child. To him, it is obviously a miraculous Act of God. In great anguish and suffering, he must extricate himself from this sublimely holy situation in which he believes he doesn’t belong. Unwilling to cast aspersions on the Immaculate’s purity and with his humble obedience to the law, he pondered the self-sacrificial position to divorce her privately.

b. St. Joseph, Prince of the Interior Life, experienced great joy when the heavenly angel brought this news during prayer: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt1:20-22) "From the moment when the angel relieved him of the tormenting doubts concerning Mary, he never ceased adoring Jesus in her womb.” (St. Peter Julian Eymard, The Month of St. Joseph, 32)

2. Second Sorrow and Joy, the Birth of Jesus
a. The suffering begins on the long journey to Bethlehem, the quiet humility of the Immaculate and her divine Son, obeying the kings of the world, at the expense of their own comfort. St. Joseph is greeted with discouragement, as each inn turns the Holy Family away. The lodging secured is far beneath the great dignity of his dependents. He is burdened by the sight of the great poverty which will greet the Son of God, the dirt, the animals, the cold, the flies, the coarse straw. The provider of the family knows, they deserve better. Hail Mary…

b. But, amidst this sorrow, St. Joseph is filled with joy by numerous signs: A brilliant star, the heavenly host sing to God’s glory, the shepherd’s humble piety, the justice of the worship of the Three Kings, the Virgin Birth and the presence of the Son of God. Glory…

3. The Third Sorrow and Joy of St. Joseph, the Circumcision
a. “When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”( LK2:21) Circumcision was a sign of baptism, a sign of original sin and your belief in the promised Messiah. How great is the sorrow of St. Joseph, who knows the Glorious Nature of the infant, who understands that the Child emptied “himself, and took the form of a slave” “What a shock to Joseph to think that he himself would make the Infant-God suffer and would shed the first drops of His blood. How his heart ached at the sight of that wound, the blood that flowed from it, and the tears of the divine Mother.” (St. Peter Julian Eymard, Month of St. Joseph, 78) Hail Mary…

b. The Illustrious Son of David exercises his great inheritance, the legacy left him from his ancestor, the great King of Israel. It is to St. Joseph, chosen by God, the Just one who is given the privilege and honor to bestow the Holy Name of Jesus at this important ceremony. St. Joseph, a devout Jew, wouldn’t have even pronounced the Holy Name of God, but on this day, he will not only say the Name which means Salvation, he will be the one to command that it be given to the Infant. He well understood: “At his name every knee shall bend, in heaven on earth and under the earth” Glory …

4. The Fourth Sorrow and Joy of St. Joseph, the Presentation
a. Here we can imagine the Just and Faithful Head of the Holy Family leading his family towards the Temple in sacrificial obedience to the laws of God. In contemplative silence, he leads, almost dumbfounded by the overwhelming humility shown by the sinless Immaculate and the Only Son of God. Does the Son of God need to follow laws designed for a fallen human nature? Does the Immaculate Virgin need to be purified? However, in exceeding humility and in poverty St. Joseph offers the ransom, while the Virgin offers Her Son. Then, the great pain to hear that the beautiful Child and His Holy mother will suffer. At the words “And a sword shall pierce your heart” St. Joseph received a sword of suffering. Hail Mary…

b. The great joy at hearing the public declaration of the arrival of the Messiah: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Lk2:29-32)

John Paul II said:
Simeon uses an Old Testament phrase to express the joy he experiences on meeting the Messiah and feels that the purpose of his life has been fulfilled; he can therefore ask the Most High to let him depart in peace to the next world.” St. Joseph was a ‘just man’. Simeon’s joy is an insight of the joy of St. Joseph, for he too had been waiting for the consolation of Israel. Simeon’s words also open up salvation to people beyond Israel’s border, to the gentiles, in fact, to the whole human race. Here Joseph experiences the joy of the prophecy that Christ has come for all mankind.
“In his canticle, Simeon reverses the perspective and puts the stress on the universality of Jesus' mission: "For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory for your people Israel" (Lk 2:30-32).
How can we fail to marvel at these words? "And his father and mother marveled at what was said about him" (Lk 2:33). But this experience enabled Joseph and Mary to understand more clearly the importance of their act of offering: in the temple of Jerusalem they present the One who, being the glory of his people, is also the salvation of all mankind.”
John Paul II at the General Audience of Wednesday, 11 December 1996

