On the Catholic Priesthood
St. Joseph and the Priest
Priests are advised to recite, before the celebration of Mass, some certain prayers in honor of St. Joseph. Pope Pius IX., who declared St. Joseph the Patron of the universal Church, has indulgenced them. Who does not know those beautiful anthems: O felicem virum beatum Joseph and the Virginum custos et pater, Sancte Joseph?
It is prompted by these beautiful anthems that I propose a brief sketch of a fruitful meditation.
First. St. Joseph, by divine election became the foster-father of the Infant Jesus as he was also the spouse of the Blessed Mother of God. All honors due him on account of the exalted position thus held and the privileges he enjoyed, come vividly before our mind, when we kneel before the Blessed Sacrament. Pondering over them we feel inclined to asked our Lord in the Sacred Host to bless us for the sake of St. Joseph; and assurance comes to us that our humble petition will be listened to. Let us remind Jesus of what the loving foster father has done for Him in his mortal life, and feel assured that St. Joseph's advocacy will be most powerful.
Second. Who has such weighty reasons to put his trust in the prayers and intercession of St. Joseph as has the Catholic priest? What St. Joseph was to our Lord in the days of His infancy on earth, that the priest is to Jesus when ministering to Him at the altar. Helpless and in the state of utmost destitution, our Sacramental Lord craves for that kind care and solicitude which he once enjoyed at the hands of His beloved foster-father. Often the priest is in no better way of finding shelter for Jesus in the Holy Sacrament than St. Joseph was, when, after a vain search for a suitable dwelling, he, at last, betook himself to a lonely stable as a resting place for the Savior to be born. And is the priest not glad, when, to such a humble abode as he may have found, the faithful come, like the shepherds of Bethlehem and the three wise men, to adore the Lord of hosts seated on a throne void of all ornaments? St. Joseph's joy is his.
Did you ever witness the care and labor of the priest in his endeavors for the construction and embellishment of a church which was to serve as the abode of the Sacramental Lord, without being reminded of St. Joseph, who labored in the sweat of his brow for the beloved Infant? Deep is the grief and unspeakable the agony, which the faithful priest experiences, when profanation threatens the Sacred Host, or when the Holy Sacrament is snatched away by an unworthy communicant and forced into the dark dungeon of a sinner's heart, or even of a God-forsaken sacrilegious priest. Then it is, that you behold St. Joseph portrayed in his anguish of heart in his flight into Egypt, to save his beloved child from the ruthless hand of Herod and his cruel soldiers. St. Joseph was the first guardian of Jesus, but we priests have received from God the guardianship of Jesus living, but persecuted and treated contumeliously in the Blessed Sacrament.
Third. Compare, if you will, the privileges St. Joseph enjoyed, with those of the priest. Is it not as if you saw the Holy Patriarch appearing amongst us, his countenance beaming with delight as he embraced the Infant with tender affection, clasping Him to his bosom, carrying Him on his arms, leading Him by the hand, working ceaselessly for his honored charge, listening to His sweet voice? Is it not so to you, I say, when you behold the priest ministering to the King of hosts in the Holy Sacrament? O priest of God, do not envy St. Joseph, but rather congratulate yourself and break forth into transports of joy, recalling the words of the holy canticle: Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est. For, you also touch the body of the Lord; you carry Him on your heart when on your way to the sick to administer to them Holy Communion and Viaticum; you more than press Him to your bosom at Holy Communion. He obeys you with the same willingness and promptness as He did His foster-father. And were you only to listen to his holy inspirations, when communing with Him, joy and consolation would be yours, as was the sweet portion of St. Joseph in his intercourse with the Divine Infant.
Fourth. Is the office of the priest in its holiest moments not similar to that of St. Joseph? and do not the highest privileges of both blend, indeed, in a most perfect manner? If so, what is the natural inference to be drawn from such a comparison? Oh! the minister of the sanctuary should strive to imitate the most conspicuous virtues of that exalted saint. By so doing, he would ennoble his life and draw from his holy functions perennial streams of genuine happiness, and blessings abundant for himself and for those confided to his care.
But what are the most conspicuous characteristics of St. Joseph, worthy to be acquired by every priest? None other than his astounding humility and his spotless virginity. Though of little account in the estimation of the world, they were the foundation of his exalted dignity. His royal crown could not have been devoid of these two ornaments. The humility of St. Joseph and his marvelous chastity were, so to speak, the frame-work on which was to rest his dignity as the father of Jesus and the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. So with the priest. Humility and chastity are the jewels of the Catholic priesthood. No priest will be honored by God, nor will he have honor before men, if he doesn't appear wrapped in the royal mantle of humanity and chastity. O priest of God, take St. Joseph for your model and flee pride and sensuality; if you do not, the royal robe of your priesthood will fall into shreds, the crown of your dignity will lose its luster and the scepter of your authority will be broken in your hands. Contemplate, admirare, imitare, Quando litas precans ad altare, Fungens Sancti Joseph opere, et beare.
Source: Annals of St. Joseph, Norbertine Fathers, 1896 Vol. 8-10