This text is taken from the March, 1990 issue of The Angelus, and is a response of Fr. Laisney to someone opposed to using the title of “father” for Saint Joseph. We reprint it here, especially during this month of March, dedicated to St. Joseph, to help increase our love and devotion to this glorious saint.
Yet St. Augustine himself says that he can be called properly the father of Jesus (sermon #51, in Mt. I: “Non itaque propterea non fuit pater Joseph, quia cum matre Domini non con cubuit…”). He explains that the essence of marriage is a SPIRITUAL bond between spouses, “marital CHARITY; caritas conjugalis,” link which gives a right to the physical act of marriage, but which still exists without it. Saints such as St. Henri and St. Cunegonde were really married though they remained virgin; St. Joseph and our Lady were really married though they remained both virgins their whole life.
Then St. Augustine continues and explains this with a comparison. Through miracle, God has given to some Saints to sustain their physical life without eating (e.g. St. Nicolas of Flue, Patron of Switzerland, for 20 years!); now as the physical eating is the natural means towards the sustenance of personal physical life, so the act of marriage is towards the procreation of children; thus as God gave, BY A MIRACLE, to some Saints to sustain their personal physical life WITHOUT the physical act of eating, so He gave, BY A MIRACLE, to St. Joseph and our Lady to have a Child WITHOUT THE PHYSICAL ACT OF MARRIAGE.
Now as spiritual men were exceedingly happy to be able to sustain their personal physical life through a miracle keeping their soul at the level of continual contemplation without lowering themselves to the carnal act of procreation. This is the beautiful reasoning of St. Augustine in his sermon #51.
God did not only give this Child to Our Lady, but also to St. Joseph. Two passages of the Holy Gospel are brought forth by St. Augustine to prove this.
1/ The Angel tells St. Jospeph: “THOU shalt call His Name Jesus.” Now the giving of the name belongs to the father. (Remember the same Archangel Gabriel told Zacharias to impose the name of John to St. John the Baptist). By giving to St. Joseph the right and duty to impose the name upon the Child Jesus, the Angel acknowledged his paternal rights, THOUGH PURELY SPIRITUAL.
2/ OUR LADY HERSELF CALLED ST. JOSEPH THE FATHER OF OUR LORD! She said to Jesus, speaking of St. Joseph: “Behold Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing” (Lk. 2:48). Now if anyone knew that St. Joseph had respected her virginity and that Jesus was conceived by the operation of the Holy Ghost, it was Our Lady! Yet she did not fear to call St. Joseph, father of Jesus! St. Augustine asks: “Are we going to rebuke Our Lady?”
Now what about the answer of Our Lord? He said: “Did you not know, that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Lk. 2:49) St. Augustine says that He DOES NOT DENY that St. Joseph deserved the name of father, but He affirms that He had asked them: “What think you of Christ? Whose Son is He? They said to Him: David’s. He saith to them: How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying: The Lord said to my Lord, sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool? If David then calls Him Lord, how is He his son?” (Mt. 22: 42-44). In this answer, Our Lord DOES NOT DENY that He is the Son of David (He praised the blind man for proclaiming this truth; St. Matthew himself begins his Gospel by these words: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham!”); but in His answer Our Lord affirms that He is NOT ONLY the Son of David, but that He is also the Son of God!
Our Lord was not born “out of wedlock,” nor in a “single parent family,” but in a REAL family, with a father and mother, though His conception was “by the Operation of the Holy Ghost,” through a most wonderful miracle, the Incarnation, WITHOUT the natural act of marriage, keeping the virginity of Our Lady and of St. Joseph!
This is the constant doctrine of the Fathers of the Church, and I think it is clear enough.
The fact that some fear to give the name of father to St. Joseph comes from the attacks of the protestants and other “carnal” men (as St. Paul calls them), who are unable to understand the beauty of the spiritual and miraculous fatherhood of St. Joseph, perfectly respecting the virginity of Our Lady; “carnal men” for whom fatherhood is not understandable without carnal actions.
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