St. Joseph – Contemplating the Mystery of the Human Face of God

“The most illustrious thing the Church has is that which she hides most.” ~Bossuet

Detail, St. Joseph with the Child, by Alonso Miguel de Tovar

His countless virtues made him worthy to be the foster father of the Son of God. He was the first man to see the human Face of God; the first man to hear the cry of the Word of God. Yet for centuries the most just and humble St. Joseph was fairly hidden in the Church. Not a word is spoken by St. Joseph in the Gospels. But as Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “His is a silence permeated by contemplation of the mystery of God, in an attitude of total availability to His divine wishes.”

Josephs’s Dream by Rembrandt c.1645

It was St. Teresa of Avila who recognized St. Joseph as the model of contemplative prayer. She wrote: “Would that I could persuade all men to have devotion to this glorious Saint; for I know by long experience what blessings he can obtain for us from God.”  Because St. Joseph was silent, he was attuned to hear the voice of God, although it was in darkness and obscurity.  “Those who practice prayer,” says St. Teresa, “should have a tremendous devotion to him always.”

“Joseph, the honest man, seeks God. Joseph, the selfless man, finds God. Joseph, the hidden man, delights in God’s presence.” –Second Panegyric on St. Joseph by Bossuet

Holy Family with bird, c. 1650, by Murillo

St. Joseph, through continuous prayer, sought God’s Will in each present moment. St. Teresa writes that he is the master of the interior life.  “In human life Joseph was Jesus’ master in their daily contact, full of refined affection, glad to deny himself in order to take better care of Jesus.  Isn’t that reason enough for us to consider this just man, this holy patriarch, in whom the faith of the old covenant bears fruit, as master of interior life?  Interior life is nothing but continual and direct conversation with Christ, so as to become one with Him.  And Joseph can tell us many things about Jesus.”  St. Joseph reveals those hidden graces in our daily lives; gifts from God that are available in each ordinary moment, as well as in trials and times of suffering. St. Joseph teaches us to live by faith as he did, before the presence of such a great mystery, by contemplating the human Face of God.



St. Joseph: An excess of love!

St. Joseph Altar in Louisiana

Where I live, in Louisiana, Catholics have a beautiful tradition of making St. Joseph’s altars to honor the great foster-father of Jesus on his feast day.  The hard work and preparations involved are only exceeded by the love that impels persons to try to express, in some way, that great love–and for many that way is with food.  The variety and colors delight the eyes, the flavors delight the taste.  The symbolism of the forms is rich and deep.  It is almost too much to take in.

St. Joseph

St. Joseph had much to “take in” as well–to take Mary, a virgin, as his spouse. That she would be the Mother of the Redeemer and that he, Joseph, would become the foster-father of Jesus, his own Savior. It is excessive! Over whelming! How must St. Joseph have felt to look into the Face of little Jesus and be reminded of the excess of the love of the Father? That same loving Father invites us to the feast He has prepared for us through His Son Jesus–if only we begin by turning to gaze at His Face.


St. Joseph Restoration, and Reparation

Last year I had not one, but three statues of St. Joseph in my house, old, broken, with decades of

St. Joseph in need of restoration
St. Joseph in need of restoration

different layers of flaking paint. I have restored countless numbers of such statues of Jesus, Mary, St. Joseph, Saints, Angels, even lambs and camels… large and small, in various distressed conditions; some nearly smashed to smithereens, seemingly beyond hope.  Some of the worst had been through Hurricane Katrina.  All the statues had one thing in common, they were dearly loved by someone who couldn’t bear to get rid of them.

The first one showed up on my doorstep twenty years ago.  I am a watercolor artist, so when a friend asked me if I could “fix a statue” because I “painted,” I was confused but decided to give it a shot.  The statue was in terrible shape –but it was me or the trash can. (Not a great choice.)  So, I did some research on restoration and got to work.  Statues have been showing up ever since and I repair them for one reason: I can’t bear to see them broken.  For me, it’s a labor of love.

