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The Real Saint Joseph

This article first appeared in the March 2021 Print Edition of Catholic Family News (click HERE to subscribe; current subscribers can access the E-Edition HERE).

In a papacy that has been filled with ‘interesting’ developments (to put it mildly), we are reminded that the Office of the Pope is truly intended for the good of the Church, when the Holy Father speaks and acts as he should — that is, when he exercises his God-given power “unto edification” and not “destruction” (cf. 2 Cor. 10:8). The current Pontiff’s proclamation of the Year of Saint Joseph (Dec. 8, 2020—Dec. 8, 2021) is a happy development, and we must make the most of it. Granted, it seems that this year will also be used to push forward the Amoris Laetitia agenda,[1] which is troubling. In addition, there is an element of a socialist co-opting of the notion of St. Joseph the Worker. Nonetheless, it is God Who is ultimately in control, and when the name of St. Joseph is honored, the Foster Father of Our Lord will deliver. Whether or not the Modernists want to pretend that Joseph validates their fraudulent endeavors is beside the point; St. Joseph will present himself in all truth, and God will not be mocked.

So, what a perfect opportunity to take back the truth
about St. Joseph and grow in devotion to a Saint who is second only to his
Immaculate Spouse in the glorious Communion of Saints. In a world where virtue
and, perhaps most importantly, manhood,
are ill-understood or undermined, the earthly father of Our Lord is the perfect
remedy. In a way, we might even be reminded that God is truly in charge of
history, as it is His story, and when the world groans in travail, He raises up
the cure for all our ills. The demon is bold in our day and his minions lurk
around every corner, waiting to devour unwitting souls on the broad road “that
leadeth to destruction” (Matt. 7:13). No earthly force will save us, no
politician will on his own stem the tide, and no half-hearted solution exists. It
is the Hour of Joseph, and the Terror of
Demons
is as a father ready to rescue his children who have been kidnapped
— the time is now.

Inspiration Behind Terror of Demons Book

Perhaps some readers may be aware, but for those who are not, I have written a book called Terror of Demons: Reclaiming Traditional Catholic Masculinity (Our Lady of Victory Press, 2020). The easiest way to find it is to visit www.kennedyhall.ca. It is a strange phenomenon that I was able to write this book, which has been successful beyond anything I imagined. I am a prodigal son, like many in today’s Church, and I lived a life far from God for many years. I will not provide too many details on that, but suffice it to say that for a time I was indeed a son of perdition, all the while having no idea I was actually a son of St. Joseph. When I began writing the book, I initially did not have any conscious inspiration in mind, other than a need for true men to arise and come to the aid of Holy Mother Church. After I had finished the manuscript, I was on retreat and the chapel had a most wonderful image of the Holy Family, with a vigorous and youthful rendition of St. Joseph. I had never seen him like this before, and as I knelt meditating in the chapel, I asked God for guidance on what to name the book, and what purpose it had. At this point, I was not in any way explicitly devoted to Joseph, and to my knowledge I had never gone through his Litany. Nonetheless, God answered my prayers and I began to hear and see in my mind’s eye, “Terror of Demons.” From then on, it was clear what my book would be called, and the true inspiration behind it was evident. I even decided to embark on a series of articles developing the meaning of his titles mentioned in his Litany, which became the appendix for my book.

I had always kept the model of my Nonno (Italian
grandfather) at the forefront of my thoughts. I dedicate the book to him, as he
was heroic in my life — perhaps the only faithful Catholic in my immediate and
extended family, and a man of stalwart virtue. In any case, I carry his
namesake as one of my middle names (his name was Giuseppe). Thus, Joseph is my
middle name. All those morning offerings I had prayed, asking for the
intercession of “the Saint whose name it is my honor to bear,” and for some
silly reason I had never clued into what was so obvious. I had this vague idea
that I possessed some forgotten baptismal name, and each morning I called on
some unknown saint. It is silly, now that I think of it, but sometimes it seems
that God has a sense of humor. At any rate, it also struck me after I wrote the
book that my birth date is March 18 — that is, I was born in the early evening
on the vigil of the feast day of St. Joseph.

I am a child of a divorced family, and although I do
love my parents, the trauma of that situation is what it is. Through custody
issues and moving around, my father did his best under difficult circumstances,
but through a series of boyfriends and step-fathers I experienced while with my
mother, I never felt cemented under the care of a single father. Again, this is
not to criticise my father, who in many ways was given the short end of the
stick. At any rate, sometimes I think that it was St. Joseph who was behind the
scenes the whole time, even when I was far away from Rome. In fact, just as he
is rarely seen or heard in the Bible, his quiet strength is a foundational
element of salvation history. This is certainly true in my case.

