Beloved From All Eternity!

God gives His elect all the gifts they need to fulfil their specific mission. Of what scope were the heavenly gifts Our Lord would have given to the man He loved most on earth?

In a beautiful play on words, replicated by countless Saints in subsequent centuries, St. Bernard of Clairvaux teaches us that “the measure of loving God is to love Him without measure.”1 Love! This is the only response that man, created by an act of supreme divine gratuitousness, can offer his Creator to make return to Him for such benevolence, albeit imperfectly. However, if instead of the love that man has for his God, we consider God’s love for His creatures, we will perceive an enormous disproportion, an infinite magnitude, because He himself “is love” (1 Jn 4:8)!

When a lower being loves another of a higher rank, the former is conformed to the latter;2 on the other hand, when a higher being looks down on a lower one, he draws him to himself, elevating him to his own condition. Thus, when God loves His creatures, He transforms them to His image. To do this, He gives them all the gifts and graces they need to fulfil the specific and supernatural missions He entrusts to them, as St. Thomas Aquinas explains.3

The archetypal case of this divine liberality is found in the person of Mary Most Holy. It pleased the Creator that She should be Immaculate in her Conception, Virgin before, during and after childbirth, and never suffer any corruption of body or soul. These very high gifts were granted to Her on account of the absolute uniqueness of Divine Motherhood.

The first predestined in view of Redemption

Associated to this loving relationship between God and His exceptional Mother, Daughter and Spouse, is someone chosen for a very special mission in the mystery of the Incarnation: St. Joseph.

In God’s eyes, each member of the Holy Family of Nazareth participates in the same salvific plan of God, since the decree of predestination was one for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and they were jointly and hierarchically the first of the predestined in view of the Redemption.4 Thus, in contemplating the great calling that St. Joseph received – nothing less than watching over God’s greatest treasures – we ask ourselves: with what gifts and graces might his soul have been enriched?

Certain theologians, such as Cardinal Lépicier,5 with a view to outlining this remarkable man’s moral profile, explain that his greatness derives from three sources: firstly, from his relationship with the Incarnate Word; secondly, from his relationship with the Blessed Virgin; and finally, from his relationship with the Holy Church.

Therefore, we will analyse, if only briefly, the incomparable gifts that Our Lord entrusted to His most chaste father, so that we can better admire the scope of this threefold calling.

Participation in the hypostatic union

The order of creation finds its apogee in the hypostatic union of the Man-God, in which the human and divine natures are united, as in a joint, in the Person of the Word. Only the most holy humanity of Jesus Christ participates in this union in an absolute way. Our Lady, for her part, participates in this order in an extraordinary and intrinsic way, not substantial but real, through her necessary co-operation in the divine plan of the Incarnation.

Together with Mary, St. Joseph was called to be an intimate part of this sublime reality, given his role directly linked to the Person of the Redeemer. As our founder, Msgr. João, points out in his work St. Joseph, Who Really Knows Him?…,6 the Holy Patriarch’s co-operation in the conception of Christ was not in a biological, but rather a moral sense, which is the noblest aspect. Thus, this co-operation with the plan of the hypostatic union was true, morally necessary and intimate because, by his willingness to fulfil God’s will in all its radicality and every nuance, it can be said that he implicitly accepted God’s plan for the virginal conception, in the joy of his soul, even if he was not aware of its details.

Furthermore, without St. Joseph’s consent to betroth Mary, the Incarnate Word would not have been able to enter the world as the Creator wished from the beginning of humanity, that is, in the bosom of a well-constituted family. Only his consent would make it possible for Our Lady to be a Virgin and Mother in a dignified and fitting manner; and for him, through his right to everything that belonged to his wife, to also be a virgin and father, or better, the virginal father of Jesus, “the most perfect title for his relationship with the Son of God.”7

A “god” for God himself

We must also consider him as Our Lord’s real father. In the first place, because God’s words not only symbolize, but, having their own efficacy, actually produce what they signify. Jesus evidently called St. Joseph “father”, which is in itself a striking proof of his true paternity. Moreover, the Blessed Virgin herself confirmed the virginal paternity of her husband, when She found the Child Jesus in the Temple and said: “Your father and I have been looking for you” (Lk 2:48).

God filled St. Joseph’s heart with a deep love for his Divine Son, greater than the love of any other father
St. Joseph with the Child Jesus – Cathedral of St. Andrew, Bordeaux (France)

Other passages of Scripture also prove that St. Joseph’s paternity was real, and not just symbolic or juridical. St. Matthew, for example, lists Christ’s genealogy from the Holy Patriarch (cf. Mt 1:16) because, for the Jewish people, heredity always came from the male. And the Angel entrusts Joseph with the paternal task of giving Jesus His name (cf. Mt 1:21), a simple duty, but one in which the entire paternal office of Mary’s husband is declared.

