In honor of Verbum’s Saint of the Month, we present this excerpt that reveals the depth of Joseph’s character in relation to God, to others, and to himself.
God Himself, in the Holy Gospel, pronounces the encomium of St. Joseph by calling him “just”. And the great doctor, St. Jerome, thus expounds the term: “Joseph is called just on account of having possessed all virtues in a perfect degree.”
The word justice, in fact, comprehends every virtue, inasmuch as it leads man to render to each his due: to God, to his neighbours, and to himself; and when this debt is faithfully discharged, what else is wanting to true perfection?
Joseph rendered to God His due by the constant exercise of the three theological virtues, walking ever with the liveliest faith in the presence of God, with firm and stable hope expecting the near advent of the Messias, and with ardent charity loving without measure the sovereign goodness of God, and striving to the utmost of his power to make Him loved by others. He rendered faithfully to God His due by practising all the duties of religion, continually praising Him, making Him oblations and sacrifices, sanctifying all His feasts, reverencing His Temple, honouring His priests. In one word, he gave himself wholly to God, and for His glory he would willingly have shed his blood.
To men he rendered their due by respecting them in their property, their honour, and their life. He loved them tenderly, was solicitous to assist them, and zealously edified them by his example. Compassion for the suffering was, as it may be called, an integral portion of his being. Like Job, he might have said, “From my infancy mercy grew up with me.” This was a gift specially infused into his soul by God in order that, as he was to be the patron of the afflicted, his heart should melt at once at the sight of misery and be moved to give instant succour.
Finally, Joseph rendered to himself what was his due: as respected his soul, treasuring up in it all the virtues, all the merits, all the sound doctrine, and all the holy operations necessary to salvation; as regarded his body, procuring for it the fitting means for leading an honourable life, even to the acquiring a handicraft which might keep him holily employed and minister to his temporal needs.
Thus abundantly furnished with divine grace, Joseph had entered on the perfect possession of all virtues. He is, therefore, with full reason styled “just” in the Holy Gospel, and this, not merely to distinguish him from other saints, as St. James the Less and Joseph called Barsabas were styled just, but as being in reality perfectly just; just, not in an ordinary and common manner, but singularly and supereminently just.
We have here no slight indication of his sublime sanctity; for while the people of God were expecting with earnest longing the Just One by excellence, that is, the Messias, and were daily, in the words of the Prophet, praying that the clouds would rain down the Just, behold, before the time, there appears on earth one who is perfectly just.
One who is just by grace precedes Him who is just by nature. Joseph, adorned with all justice, comes to figure and announce Jesus, who is called, and is in fact, “the Lord, our Just One”.
Jesus, who is the Sun of Justice, sends before Him this star of justice, Joseph, who may thus be styled and is in fact, after Mary, the first just one of the New Law; the first justified and sanctified by the grace of the Redeemer Christ; the first just one canonised expressly in the Gospel by the Holy Spirit; first, not merely in the order of time but in that of excellence, perfection, and dignity, always excepting the Most Blessed Virgin.
This excerpt is adapted from Thompson, Edward Healy. The Life and Glories of St. Joseph. Dublin: M.H. Gill & Son, 1891.