Marriage and Fatherhood: Resolving to “Man Up”

I distinctly remember being 19 years old, sitting in
the passenger seat while my mother drove through the downtown of my hometown.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was feeling a little melancholic. We rarely (if
ever) went to Mass, and often Sunday afternoons involved a certain feeling of homesickness,
which I now realize was a longing to be in my heavenly Father’s House. I had
just fallen head over heels for the woman who would become my wife, and she was
an 8-hour drive away at university. As I looked out the window, I said to my
mother, “I really do love her, and I need to learn how to be a husband and a
father.” My mother chuckled and sort of wondered if I was trying to ‘tell her
something’. But in reality, it was something like a prompting of particular
grace in a simultaneously fast and achingly slow re-version to the One True
Faith.

Years later, my wife and I were expecting our first
son, Titus, and I knelt weeping in front of the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe
in Mexico City. It was the final day of a mission that would alter my life
forever, and I had found out only a few days prior to leaving that we were
expecting a child. As I said, I was far from God for so long, so you can
imagine the emotional toll that such a profound experience had on me. I fell in
love with my unborn child, and I made a resolution to the Virgin Mary to become
a truly faithful man — in other words, to “man up.”

During the next few years, I embarked on a quest to
recapture true masculinity, and after an unrelenting influx of information —
all aided by living in a constant state of grace for the first time in my life
— I came to the point where I almost had to
write the book. It was like exhaling when I was at the point of bursting at the
seams.

So, who is the real St. Joseph who has changed my life?

Getting to Know Saint Joseph

There is a tradition of pious art that depicts our
Saint as an aged man, and from what I can tell, this comes from a legend found
in the Protoevangelium of St. James (an apocryphal work), wherein Joseph is
depicted as an older widower who is entrusted with the care of the Virgin.
Whatever good intention this may have entailed — perhaps to explain how such a
man could be chaste — it is not supported by the strongest testimonies and
tradition of our great saints and theologians. For example, the most ancient
artistic depictions of Joseph show him as a younger man, and St. Jerome defends
this belief. Jerome professes it as if it was already the long-standing
position, which means that since he was active during the late 4th and early
5th centuries, this belief is as early as they come. He also stresses that St.
Joseph lived and died without ever forsaking his virginity, which calls into
question the idea that he could have been a widower. Other great early Church Fathers
like St. Athanasius and St. Gregory Nazianzus taught the same thing.

Now, to strengthen this tradition, the doctrine that
he was confirmed in grace is overwhelming. He was conceived in Original Sin,
but in a manner similar to St. John the Baptist, Joseph was somehow sanctified
in the womb. Francisco Suarez, Bernardine de Bustis, St. Frances de Sales, Jean
Gerson, Isidor Isolano, St. Alphonsus Liguori and Cornelius a Lapide all hold
to the same belief of his sanctification in his mother’s womb and preservation
from all personal sin. Could we really expect anything less from the Head of
the Holy Family? It should not be surprising that from all eternity, God ordained
in His infinite wisdom to call forth a truly “just man” (Matt. 1:19) to lead
the sinless Son and Mother of God.

So, what was Saint Joseph like?

The New Testament does not record one spoken word or
phrase of Saint Joseph, but there are at least two words we can be certain he
uttered often: Jesus and Mary. He spoke the names of the Holy Theotokos and her
Divine Son, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. Not only did he speak
their names, but he spoke to them and
cultivated a relationship of deep love and affection towards them that should
take our breath away, were we to understand its fullness.

If we want to know what the man was like, then we
ought to consider the Holy Family. You see, the Virgin Mary is the most exalted
(holiest) Saint in history, and can be surpassed by no other creature. Christ
is of course the Second Person of the Trinity, and thus rules over all
creation. Latria, which is the worship due to God alone, is offered to
Christ, the eternal Word “made flesh” (John 1:14), while hyperdulia, the
highest form of veneration (dulia), is offered to the Virgin Mary. In
addition, protodulia is offered to St. Joseph, as after the Virgin Mary
he is highest among all creatures. He is not just “any Saint,” and his
proximity to Jesus and Mary tells us something of how special he must be, in
order to be chosen for that role.

Even though he is lower than his Spouse and his Son,
he is still the Head of the Holy Family,
which means that he led the Blessed Mother and Christ during his earthly
sojourn. It is astonishing to consider the absolute humility that both Our Lord
and Our Lady practiced by placing themselves under the guidance of a man who
was objectively beneath them. And yet, the humility of Joseph is no less
edifying to contemplate as he accepts a mission for which he knows he is not
“qualified” in the earthly sense — the headship of God Incarnate and the Spouse
of the Holy Ghost — because he sees it as his duty to obey God in all things. Our
Lord’s famous maxim that “the last [shall] be first, and the first last” (Matt.
20:16) comes alive in the dynamic of the Holy Family household economy. Maybe
as Christ uttered these words during his public ministry, He had Joseph on his
mind (what a beautiful thought on which to meditate).

Chaste Guardian of the Virgin

Imagine for a moment what sort of man Joseph must have
been to guide and guard the Virgin and her Son. Perhaps we might pause on his
title of Chaste Guardian of the Virgin as we consider the type of servant
leadership he exhibited.