From this legal prerogative of St. Joseph comes his authority over the Eternal Father’s Only-begotten Son. We are faced, then, with the immense majesty of a man “charged with directing the conduct of a God and to be placed as superior over Him in whose presence the highest of creatures, the most exalted of the angelic hierarchies, the Seraphim and the Cherubim, prostrate and annihilate themselves, casting their crowns at His feet.”8 In Thompson’s beautiful expression, “Joseph was, in a manner, set to be the god of God Himself.”9

Capacity to love “proportional” to the Son of God

In the heart of any father truly worthy of the name, we find a deep love for his son. However, how could a man render to his own son the love due to God, as happened in the case of St. Joseph? We have already said that Divine Providence always grants the elect all the graces necessary for the fulfilment of a specific mission. In this way, “God also gave Joseph a share in the corresponding love, the love that has its origin in the Father ‘from whom every family in Heaven and on earth is named’ (Eph 3:15).”10

This is why some authors go so far as to say that St. Joseph’s capacity to love was, in a way, proportional to the Son of God: “He [God the Father] either formed in him [Joseph] an entirely new heart or infused an exceeding increase of tenderness into the heart which he already possessed. Certain it is that He filled him with a love surpassing in generosity and fervour that of any other father; for it was needful that Joseph’s paternal love should be in a measure proportioned to the perfections of this adorable Son.”11

Therefore, despite not having contributed biologically to the generation of Jesus, St. Joseph loved Him as no father has ever loved his son in all of history. Far from diminishing his affection, this holy man’s unblemished virginity increased and purified it for, possessing a pure heart, nothing earthly or human interfered with his paternal affection for the Infant-God.

Ambassador of the Holy Spirit to Mary

The Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity also acted in an eminent way towards the Holy Patriarch in the matter of the Incarnation. Our Lady is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, since She conceived through His work (cf. Mt 1:20; Lk 1:35). But Mary is also the real Spouse of Joseph! How can this paradox be explained? Being invisible, the Paraclete gave His virginal Bride, as a substitute, a visible husband, who was to accompany Her everywhere and render Her faithful service.12 As some Josephine theologians put it, he was a “vice-Paraclete”.

And there is more. The Holy Patriarch was the model adopted by God for the generation of Jesus’ humanity. Thus, the Divine Holy Spirit made Joseph’s temperament, dispositions and inclinations, as well as his own physical appearance, as similar as possible to those of the Saviour. This resemblance was undeniably fitting, so that Jesus would be considered, in the eyes of all, the real son of St. Joseph.13

Exchange of hearts with the Queen of Angels

All the privileges of the Holy Patriarch we have analysed so far derive, in a certain way, from his marriage to the Blessed Virgin. Both his virginal paternity and his participation in the hypostatic plane were only possible because of the true and real marriage contracted between them.

The Paraclete granted his Bride a visible husband, and adopted him as the model for the formation of Jesus’ humanity
The espousals of the Virgin”, by Juan Correa – Museum of Antequera (Spain)

Although there are those who object to the perfection of this union, all the conditions required for the authenticity of marriage are met in it: the consent and gift that the spouses make of themselves reciprocally, the spiritual significance of this union – which represents the espousal between Jesus Christ and the Church (cf. Eph 5:32) – and the Son.14

We know that marriage consists not only in a merely material union, but also, and above all, in the close bond that produces, between the spouses, “the unity of hearts, spirits, sentiments and affections.15 For St. Thomas,16 the very essence of marriage consists in this indissoluble union of spirits. So what can we say about the virginal espousal between Joseph and Mary? As Msgr. João reflects, such was the affinity between the two that there was a true exchange of hearts, “by which the graces inhabiting one’s interior were lived by the other, allowing them to share the same desires.”17

Immaculate in his conception, and co-redeemer

A man called to have such a relationship with Our Lady could only have a moral stature that surpassed any human standard. It was certainly not appropriate for the Queen of Virgins to live with a man tainted by concupiscence and subject to the disorders of sin: “since the guardianship of terrestrial paradise was, after sin, entrusted to Angels alone, it would be fitting that Our Lady be espoused only to an angelic man,”18 since She is the Paradise of the New Adam.

Therefore, in accordance with the theological hypothesis of which Msgr. João is a fervent adherent, we can conjecture that, just as the Blessed Virgin was exempt from the stain of original sin in view of her Divine Maternity, it was also fitting for St. Joseph – by a gift subordinate to the privilege of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, which is exclusive to Her – to be preserved from every stain of sin, in view of his virginal paternity and his cooperation with the Saviour and His Mother in the work of Redemption.

