NOVENA DAY 5:

ST. JOSEPH, Patron of the Universal Church

In
1870 Pope Pius IX declared Saint Joseph the Patron of the Universal Church. In
the providence of God, nothing has, I believe, made the faithful so directly
conscious of the special importance of Saint Joseph. From
that time, devotion to Joseph has grown by leaps and bounds within the Church.
What prompted the Church to declare
herself to be under the special protection of Joseph? Incidentally, there are
many writers who do not hesitate to say that the Pope did not make Saint
Joseph the Patron
of the Church, but that he only declared this to be a fact. This observation is
not without merit, for Papal documents only refer to a declaration on the part
of the Church and they never speak of the Church herself constituting Joseph in
this role. Hence, it is best to follow this terminology.
Leo XIII sums up the
teaching of the Church on the matter:
The divine household which
Joseph governed as with paternal authority contained the beginnings of the new
Church. The Virgin most holy is the mother of all Christians, since she is the
mother of Jesus and since she gave birth to them on the mount of Calvary amid
the indescribable sufferings of the Redeemer. Jesus is, as it were, the
firstborn of Christians, who are His brothers by adoption and redemption. From
these considerations we conclude that the Blessed Patriarch must regard all the
multitude of Christians who constitute the Church as confided to his care in a
certain special manner. This is his numberless family scattered throughout all
lands, over which he rules with a sort of paternal authority, because he is the
husband of Mary and the father of Jesus Christ. Thus, it is conformable to
reason and in every way becoming to Blessed Joseph that as once it was his
sacred trust to guard with watchful care the family of Nazareth, no matter what
befell, so now by virtue of his heavenly patronage he is in turn to protect and
to defend the Church, which is the body of Christ.
It was the mission of
Joseph to be the head of the Holy Family on earth, and in caring for wife and
son he began his office of protecting the Church, because, as Leo pointed out,
the Church was then in the embryonic state of her existence. He was chosen to
watch over the source of salvation and of sanctification for humanity, and in
heaven he continues the sacred trust that he exercised so well here on earth.
But it should not be
forgotten that this office of Joseph is a paternal office. He exercises it
because he is the father of Jesus Christ. Joseph is the spiritual father of all
the faithful, and this office is a natural consequence of his office as
virginal father of Christ. In becoming the father and protector of Christ, he
was given spiritual charge of all those who would receive the graces of the
redemption, just as Mary became the spiritual Mother of all precisely because
of her Divine Motherhood.

ST. JOSEPH, PATRON OF THE
UNIVERSAL CHURCH, PRAY FOR US

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