Call to mind the journey that Mary and Joseph took for
the Roman census, leading up to Our Lord’s Nativity in Bethlehem. It is
believed that they took the Jordan Valley route, which descends to the lowest point on earth and passes by the
Dead Sea. It is also the way to Jericho, a city known for danger. The symbolism
of this voyage cannot be understated. Our Lady, led by St. Joseph, carried Our
Lord by the lifeless waters of the pit of the earth. St. Joseph guarded the
Most Holy Virgin through this land of death. Envision the criminal threat
present around every corner, especially given the shorter days and darker
evenings of the winter season. St. Joseph was perfectly aware of the spiritual
forces who writhed in pain at the Virginal Monstrance of Our Lady’s Womb. The
priest of the Holy Family processed his wife and unborn Son amongst the Valley
of Death. It is here that King David’s words come alive: “For though I should
walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for Thou art
with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, they have comforted me” (Ps. 22[23]:4). Perhaps
Mary contemplated these words, rubbing Her womb the way expectant mothers are known
to do, as she gazed lovingly at her husband, finding comfort in his masculine
countenance.

With each dominating footstep, St. Joseph sent a
warning to the depths of hell that the Coming of Christ was approaching.
Through the dark of night, he led the bestial chariot of Our Lady, her perfect
holiness lighting the way while Joseph marched his family forward through the
descending fog of demons. This Chaste Guardian of the Virgin was not a
diminutive man, but a conqueror, flanked by the Prince of the Heavenly Host and
His Angels. At the end of every valley, there is an ascent to be made in order
to climb upwards out of the deep. As they passed by the degenerate city of
Jericho, they began their ascent out of the Valley of Death. This was the
hardest part of the journey, a steep climb after days of exhaustive trekking
through unforgiving weather and terrain. From the Limbo of the Fathers, Adam,
Noah, Abraham, Moses and David watched as the Light of the Patriarchs showed
them the glory soon to come when Christ would descend into the dead in order to
raise the holy men of old from the shadows.

Saving the Best for Last

Throughout many situations in life, but especially for those whom we love, it is customary to ‘save the best for last’. Well, in the Litany of Saint Joseph, the final name of our beloved saint is Protector of Holy Church, a title solemnly declared by Pope Pius IX on Dec. 8, 1870. Just before this title in the litany is where we find the name Terror of Demons, the title which I think needs to be on our banner in our crusade against Communism, Modernism, and other pernicious errors so prevalent today. Joseph, of all creatures ever existing in God’s Providence, is the one who garners this terrifying name. The very presence of Joseph spreads dread and fear into those who, motivated by pride and hatred of God, make it their goal to terrorize men.

For many years, Joseph spent long hours perfecting his
craft, striving and sweating in his workshop. Like a foreshadowing of the New
Adam, Joseph worked by the sweat of his brow, taming the dried flesh of the
trees of the Holy Land. In a manner similar to how God whittles down a man,
transforming him from a rough plank to a man perfected, so too did Joseph bend
and form the elements that would become the Cross of his adopted Son. The
demons are never truly absent, even at our hour of death; thus, with each
passing year, the devils assigned by hell to tempt Joseph watched him ever so
closely. How could a man so humble also demonstrate the fortitude of a dragon
slayer? From the shadows, they observed Joseph axe down trees and prepare them
for transport. Like a painful premonition, those demons saw a flash of the
Christ as St. Joseph knelt to the ground, only to stand with a tree on his
shoulders. Watching the Terror of Demons carry oak and olive trees was
torturous. As Joseph lifted his hammer to pound iron, each metallic clang
smashed the gates of hell like the cheerful piercing of the bells of
Consecration.

It is incredible to think of the years Jesus spent
apprenticing under His foster father. Although they did not share a biological
relation, I imagine Our Lord showed many of the same mannerisms in His way of
speaking and acting. If we were to watch how Christ carried His Cross, and we
knew St. Joseph, we might even think we were watching God Himself carry that
Tree after His earthly father’s image and likeness.

In this Year of Saint Joseph (Dec. 8, 2020—Dec. 8, 2021), let us beg Heaven for Joseph’s aid. Our spiritual house (the Church) is a mess; it is befouled with grievous sins, idols, and demons. At this point, I can think of no better solution than to call upon the Foster Father of Our Lord to come home and terrorize every devil in sight as he sends them straight back to the pit of hell.

St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us!

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[1] On Dec. 27, 2020, Pope Francis announced “a year of reflection on Amoris Laetitia” which will begin on March 19, 2021 (Feast of St. Joseph, fifth anniversary of the document’s promulgation) and go through June 2022. Thus, Mar. 19—Dec. 8, 2021 will concurrently be the Year of St. Joseph and the Year of Amoris Laetitia.

The post The Real Saint Joseph appeared first on Catholic Family News.

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