Fr. Llamera recalls that St. Joseph’s redemptive co-operation “is very real and objective, at the same time unique […]. If we consider the free consent he gave to God’s plans by accepting his ministry, regarding the content of which he was given very particular insights, there can be no doubt that his intention directly encompassed the surrender of himself to the enterprise of regenerating mankind.”19

In this way, St. Joseph, having a mission so closely united to that of Mary Most Holy, would not only have been immaculate at his conception, but would also have received the ministry of co-redeemer!20

Patriarch of the Holy Church

We must now consider a very important aspect of St. Joseph’s mission: he who was called to watch over the “[beginnings] of the mysteries of salvation”21 on earth was to continue his office in the Mystical Body of Christ from Heaven. In other words, by being the father of Jesus, Joseph should also be the father of the Church, for the Head cannot be separated from its members.22

He who had watched over “the first fruits of the Church” on earth would continue from Heaven his watch over the Mystical Body of Christ
St. Joseph, Patriarch of the Holy Church – Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Rome

And how is this office exercised? In a parallel way to Mary’s spiritual Maternity towards all men, St. Joseph has an incalculable paternal care for each one of us. Like a good father, he attends to our needs, corrects our faults and sins, and defends us from our enemies, especially the devil and his snares.

“Joseph was just”

The greater the gifts received from God, the greater the gratitude and love owed to Him. And how generously St. Joseph rendered them!

By calling him a “just” man (Mt 1:19) in Scripture, the Holy Spirit pointed to the immense degree of charity that flooded his immaculate soul, for “a just man is fundamentally a self-giving man; he is a man who recognizes that he has received everything and who, consequently, considers himself obliged to return to God honour, glory, praise, adoration and gratitude for all that he has received […]. In a word: to be just is to be holy.23

Holiness: this is the way in which we can render God love without measure. This is what the life of the Glorious Patriarch teaches us; this is undoubtedly what he ardently desires for each of us from the heights of Heaven, close to his Divine Son and his Most Holy Spouse. ◊



1 ST. BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX. Tratado sobre el amor a Dios, c.VI, n.16. In: Obras Completas. 2.ed. Madrid: BAC, 1993, v.I, p.323.

2 Cf. ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS. Subida del Monte Carmelo. L.I, c.4, n.3. In: Vida y obras. 5.ed. Madrid: BAC, 1964, p.371.

3 Cf. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS. Summa Theologiae. III, q.27, a.4.

4 Cf. FERRER ARELLANO, Joaquín. San José, nuestro Padre y Señor. Madrid: Arca de la Alianza, 2007, p.24.

5 Cf. LÉPICIER, OSM, Alexis Marie. São José, esposo da Santíssima Virgem Maria. Campinas: Ecclesiæ, 2014, p.38.

6 Cf. CLÁ DIAS, EP, João Scognamiglio. St. Joseph: Who Really Knows Him?… São Paulo-Toronto-Houston: Lumen Sapientiæ; Virgin of Fatima Assoc.; Heralds of the Gospel, 2023, p.192-194; 199.

7 Idem, p.195.

8 THOMPSON, Edward Healy. The Life and Glories of St. Joseph. Dublin: Burns & Oates, Limited, 1893, p.358.

9 Idem, ibidem.

10 ST. JOHN PAUL II. Redemptoris custos, n.8.

11 THOMPSON, op. cit., p.385.

12 Cf. Idem, p.220.

13 Cf. Idem, p.212.

14 Cf. MESCHLER, SJ, Maurício. São José, na vida de Cristo e da Igreja. Rio de Janeiro: Vera Cruz, 1943, p.95.

15 Idem, ibidem.

16 Cf. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, op. cit., q.29, a.2.

17 CLÁ DIAS, EP, João Scognamiglio. Mary Most Holy: The Paradise of God Revealed to Men. Houston: Heralds of the Gospel, 2022, v.II, p.334.

18 CLÁ DIAS, St. Joseph: Who Really Knows Him?…, op. cit., p.40.

19 LLAMERA, OP, Bonifacio. Teología de San José. Madrid: BAC, 1953, p.154.

20 Cf. CLÁ DIAS, St. Joseph: Who Really Knows Him?…, op. cit., p.204.

21 SOLEMNITY OF ST. JOSEPH. Collect. In: THE ROMAN MISSAL. English translation according to the 3rd Typical Edition approved by the USCCB and confirmed by the Apostolic See. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2011, p.835.

22 Cf. CLÁ DIAS, St. Joseph: Who Really Knows Him?…, op. cit., p.412.

23 SUÁREZ, Federico. José, esposo de Maria. Lisboa: Rei dos Livros, 1986, p.50.



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