Restored St. Joseph
Restored St. Joseph

I’ve often wondered if this is how God looks at our souls; broken, disfigured, and in various states of decay.  He looks on us with love and a desire to restore us to our original beauty.  When we come back to His “doorstep,” which is the Church, and “turn back to His Face,” the Divine Artist restores His Image in us.

Our Lord revealed the work of reparation, which is devotion to the Holy Face, “the most beautiful work under the sun,” to Sr. Marie St. Pierre, a Carmelite nun.  Jesus told her that the image of His Holy Face is like a Divine Stamp, which, if applied to souls through prayer, has the power of imprinting anew within them the image of God.

This is Sr. Marie St. Pierre’s beautiful prayer to reproduce the image of God in our souls, “I salute you!  I adore you and I love you, Oh adorable face of my beloved Jesus, as the noble stamp of the Divinity!  Completely surrendering my soul to You, I most humbly beg You to stamp this seal upon us all, so that the image of God may once more be reproduced in our souls.  Amen.”

In fact, anytime we turn to His Face, in prayer, He is beautifying and restoring our souls… and that is THE “labor of love!”

Teresian Sr. Martha and her beloved St. Joseph.
Teresian Sr. Martha and her beloved St. Joseph.

 Happy Feast of St. Joseph!

Feb. 12 – Day 5- Holy Face Novena

Alpha-Omega Holy Face of Jesus Novena Prayers and Consecration

IMG_0946“O Holy Face of Christ, light that enlightens the darkness of doubt and sadness, life that has defeated forever the force of evil and death, O inscrutable gaze that never ceases to watch over mankind; Face concealed in the Eucharistic signs and in the faces of those that live with us!  Make us pilgrims in his world, longing for the infinite and ready for the final encounter, when we shall see you, Lord, “face to face” (Cor. 13-12) and be able to contemplate you forever in Heavenly Glory.” — Pope Benedict XVI

Daily Preparatory Prayer

O Most Holy and Blessed Trinity, through the intercession of Holy Mary, whose soul was pierced through by a sword of sorrow at the sight of the passion of her Divine Son, we ask your help in making a perfect Novena of reparation with Jesus, united with His sorrows, love and total abandonment.

We now implore all the Angels and Saints to intercede for us as we pray this Holy Novena to the Most Holy Face of Jesus and for the glory of the most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Fifth Day

Psalm 51: 10-11

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness, that the bones you have crushed may revive.  From my sins turn away your Face, and blot out all my guilt.

Holy Face of Jesus, Sacred Countenance  of God, how great is your patience with humankind, how infinite your forgiveness.  We are sinners, yet you love us.  This gives us courage  For the glory of your Holy Face and of the Blessed Trinity, hear and answer us.  Mary our Mother, intercede for us, St. Joseph, pray for us.

Through the merits of your precious blood and your Holy Face, O Jesus, grant us our petition, …Pardon and mercy.

Prayer to St. Joseph*

St. Joseph
St. Joseph

Dear St. Joseph!  Adopt us as thy children, take charge of our salvation; watch over us day and night; preserve us from occasions of sin; obtain for us purity of body and soul, and the spirit of prayer, through thy intercession with Jesus, grant us a spirit of sacrifice, of humility and self-denial; obtain for us a burning love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and a sweet, tender love for Mary, our Mother.  St. Joseph, be with us in life, be with us in death and obtain for us a favorable judgement from Jesus, our merciful Savior.  Amen.

Pray one (1) Our Father, three (3) Hail Mary’s, one (1) Glory Be.

O Bleeding Face, O Face Divine, be every adoration Thine. (3 times)

* [The prayer to St. Joseph in this novena reminds us of the love of God the Father.  He looks upon us with infinite pity, mercy and love through the Face of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Our culture has few examples of a fatherhood like St. Joseph; gentle, strong in virtue, present and supporting his family.  We see instead, all around us examples of absent, weak, violent or cold, detached fathers.  The Holy Face of Jesus shows us the eternal, tender love that God the Father has for us.]