5. The Fifth Sorrow and Joy, the Flight into Egypt.
a. We see in the OT that when angels visit men to bring them glad tidings, men are frightened, they fall prostrate, trembling at their glory. What if the message is dire “GET UP – FLEE” How great is the suffering of St. Joseph, another sword in his heart.
The suffering intensifies as St. Joseph leads the Holy Family stealthily, prudently, by his own judgment into the pagan land of Egypt, leaving behind his homeland, his friends, his family and his livelihood. How would he provide for his family? How would he keep them safe in the pagan land among foreigners? Hail Mary…

b.The joy he had in having God Himself always with him and to personally witness the fulfillment of prophecies: “See the Lord is riding on a swift cloud on his way to Egypt; The idols of Egypt tremble before him, the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them.” Isaiah 19:1, (St. Joseph saw the overthrow of the idols of Egypt.)

6.The Sixth Sorrow and Joy of St. Joseph, the Return from Egypt.
“When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my Son.” Hosea 11:1
a. The journey back must have been difficult. St. Joseph needed two visits from the angel to guide him to the region of Galilee. “When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.’ He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But, when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there.” St. Joseph heard, he had studied the conditions, he had his ear to the ground listening, watchful for any danger.We see St. Joseph exercising his role as “Watchful Defender of Christ.” He discerned something troubling. Using his reason, steeped in prayer, he turns to God for an answer. (Did he turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary?) “And because he had been warned in a dream,” St. Joseph received the supernatural help, he prayed for. “he departed for the region of Galilee. He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled” (Mt2:19-23) Hail Mary…

b. The joy of the hidden life in Nazareth. The spirit of high contemplation reigned in the Holy Family, in the Holy House now in Loreto. The Silence of the Holy Family is like the silence of a thousand Carmelite deserts (Fr. Faber) All those quiet years of work, family, and meditation on the Holiness of the Blessed Virgin Mary and developing a deep relationship with His God. “What must St. Joseph have thought when he saw his divine apprentice, taking pains at His work – He who by a single word had created the universe!” (Pere Benet, The Divine Favors Granted to St. Joseph, 19.) Glory…

7. The Seventh Sorrow and Joy of St. Joseph, Losing and Finding the Child Jesus in the Temple.
a. Had His hour arrived? Was He a prisoner? Injured? Trapped? Lost? … Dead?...Did I fail at my mission? Such foreboding! Wandering the streets of Jerusalem, the Spouse of the Mother of God, keeps the dread filled vigil with the Holy Mary, who gains many graces for sinners enduring this ‘loss of Jesus’. “So great was Joseph’s anguish, so bitter were his tears that the Holy Spirit has willed to immortalize them in Mary’s words: ’My Son, why has thou treated us so?” (St Peter Julian Eymard) Hail Mary

b. “After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished…” Luke 2:46-48 Why was St. Joseph astonished? St. Joseph, was the holy protector searching for his foster son. He should have expected to see Him in the Temple, didn’t St. Joseph go in to find Him? But, it is the manner in which St. Joseph finds Jesus that is his astonishment and JOY. He finds the Divine Child in a position of authority and adulation, not dejection. How happy the Foster Father of Jesus is to find his son, not only safe, but also admired by the teachers of the Law. How great is his joy after three long and terrible days of loss. Glory …

V. God made him master of His household.
R. And put him in charge of all that He owned.